I’m Ready to Learn the TPRS Method! Plank 4

Plank 4

Plank 4: Choose a curriculum, or decide to adapt a curriculum you may already have, to the TPRS/CI method.

A lesson in a TPRS textbook or curriculum generally looks like this:

  • a list of about 3 structures that will be practiced
  • a flexible outline for a story to story-ask in class
  • a couple of short readings which use the 3 structures.

That’s it!  There are no activity sheets, grammar explanations, practice drills or long vocabulary lists.  Classroom teachers who meet with their students five days a week may choose to rarely assign homework - just reading or drawing a comic strip.  Remember, the operating principle is: “Repeated, compelling, comprehensible input is key, output doesn’t do much.” 

You have four choices for materials for your class:

1. Use a curriculum written by a TPRS teacher. I compare five available TPRS curricula my Table Comparing Five TPRS Curricula.

2. Use TPRS to get through the material in a traditional text you already own.  There are some TPRS supplements to traditional texts available now, written by TPRS teachers.  Also, Ray has a chapter in his book, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling, explaining how to use TPRS with a standard grammar and vocabulary textbook. 

3. Get a high frequency word list, and just wing it, following the flow and interests of the class.  The high frequency word lists are on the internet. Pick the first 200 - 400, and add in some words that will make the stories interesting, like grab, cry, smile, nose, kangaroo, robber baron.

4. Use TPRS novels.   These are easy-to-read, limited vocabulary, but interesting chapter books.  To use them, you look ahead at a chapter, find some new structures in the chapter, and prepare the students for the chapter by teaching the structures with TPRS.   You can also use the novels for a change or  for homework. Many of the novels are reviewed by Bryce Hedstrom at http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/RANKING-THE-NOVELS.pdf.  And teacher guides, study guides and online activities are available for many of the novels.  (Some of the guides are written by teachers who developed them for their classes, and are sold separately on teacherspayteachers.com.)  I simply assigned  novels for fun extra reading at home, to build fluency painlessly.

By the way, some teachers  use TPRS and do  traditional grammar activities and vocabulary quizzes as well. You decide what works best in your situation.  But you don’t have to buy a full-on textbook to do the grammar you want to do.  Many great grammar units, sheets, activities etc. are available at teacherspayteachers.com for a reasonable price, which will cover any grammar items/tenses you might want to teach specifically.  Also, Carson Dellosa has an activity book, called Spanish Middle/High School, with all the basic grammar activities and not-too-demanding vocabulary (many cognates) for about $12.

However, I recommend using TPRS as your main teaching method, because it efficiently and effectively provides the repetitions that you need, is fun, and requires almost no preparation.

So, back to the curriculum.


Choice 1: Use a curriculum written by a TPRS teacher. 

This is the easiest option.  The curriculum writer has done all the work - checked the frequency lists, created fun story outlines, written good readings with sheltered vocabulary.  There are several available, listed below.  You just pick which layout and story style energize you. 



1. Blaine Ray, at TPRSbooks.com has curriculum texts, the Look, I Can Talk series,  for Spanish Levels 1-4, French 1-2, German 1, and English 1.  There are also many novels available at this site, including Chinese novels for Levels 1-3. 

The Look I Can Talk series is what I used to get started with TPRS.  It is very helpful to get started because of the way Ray walks you through the first few lessons as you learn TPRS.  Most of the stories use the same general format: Luci has a problem, needs or wants something to solve the problem, goes to location A, meets person A but person A can’t help for some reason, goes to location B, meets person B and Person B sells/gives her what she needs.  This is a great format to learn, because it can grow into so many things - like, for example, going to the moon to get a belly button from the Queen of bellybuttons. (About $45)

2. Carol Gaab, at fluencymatters.com  has the Cuéntame series for Spanish 1-3, the Raconte series for French 1-3, and the Tell Me More series for English Level 1. Elementary grade curriculum for Spanish, French and English. Level 1 curriculum for Japanese.  Novels in French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Latin.  The best thing to do to get familiar with this series is to watch the free webinar (under FREE on the site) for the elementary or high school/middle school curriculum. This curriculum provides extra materials, including comprehension activities and extra stories.  Now, there are e-books available with online activities also. (About $70)

