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TPRS®: Using Storytelling to Learn a New Language

Teaching a foreign language can be challenging, especially if you’re teaching it to non-native speakers. Students may not apply what they’ve learned outside the classroom, causing them to forget words and phrases when they return to the classroom. Other students may feel forced to learn the language and may not participate enthusiastically during the lesson.

As a foreign language teacher, how do you make sure students participate and remember essential language skills? Learning TPRS® might be the solution for you. This method has long been taught in teacher language training sessions and has helped teachers improve language retention among their students.

What is TPRS®?

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS®) is a teaching method that uses storytelling to teach a foreign language. By telling stories, teachers focus less on grammar and correction and more on vocabulary words and phrases through repetition.

This method of teaching was developed in the 1990s by Blaine Ray, a Spanish teacher in California. Ray borrowed techniques from a teaching method called Total Physical Response, which posits that foreign language students learn the same way babies absorb their first languages. Students need to hear the words as often as they can in different, exciting ways to engage their long-term memories.

How TPRS® Helps Your Students

TPRS® solves a language teacher’s common challenges in the classroom and offers a lot of benefits to students, including:

  • Connection with Multiple Learning Styles and Speeds: By talking, gesturing, and relying on student creativity, you are catering to aural, kinesthetic, and visual learners. Repeating the vocabulary until all students understand it ensures that everyone keeps up with the class.
  • Contextual Grammar: Although you’re asked to focus more on vocabulary, you can teach grammar as it comes up in the story. When the students need to know a grammar structure, you can explain it briefly then move on.
  • Student Involvement: You are not only asking the students some comprehension questions, but also involving them in the story, boosting engagement in the lesson.

How TPRS® Works

TPRS® can be broken down into three basic steps:

  • Pick target vocabulary words. Choose one to three target words in any given lesson and establish their meanings by translation. For more natural understanding and recall, demonstrate the meaning of the word or have them act out the word.
  • Tell a story using the chosen words. Build a story around the target words and use a variety of questions and statements to repeat the target words as often as possible.
  • Give students a reading that uses the target words. Students read stories, articles, and ads that contain the target vocabulary.

Engaging Students with TPRS Books

Engage your students in learning to read, write, and speak a new language through TPRS®. At TPRS Books, we give you the resources to make teaching a language practical, easy, and fun.

We create interactive books and novels that appeal to different audiences and that emphasize commonly used words and phrases in a foreign language. We also hold conferences and workshops so you can learn strategies that strengthen your teaching.

For any questions or concerns, reach out to us by calling 888-729-8777 or emailing



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