James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Louis L Sorenson » April 30th, 2012, 12:39 am

James Asher is a linguist who has studied language acquisition. In the late 1960's he began trying to understand how people learn languages. Asher had a background in psychology. He wrote a book titled "Learning another language through actions" (now in its 7th print edition; see http://www.tpr-world.com/). His discoveries and teaching methods have changed the way teachers teach modern languages. TPR (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (its descendant, Teaching Proficiency Through Reading (and) Storytelling) have been instrumental in getting thousand of students proficient in a second language. Both Randall Buth and Christophe Rico have been strongly influenced by Asher's work.

Paul Nitz, one of our B-Greek participants who teaches Greek to students in Malawi, has a blog post on Asher's book on the Biblical Languages blog (Randall Buth's blog). The blog is intended to be a springboard and discussion on how TPR and Asher's approach to teaching languages (not just a method) can help students and teachers internalize that dead language called Koine Greek.

If you have read Asher's book, or are looking for a better way to internalize or to get students to internalize their Greek, you may want to read the blog and chime in on the discussion of Asher's book and methodology. The blog can be found at http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/eureka-approach-greek/.
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Jonathan Robie » April 30th, 2012, 8:53 am

The blog seems to be down.

Wikipedia has a detailed, concrete article on TPRS. I also found the following videos on Youtube, applying this to Greek:


This looks promising. I think it would be a lot easier to apply TPRS to biblical materials than pure TPR, and this gives lots of concrete guidelines for how to prepare for a class.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Jonathan Robie » May 2nd, 2012, 2:59 pm

Help me understand how to apply this to a Greek text. Here's a "circling" dialog from the Wikipedia article on TPRS:

  • Statement
    Teacher: Class, Dave wants a Ferrari!
    Students: Ooooh!
  • "Yes" question
    Teacher: Does Dave want a Ferrari?
    Students: Yes.
  • Either/Or question
    Teacher: Does Dave want a Ferrari or a Mini Cooper?
    Students: Ferrari.
  • "No" question
    Teacher: Class, does Dave want a Mini Cooper?
    Students: No.
  • "Wh" question
    Teacher: Class, what does Dave want?
    Students: Ferrari.


Perhaps we need an example without a Ferarri. Maybe we can start with something like this:

  • Statement
    διδάσκαλος: ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν δύο υἱούς.

First issue: how do you say "Oooooh!" in Koine Greek? And what's the best word to use for "Student"? μαθητής? After that, this gets easier:

  • "Yes" question
    διδάσκαλος: εἶχεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος δύο υἱούς;
    μαθηταί: ναί.
  • Either/Or question
    διδάσκαλος: εἶχεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος δύο υἱούς ἤ δύο θυγατέρας;
    μαθηταί: δύο υἱούς.
  • "No" question
    διδάσκαλος: μαθηταὶ, εἶχεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος δύο θυγατέρας;
    μαθηταί: οὔ.
  • "Wh" question
    διδάσκαλος: μαθηταὶ, τί εἶχεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος;
    μαθηταί: δύο υἱούς.

Am I getting the idea? How many questions should I want for this one verse? What other questions would be useful?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 3rd, 2012, 6:50 am

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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Paul-Nitz » May 3rd, 2012, 2:51 pm

Jonathon,

As the video which Louis linked to (see post above) stressed in the first frames, and as Asher stresses, production of language interferes with the reception and retention of language. A physical response is also key to internalizing. Though I haven't read about TPRS yet, I'm thinking that a story/question session such as you describe above would both interfere with reception (if it was the initial exposure to the language used in the story) and would also be lacking the physical response which Asher would say is required.

Asher uses commands and physical response as a method of helping students internalize that language. The cause/effect nature of commanding and responding physically makes the foreign utterances real, believable, true. This results in the brain (right hemisphere) simply accepting and understanding and obeying. Once the utterance is understood as language (communication), then the student can play around with the language by speaking. Though, Asher would still say that speaking the language should bubble out of the student after he internalizes. He should never be directed to speak.

So, I think a story/question session would be more useful after 'implanting' all the language used in the story.

I'm a newbie to TPR, but maybe the vocabulary in your example story could be taught by commands and responses (TPR style) such as,
    τυπτε με! Hit me!
    τυπτε διδασκαλον! Hit the teacher!
    ἁψον μαθητην Touch the student!
    ει μαθηται εστε, εξελθετε εξ οικου τουτου. If you are a student, get out of this building.
    ktl...
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby RandallButh » May 4th, 2012, 2:05 am

Paul,
TPRS is a technique that comes more and more into play as one gets into the production stage of language acquisition. You will get to experience it in the Fluency workshop this summer.
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 5th, 2012, 4:57 pm

While the Natural method (Krashen and Terrell) does recommend postponing production for about 5 weeks, this is not the view of most of those who teach via the modern communicative method. Blaine Ray uses TPRS from the start (along with TPR). Any production the student makes early on is simply repetition of a word from several words with which the student is seeded: (ἐρώτημα· ἔβαλεν αὐτὸς λίθον ἢ καρπόν; ἀπόκρισις· λίθον. ἔβαλον καρπόν ἢ λίθον; καρπόν.)

