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Yup'ik RavenStorytelling in the Yup’ik Immersion Classroom

What is TPR Storytelling?

As discussed previously TPR Storytelling is a classroom strategy based on Total Physical Response (TPR) and the Natural Approach (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2004). It has also been called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. There is little difference between the two, though Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, with its greater emphasis on reading may be more appropriate to upper elementary and high school instruction. TPR Storytelling has been described as an improvement on TPR (Sebelius, 2002). In TPR, students show their understanding of the language by carrying out commands given by the teacher. (See page 10 for a more complete discussion of TPR.) With TPR, many teachers felt restricted once their students began to approach an intermediate level of proficiency (Sebelius, 2002). Some felt that their students were not excited by issuing and following commands anymore. TPR alone does not develop the narrative and descriptive modes needed for meaningful communication. Blaine Ray developed TPR Storytelling, as a means to utilize and expand acquired vocabulary by contextualizing it in high-interest stories which students can hear, see, act out, retell, revise and rewrite (Marsh, 1997).

Ray describes how he first experienced Total Physical Response (TPR) in 1980. Using James Asher’s book, Learning Another Language Through Actions (1993), he enthusiastically followed Asher’s suggestions. After five years, feeling exhausted from trying to find ways that his students would not get bored after a few weeks of TPR, he read The Natural Approach by Steve Krashen and Tracy Terrell (1983). (See [another section] for a more complete discussion of The Natural Approach.) Krashen (as cited by Ray & Seely 2001, p. 3) noted that TPR is not a complete method and suggested, “…utilize other ways of making input comprehensible (e.g., the use of background knowledge and pictures, as in story telling).” Using Asher’s suggested stories as a starting point, Ray gradually developed what is now called TPR Storytelling (Asher, 1993).

According to Ray & Seely (2001), early fluency in TPR Storytelling classes occurs because it makes sure students aurally acquire the vocabulary very thoroughly. Once acquired, students are then able to produce the words orally in their own speech. One example is when after using qalervak ‘crying hard’ as one of our vocabulary words in a story, I heard my students making use of the word in their conversation as we walked to the nurse’s office to have our annual tuberculosis shots.

When I first started reading about TPR Storytelling, one fact stood out for me as a language teacher: Ray was a language teacher. I felt a connection because of this commonality. I’d like to share my own story about learning about TPR Storytelling.

Early on, I was interested in seeing or visiting a classroom with a teacher experienced in the strategy. I contacted the Anchorage School District to see if they knew of any teachers that used TPR Storytelling. When a foreign language teacher I knew did not know, I wondered if workshops were available. I browsed the internet and discovered TPRS Publishing, Inc. provides workshops throughout the year in cities across the country and an annual weeklong summer conference. When I went to a workshop in Seattle I was dismayed to find that the workshop was geared for high school. I learned from the presenter that they would have an elementary sectional during their major summer conference. During the summer conference I attended an elementary sectional led by Carol Gaab, another key leader in TPR Storytelling.

The conference had many exhibit tables with second language acquisition related material. I found the following useful elementary level resources: Tell Me More! And Tell Me More Teacher’s Manual! (Anderson & Marsh, 1998). There were other materials but these two have been the most useful for me.




Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction What is TPR Storytelling?
Total Physical Response The Natural Approach General Steps of TPR Storytelling
My Classroom: First and Second Grade Sample Mini-Stories References
Additional Resources Project (pdf)  



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Last modified April 7, 2011