Re-approach Novice Level Student with TCI

This year, I have decided to start my Novice level classes little differently than before. Instead of jumping into TPRS immediately, I started with Total Physical Response first. 1. I have two sessions of Novice level classes, which include students from 7th grade to 12th grade. Due to the attention span of my youngsters and the nature of how our brain works, getting students out of their seats with movement and ignite their brains on fire would be very beneficial. 2. I hope to build up a big repertoire in high frequency phrases faster for students so they would be able to communicate earlier. There is no other tool better than TPR to achieve that.

At the meantime, the guiding principles of my curriculum design have shifted as well, here they are:
1. We acquire language through Comprehensible Input, when we read or hear a message which we understand, then we can acquire it. Therefore, everything I do in the classroom needs to be comprehensible.
2. Our brain seeks patterns to connect new information with prior knowledge and craves novelty to stay engaged.
3. Our brain is evolved through constant motion and threat. Human species are built to survive first, therefore, creating a safe environment fosters better learning.
4. Students have different learning styles, creating a multi-sensory input classroom will help a teacher to meet different students’ needs, strengthen their weakness and expend their strength.
5. To prepare students for the unpredictable future, teaching is no longer about how to deliver content. There is a paradigm shift in education to help students to develop their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, resilience and self-care, etc in order to succeed and live in a happy and productive life.


A. Find ways to woven each lesson with actions/gestures, songs, video clips, pictures/illustrations, and reading.
1. Use actions and gestures fall into TPR’s realm, here it is a post I wrote on how to TPR. please click here.
2. Connect TPR vocabulary with a song and a video clip: Tim Urbonya, A native Wiconsin from Action Learning, has composed and recorded an album of catchy action songs in Chinese. I often connect my TPR lessons with his songs and few video clips, then create reading for students. For example, I TPR “walk”, “run”, “jump” and “stop” along with Tim’s song “Walk, Walk, Walk, Walk!”, then I embedded an Ad from Nike, The Greatness, to PQA and Circle. Then, I add directions in, such as: jump up, walk forward, run toward left, etc. I use another Tim’s directional song to strengthen the lesson again.
3. Use illustration as comprehension check, also it gives students another path to process information. Students are instructed to use stick figures to illustrate each action, then we spell out the pinyin together.
4. After they have successfully stored the sound and meaning of each words in their head, then it’s time to introduce reading. Action packed reading not only develops students literacy, it allows them to get out their seats to act out again.
5. Implementing various mindfulness practices into the classroom. In recent years, teens’ mental health situation has worsened dramatically. While technology connects people globally in an instant, more and more people feel isolated and disconnected on the contrary. The rate of depression and anxiety has been on the rise. Therefore, helping students to develop effective self-care strategies has been another earnest effort which I make is in my own classroom. Typically, it takes a novice level student about two weeks to get down a practice in English, during these two weeks, designing your lesson mindfully to include body parts as well as essential phrases that related to meditation. Then, you will be able to conduct your meditation instruction in the target language.


I asked my students to give me a quick feedback on what they thought how our classes have been going. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
They love the multi-sensory approach and they shared that they have acquired more Chinese in 6 weeks than spending few years in their previous languages. One girl said: “Please don’t change anything! It’s fun and effortless!”

So what can my novice level students do now?
Today, I created a mini drama in Chinese with them: Grahm likes to eat ice cream. He has ice cream and he’s eating happily and slowly. Mike also likes to eat ice cream, but Mike doesn’t have ice cream, Mike is sad. Mike stands up and walks to Grahn, Mike hits Grahm and eats his ice cream. Grahn yells at him: No, no, no! My ice cream!” Mike quickly runs away while he’s eating Grahn’s ice cream. Grahm doesn’t cry, Grahm wants to hit Mike, Grahm runs after Mike. Mike runs quickly, Mike runs away.

I have paused the actions, asked questions, check for comprehensions and dramatized the input over and over. They giggled and laughed the whole time.

They have also finished the first two chapter stories from I Am Beibei. TCI rocks!

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