Audio-linguistics also delayed production because that school thought that early production would lead to enforcing errors in speech. We now know that errors are part of the acquisition process. But there also is a lot of anxiety among learners; the learners need to learn the phonetic structure (sounds, phonemes, etc) in an accurate way. So there definitely should be more listening than speaking in the first six weeks (unlike the Silent Method where the teacher is mostly silent). And almost all books do not recommend on putting students on the spot or embarrassing them, thus creating an affective filter. In such situations, learning does not happen.

Blaine Ray (not the only TPRS guru out there) also only has students use phrases or simple sentences after they have cycled through the series of questions (who, what, when, where - that all take a one word answer) to why and/or how and the students have heard the word 20-30 times. When a teacher says λίθον ἢ καρπόν?, ideally holding the objects in his/her hand, there is no time for the student to stop thinking in the 2L. The answer to "Why did I throw the fruit?" takes more than a one word answer. Ray's methodology keeps switching between these short one-word answers and a phrase/sentence why answer. The one/two-word seeded answers are about 5/6ths of what he does.

In the Blaine Ray seminar I attended, we all wondered how he started the year, how he built the core vocabulary to do a story. One of the things he mentioned as an aside was that they did TPR, but he did not demonstrate that in his TPRS seminar or elaborate on it very much. He did say that he used it in his HS classes, and one of his students directed (in Spanish) another student to take off Blaine's shoe, to go to the window, to throw it out the window and then said "The dog outside runs away with the shoe" - Blaine was furious and ran to the window only to find it was a joke. But he found that TPR had its limit and after several months, the students became bored. That's when he discovered storytelling. It creates context and focus.

Literature talks about the student having attentiveness and focus in order to assimilate a structure, vocab word, etc. This does not necessarily mean that the student is aware they are focusing on any given item. It's the teacher's duty to put the student into that environment and state. I have yet to do a pure storytelling TPRS session with NT stories, partly because I've been sticking to NT texts. It is much easier when you can make up a story, and some of the stories I've tried with my students are wine-into-water: the prestory, and elaborations on the marriage at Cana.

But TPRS and TPR are definitely a skill. Ramiro Garcia has a book now in the 4th edition: Instructor's Notebook: How to Apply TPR for Best Results. I'm thinking it may be worth picking up.
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Re: James Asher's TPR Method and Greek Pedagogy

Postby Paul-Nitz » May 6th, 2012, 11:16 am

Thank you, Louis, for the explanation. You wrote that using Bible stories is not ideal. But isn't it a great motivation to be working toward comprehension of a real Greek text?

What if we had a series of smaller, made-up stories that would build up to understanding the Bible story?

The made-up stories would be written with TPR in mind. In other words, the stories would lend itself to teaching the forms and vocabulary through commands and actions in a classroom. I've been spending a lot of time with Mark 9:14ff, so I'll take that story as my example. (Jesus finds a crowd around his disciples. The scribes are arguing with them. A demon possessed boy is there. Jesus throws out the unclean spirit. The disciples ask why they couldn't throw out the spirit.)

Maybe the first story would start out:

    The teacher told the boy, "throw the rock into the water." And immediately, the boy stood and went away. He is carrying the rock to the water, but he is not throwing the rock into the water. The teacher saw. Shouting, the teacher is saying, "Why?" The boy replied, "I am not able to throw the rock into the water. The teacher (δε) said to him, "Why?"

This story is not a simplified version of Mark 9:14ff. But even these few sentences use vocabulary that account for over 60 * of the 240 words used in Mark 9:14ff (και is not counted in those figures). And, it would be very easy to use TPR to teach the vocabulary and forms used in the story (and then TPRS to expand on forms).

In my mind, leveled stories, in and of themselves, would be useful. Leveled stories which were written with TPR methods in mind, would be VERY useful. All of which plugs into another B-Greek discussion:

"Sequence of Complexity" post by Refe viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1123

* Κα, λθ, πρς, εδον, κα, πρς, κα, εθς, ατν, κα, ατόν, κα, τί, πρς, κα, πεκρίθη, διδάσκαλε, νεγκα, πρς, κα, ατν, ατόν, κα, κα, κα, κα, επα, βάλ, κα, οκ, ποκριθες, λέγει, πρς, φέρετε, ατν, πρός, κα, ατν, πρς, ατόν, κα, ατν, ατόν, κα, κα, ατ, επεν, κα, κα, ες, ατν, βαλεν, κα, ες, δατα, λλʼ, εἶπεν, ατ, δύν, δυνατ, , κράξας, παιδίου, λεγεν, δν, λέγων, ατ•, κα, γ, κα, ες, ατόν, κα, κράξας, κα, λθεν, κα, λέγειν, δ, ατόν, κα, νέστη, Κα, εσελθ, ατόν, οκ, δυνήθημεν, βαλεν, , κα, επεν, δύναται, ελθεν
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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