3. Ann Matava, at benslavic.com,  has 3 volumes of Story Scripts, which can be used for any language!  What a concept.  Slavic says that these scripts “reach the teenage mind and almost unfailingly help in the creation of lots of humor.”  There is a sample script on the site.  Also at the website is a book of Matava scripts for the novel The New Houdini.  The books do not contain readings, because the story scripts are in English, to be used for any language. (About $30)

4. Jim Tripp, at trippsscripts.com has a book called Tripp’s Scripts, which can be used for any language!  Each script comes in Super Simple, Simple, and Somewhat Simple Versions.  From his website, you can tell that the scripts are funny and adaptable. (e-book $15, hardcopy $25)

5. Adriana Ramirez will be publishing her originally Spanish curriculum in French soon.  See below.

6. Some major textbook publishers have produced a TPRS story collection to supplement  their textbooks.  If you happen to own a certain textbook, you can look into that - for example, "Realidades TPRS".



1. Caryn Hommel, at exceleratespanish.com, has written Excelerate Spanish, Levels 1 and 2, a TPRS curriculum for homeschoolers!  She has solved the problem of meeting only weekly, by trading out lots of PQA for lots of varied TPR, Total Physical Response.  Blaine Ray uses TPR the first few weeks of first year Spanish, because, as he says “we can teach more words faster” (10 - 20 words a day).  Then, to avoid TPR burnout (stand up, sit down, stand up then sit down quickly), Ray moves on to TPRS.  In contrast, Hommel keeps the TPR going all year, and avoids burnout by using fresh contexts, varied props, and some circling. She lists about 20 structures, and does creative TPR, 3 words at a time, in a story form series. In 40 - 45 minutes, the class uses the gestures to tell two scripted short stories, and then they read a third story for homework. Hommel’s technique is to marry TPR and stories/dramatization to accelerate acquisition, retention, and fluency and thus achieve real results in just a weekly 45 minute class. 

However, if you happen to have two hours for your class, you could easily do a 45 minute Excelerate class, take a brain break or get a snack, put 3 new structures on the board, and do a TPRS story.  With personalization and story-asking, students will invest more in the class and retain more.  So you could achieve the learning benefits of the TPRS method, and learn 23 words in one class! 

This curriculum comes with DVDs and books.  On the DVD, Hommel teaches each lesson to a group of mixed-age students.  If you are new to TPR and TPRS, you can simply show the video and do the actions as a class.  Or, depending on time and your preference, you can show the video, and then build on it with more activities and stories.  If you are comfortable doing TPR and TPRS on your own, then you can simply buy the book, which has all the vocabulary, stories and questions for each lesson, and teach each lesson making up your own gestures.

These books (Lessons, Workbook, and Answer Key) and DVDs are available on the Excelerate website, and at Amazon.  At Amazon,you can “Look Inside” the Print books.  (About $140 for the package, $17 for the Lesson Book etc.)


2. Martina Bex’ curriculum, called SOMOS, is available at teacherspayteachers.com (TPT). Martina’s TPT store is called The Comprehensible Classroom, and her website is martinabex.com. Unit 1 is free so you can try it out - but you do have to buy the embedded reading ($2 at TPT). On her website, martinabex.com, you can find the curriculum map for both Spanish 1 and Spanish 2. Pull down “Curricula”.

Martina’s curriculum is a comprehensible input (CI) curriculum - it uses some TPRS, and many other CI activities to get the repetitions in.  For example, her first Unit, called ‘Dice’ (‘says’), has 20 pages describing exactly what to do for 4 days of class.  The structures are este/a es, un muchacho/a, se llama, dice. The unit includes high-frequency word posters, character cards, name cards, syllabus for the year, how to teach the song “Los Pollitos Dicen” with gestures, a link to the song, powerpoint slides (color photos) for the song, instructions for a 2-ring circus around the structures, tips on how to get story-asking started, a story-ask script, cheese awards, an embedded reading, a movie talk, personal inventory sheets, a game called “¿Quién dice?” and powerpoint files, handout pdfs, and pinterest links to support all of it.  (About $205 for Level 1)


3. Adriana Ramirez has written her own TPRS Spanish curriculum.  Each unit has a structure list, a story, PQAs, and a second story with Comprehension Questions.  Her structure lists are longer, about 20 words or phrases, and she leaves them up for 3 days. Unlike the other TPRS curricula authors, Adriana provides a complete TPRS story (not an outline). She doesn’t deviate too much from the story herself when she teaches, but as the teacher you could of course deviate from the story. You can download Unit 1, “Los Gatos Azules”, for free at TPT, https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/TPRS-basic-story-Spanish-Beginners-1285408 . (About $80 for Level 1) Level 1 in French is coming!


