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Top 10 Total Physical Response Techniques for Online ESL Teachers

There is one common denominator that dominates the teaching criteria required by all online ESL companies, especially the ones geared toward teaching beginners and young students: Total Physical Response (TPR).

This methodology involves a series of techniques that focus on using the body through gestures and facial expressions in order to facilitate understanding and solidifying learning.

Every online company that I’ve interviewed with and/or worked for has prioritized TPR above all else, as it is the one nearly fool-proof way to get your point across to students. While TPR motions can be considered fairly obvious, it is crucial to remember to be consistent when using them.

If you are going to assign a gesture to action, word, or sound, make sure you use it all the time, and encourage your student to use them, too. Below I’ve listed the TPR gestures that I use most frequently with short descriptions on how to put them into effect. Good luck!

1. Look and Read

As you will be sharing a screen with your student when teaching online, this will undoubtedly be the most common command. While underlining and circling will also be used, you need to have a way to draw their attention to specific items on the screen. Also, you want to teach them to respond to auditory cues like, “Look at the ___” , once they’ve advanced beyond needing something circled for them. When you want your student to look at a specific item, speak slowly while pointing to your eyes. I differentiate ‘read’ from ‘look’ by pointing from my eyes to the screen, following the words in the sentence with my finger.

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2. Listen

Conducting role play, reciting a poem, singing the lyrics to a song, or reading a passage and asking comprehension questions are best conquered by first modelling them to a student. When you’d like your student to listen first before responding, point to your ear/headphones.

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