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  • Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS)


    Wendy Maxwell, Karen Oraas, and Renée L. Villeneuve





    TPRS and AIM:

    • are story based
    • focus on verbs and third person singular
    • promote active oral participation of all students,
    • contain highly engaging lessons
    • promote emotion as an important tool
    • ensure oral language is the focus before written, but all four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) are used early in the program
    • are relatively new programs and new materials continue to be made available
    • both feature “pleasant repetition” but in different ways
    • are both quite different than traditional methods and “traditional” teachers may not be open to trying them
    • seem to attract similar types of teachers (teachers who are disappointed with low results from other programs, also many teachers with lots of energy!)
    • are appropriate for many students who struggle with traditional language courses can excel using these methods
    • contain lessons that are generally faced-paced
    • focus on questioning in every lesson to increase student comprehension and facility with the language
    • ensure that students respond orally together as a class more often than they do individually
    • contextualize vocabulary and present it in a variety of contexts to increase comprehension
    • ensure that the teacher uses words the students know and introduces new ones gradually. In both programs, the teacher will stop and teach when there are new words
    • share the philosophy that grammar plays a supporting role and is not the foundation of the program
    • believe that lessons must be comprehensible to the students
    • place high importance on scaffolding. In AIM this is done with the order of vocabulary words and the sequencing of written activities. In TPRS the input provided during each lesson is carefully scaffolded).
    • focus on most commonly used vocabulary
    • ensure that learning is spiral. Previously acquired vocabulary and structures are reviewed and added on to.









    Students speak primarily in sentences.

    Students respond primarily with one-word responses.

    The students and teacher use the target language at all times. When the students have a different room for French, they start speaking French as they enter the room before the class starts. When possible, AIM teachers speak with their students at all times in French, which includes recess, basket-ball coaching, etc. The focus is on language production. A good AIM teacher uses the target language only and encourages students to do the same.

    The students and teacher use primarily the target language during the “lesson” (95% to 98% is in the target language). The focus is on comprehensibility. A good TRPS teacher can provide 50-100 repetitions of key words and phrases in a 30- or 40- minute class.

    The teacher uses a variety of strategies when students don’t understand.

    Translation is the primary method used when students don’t understand.

    Initially developed for primary students and then adapted for older students.

    Initially developed for high school students and then adapted for younger students.

    Products are published solely by AIM Language Learning.

    Products are primarily published by TPRS, but some larger publishing company have made supplemental TPRS materials to complement their units.

    Used primarily in Canada.

    Used primarily in the United States.

    The most products are available for French.

    The most products are available for Spanish.

    Materials are available in French, Spanish and English.

    Materials are available for Spanish, French, Japanese, German, English and Russian.

    Created by Wendy Maxwell.

    Originated by James Asher and then Blaine Ray.

    Offers a full online teacher training and certification program.

    Offers webinars online.

    Each kit covers 50-60 hours of instruction and focuses on one play.

    A variety of materials sold. A “unit” generally has a few mini-stories and a main story that reinforces the same vocabulary.

    Most literature published is in story-book format with large colour pictures.

    Most literature published are novels with none or some black and white pictures.

    Supported by a variety of research. (See attached)

    Based on research of comprehensible input (CI) by Krashen.

    Yes/no questions are rarely used. The teacher focuses on total and partial questions with complete sentence answers.

    Questioning is done by circling (asking the same question in many ways) that includes yes/no questions, QT and QP as well as PQA (personalized questions and answers). Answers are usually one word.

    PQA = teacher talk

    The students and teacher write very long, detailed stories together, which are generally based on the play being studied. This happens twice as a whole class activity and twice as a partner activity per 50 hours of instruction. The play, vocabulary and language manipulation activities/creative writing are systematically integrated for success, predictability



    The student and teacher build a series of short stories (including 3 new words or phrases) called PMS (personalized mini-situation) by having the teacher “ask” the story. This oral activity happens frequently. Written exercises become more of a focus in the 3rd and 4th year.

    Believe in a balanced literacy approach.

    High emphasis on the importance of reading (every second day) for language development. Students read early on. Students translate all readings out loud in a whole-class setting

    The number of structures per lesson varies significantly.

    In a typical lesson, the teacher introduces and focuses on three target language structures.

    Words are generally introduced first in context. When the meaning is not obvious, the teacher may sandwich (say the word in the target language, then the first language and then again in the target language), but usually this is not necessary.