4. Jim Woolridge, Señor Wooly, has written a graphic novel of Billy the Bufanda.  Check out some free pages and buy the books at senorwooly.com. He has a Teacher’s Guide to go with the novel that includes circling ideas for each frame of the comic. Jim has also created a series of 18 instructional videos about how to teach from a graphic novel, free at his website. (About $65 for 10 copies of the graphic novel and $40 for the Teacher’s Guide)


5. Hillary Tejada (that’s me!) has written a series of 22 Lesson Plans, Study Guides and TPRS story outlines to go along with Mi Vida Loca, the BBC interactive video series for beginning Spanish learners.  I wrote the Study Guides specifically to address the homeschool teacher’s need to provide comprehensible, compelling homework that will engage the student between weekly classes.  Also available are TPRS story outlines to pre-teach some structures in a Mi Vida Loca episode, and the Lesson Plans to provide related games, PQA and snack ideas which expand on some vocabulary and grammar employed in the episode.  For homework, the student plays the 20 minute interactive episode and completes the study guide. You can watch Mi Vida Loca at http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/mividaloca/ .  You can buy my Mi Vida Loca curricula materials at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Crooked-Trails-Learning/Category/Mi-Vida-Loca-262386  (About $32 for the Study Guides and $16 for the Lesson Plans)


6. Bryce Hedstrom has a series of books: Stories/Songs/Jokes/Stuff for Spanish Class.  The stories are TPRS stories, and the Jokes are developed in the same TPRS style. Lots of sample pages to read.  Looks great.  You will have to buy the book to find out what happens to that darned chihuahua.  Find them at his website, brycehedstrom.com. (each e-book $15, hardcopy $20) 


6. Karen Rowan has a book of TPRS story outlines to go along with the Addison Wesley text Paso a Paso 1.  You can find a few at Amazon, but search “Paso a Paso 2000 T.P.R Addison Wesley” to find the less expensive versions (About $5-$20).


7. Señor Jordan, at profesoranonimo.blogspot.com has a series of “Leveled Resources” - really just his blogs about successful classes - story lines or songs and how to teach them.  Good stuff.



RUSSIAN: mjtprs.wordpress.com - Michele Whaley appears to be working on online Russian TPRS lessons.  I would contact her directly for updates.

CHINESE:  terrywaltz.com   Terry Waltz is a good place to start if you are looking for curriculum, online lessons, or where to find Chinese TPRS classes in your area. tprsforchinese.blogspot.com is a kaleidoscope of blogs with lots of info on TPRS and TPRS in Chinese.



1. Kyle Carr, Angie Torre, Bagg’s World of Spanish, Kent Dwyer, Louise Nguyen, Squid for Brains Educational Games, The Storyteller’s Corner and several others have posted lovely TPRS materials for different languages on teacherspayteachers.com .  Some of these are bundled as curricula and some are individual lessons. Many can be previewed visually before you buy, or the teacher will have a similar item as a free download so you can evaluate his or her work. Just go to TPT and search ‘TPRS French’ and ‘CI Spanish’ etc.

2. Available on Amazon

C'est a toi, Level One, TPR Storytelling Manual, by Helga Doenst and Melanie Polito

For more novels , search “TPRS novels” on Amazon.


KERSPLAT!  I just hit the wall.  There appears to be quite a lot of materials out there on the web, scattered around, but it takes forever to find some of them, especially in the less common languages.  So I am bringing this blog post to a close and will continue to update my blog with curriculum materials as I find them.  Please feel free to send me information on TPRS/CI materials you know about, via Comments!   Thanks in advance for your help!