The article "Teaching Children Using a Total Physical Response (TPR) Method: Rethinking" by Handoyo Puji Widodo focuses on explaining a method of teaching English as a foreign language. As explained by Handoyo, this method is easy, repetitive, and fun for children. The author begins with a brief overview of the English teaching situation in Indonesia, and then he emphasizes that the selection of materials and methods "should be on the basis of learners' age."
Handoyo explains that in considering how to help children learn English in a positive manner, teachers should be aware of the characteristics of children. In his example, Handoyo lists characteristics of children between the ages of 8 and 10. They are mature, curious, opinionated, open, cooperative, have individual viewpoints, and can discern the difference between fiction and fact. They are adept in speaking their mother tongue; however, they do not pick up foreign languages in the same way they have learned their first language. In fact, "children are less capable of absorbing or acquiring a foreign language optimally."
The Total Physical Response method, or TPR, originally developed by Dr. James Asher, has been in use for almost 30 years. It encourages the attention of students by having them listen and respond to commands or prompts by their teachers. It uses the "coordination of speech and action" to "teach language through physical activity." According to Asher, it is a naturalistic method because like a student's first language, it uses listening comprehension and response to commands. Once these skills have been learned, speaking follows easily and naturally.
Characteristics of TPR include drills in which learners listen to their teachers and then respond with physical actions. Sometimes students respond individually and sometimes collectively. It is as if the teacher is the director of a play and the students are the actors. Preparation is essential so that the teacher is ready to smoothly lead the students. The teachers first model the activities for the students, and then the students perform them alone on command.
Advantages of TPR include that it is memorable, fun, active, and suitable for any size of classroom. It also does not require many materials. Disadvantages include the embarrassment that students might feel, its lack of flexibility, its lack of emphasis on vocabulary, and its limited usefulness, since it is most effective for students at lower levels of English study.
In closing, Handoyo offers specific suggestions for applying TPR in classroom situations and lists of sample materials and procedures.