    Meaning for new vocabulary is established first (usually using translation) and then the word is used in context.

    All words and grammatical structures are associated with a gesture. The gestures are standardized. Gestures accelerate comprehension – no need to translate – the gestures allow the teacher to teach words as each represents clearly the meaning


    Gestures = ‘muscle learning’


    Gestures are sometimes used in conjunction with new vocabulary, however teacher and/or students can create his/her own gestures. Gestures or a physical response (TPR) from the body (limits to imperative form) and are used mostly with younger students (under Gr. 5) when needed only.

    The method includes information on parts of teaching that are normally not part of a method such as how to seat the students in the classroom. Classroom systems ensure predictability and a sense of security, thus lowering the affective filter (Krashen) (Entry and leaving routines, the daily lesson template, rotations through activities in a very predictable manner)

    There is significant variation in classrooms as the method is less structured and not laid out in detail for the teacher.


    Classroom systems are implemented by each individual teacher.


    Five-day lesson plan which includes only three activities: PMS or mini-story, reading the extension, timed free writing and reading

    Teachers are encouraged to “flood” the student with vocabulary in the target language.

    Teachers are encouraged to limit the amount of vocabulary introduced at one time.

    Provides everything for the teacher in terms of outlining in detail and with scripted teacher talk for teachers to model what they might say during whole-class activities.


    The teacher asks many questions using the new vocabulary (5-6 questions) being taught. These questions are created ‘on the spot’. No teacher’s guide is provided since questions depend on student answers and reactions. A PMS (personalized mini-situation) is created by the teacher with the help of students, but all of this depends highly on teacher’s knowledge of the L2.

    All students participate by speaking chorally, gesturing or reading the gestures. There is never silence in an AIM classroom – all students speak 30 minutes of a 30 minute class



    One or a few students are responding to commands at once. The teacher does most of the speaking. Students only start producing the L2 when enough comprehensible input has been provided (called the silent period – several hours to several weeks)


    Syntax and grammar are visualized, produced and embedded kinesthetically in this multi-modal approach

    AIM’s three-stage inductive grammar approach ensures a Natural Approach (Krashen) to the understanding of grammar



    Teacher uses translation to clarify grammar and structures. They use pop-up grammar and one-second grammar explanations. For example, during the translation of a reading it is used every 20 second or so and always in the L1.

    Specific language manipulation activities to scaffold the ability for language use


    Does not contain specific language manipulation activities to scaffold the ability for language use



    Cooperative learning is emphasized – all written language skills are developed orally in conjunction/discussion/interaction with a partner


    Students mostly work individually when it comes to written activities and frequently assigned as homework. Oral work is mostly presented as a whole-class activity

    Rhythm and music is integrated into the songs, raps, but also into gesture reviews and even the gestures themselves (beat gestures)


    Music is not an integral part of the TPRS approach. It is up to the teacher to include it as they please.

    Model-based approach – every aspect of the program is modeled in-depth – from word/meaning association, syntax, grammar through gestures to produce complete thoughts in the L2, the modeling of every single activity in-depth for the teacher who models for the students who then uses it as a template to be creative with the language. The in-depth modeling results in a high level of security, motivation, success


    Simple written activities are modeled orally first and usually assigned as homework. Students write some mini-stories. One word answers are acceptable and graded for doing the work not for accuracy.

    Anecdotal observations, peer/self-assessment, portfolios, rubrics, checklists as well as summative tasks

    Quizzes, tests, and final exams are the main assessment tools used in a TPRS class.

    Many times quizzes and tests are unannounced

    Carefully sequenced partner/group activities



    Various random activities for ‘partner vocabulary practice’


    This is a new concept in 4th/5th edition of ‘Fluency through TPR Storytelling’

    Each activity of one type lasts a maximum of ten minutes to ensure the highest level of focus and learning potential


    One mini-story/PMS is taught per 50-minute daily class


    Strategies for positive reinforcement through both verbal and non-verbal and other concrete systems (les cartes)


    Lots of praise, teaches to the eyes, does not allow any negative comments in the classroom (uses lots of exaggeration)

    Students visualize every single word as the teacher gestures delaying showing the written word.


    Students visualize the written word/translated written word very early on…


    This document is meant to be a starting point for discussion and comparison of two effective methodologies that accelerate language acquisition.