Transform Your ESL Classroom with TPRS: A Guide to Teaching Through Storytelling

25 Sep 2023 | ESLteachers

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can be an exciting journey, especially when you discover innovative methods that make learning engaging and memorable. One such method is TPRS, or Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. In this blog post, we will explore what TPRS is, why it’s effective for ESL learners, and how to implement it in your classroom. Get ready to embark on a storytelling adventure that will transform your ESL teaching!

What is TPRS?

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) is a language teaching method that focuses on the natural process of language acquisition. It was developed by Dr. Stephen Krashen and Blaine Ray and is based on the idea that language is best acquired when learners are exposed to compelling stories and content in the target language.

Why is TPRS Effective for ESL Learners?

  • Comprehensible Input: TPRS centers around providing students with comprehensible input – language that they can understand, even if it contains some new vocabulary or structures. This ensures that learners are always engaged and can grasp the context of the story.
  • Repetition: TPRS stories are often repeated, with slight variations, to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structures. Repetition helps learners internalize the language more effectively.
  • Contextual Learning: TPRS stories are engaging and relatable. They provide a meaningful context for language use, making it easier for students to remember and apply what they’ve learned.
  • Personalization: TPRS allows teachers to incorporate students’ interests and experiences into the stories, making the language learning process more relevant and engaging.

How to Implement TPRS in Your ESL Classroom

Now, let’s explore how to use TPRS to teach ESL effectively:

1. Select Compelling Stories:

  • Choose stories that are interesting and engaging for your students. Consider their age, interests, and language proficiency level when selecting stories.

2. Start with a “Storyask”:

  • Begin by “asking” the story. Present the main characters, the setting, and the problem or conflict. Use visuals, props, and gestures to aid comprehension.

3. Ask Questions and Build the Story:

  • Encourage students to ask questions about the story and guide them in building it further. Gradually introduce new vocabulary and sentence structures.

4. Act Out the Story:

  • Have students act out the story using role-play or by physically demonstrating the actions and dialogues. This adds a kinesthetic element to learning.

5. Retell and Extend:

  • After the initial storytelling, have students retell the story in pairs or groups. Encourage them to extend the story or create sequels, adding their own ideas.

6. Assess and Reflect:

  • Use formative assessments like quizzes, discussions, or creative projects to gauge students’ comprehension and language proficiency.
  • Reflect on the progress and adjust future stories based on your students’ needs and interests.

Teacher scripts and TPRS story examples

Here are some examples of different ways TPRS can be incorporated into your classroom.

Example 1:

Target vocabulary: planet, spaceship, galaxy, earth.

Grammar Structure: Past tense.

Teacher: (Introducing the story) There once was a friendly alien named Zog. Zog lived on a distant planet called…

Teacher: (Circling and PQA time) Class, can you tell me, what was the name of Zog’s planet? What color was the sky on Zog’s planet?

Students: (Responding) Zog’s planet was called Zogonia, and the sky was green!

Teacher: (Continuing the script) One day, Zog decided to explore the galaxy and visit a new planet. He hopped into his spaceship, which was shaped like…

Teacher: (Circling and PQA time) Students, what was Zog’s spaceship shaped like? What color was it? Bill, what is your favourite colour?

Students ( or Bill): (Engaging) Zog’s spaceship was shaped like a giant blue banana!

Teacher: (Script-based) Zog traveled through space and landed on a planet called Earth. On Earth, he met a friendly human named…

Teacher: (Circling and PQA time) Class, what was the name of the human Zog met? What did they do together on Earth?

Students: (Participating) Zog met a human named Amy, and they went to the amusement park together!

Teacher: (Concluding the story) Zog and Amy had an unforgettable day at the amusement park, and they became great friends. This is the beginning of many adventures to come…

Example 2:

Target: basic food vocabulary and sentence structures.

Teacher: (Enthusiastically) Hello, everyone! Today, we have an exciting story about a hungry character named Tim. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Teacher: (Pointing to a student) Emma, what’s your favorite food?

Emma: I like pizza.

Teacher: Wonderful! (Drawing a simple pizza on the board) Here’s a pizza. Tim loves pizza.

Teacher: (Pointing to another student) Carlos, what else does Tim like to eat?

Carlos: Tim likes hamburgers.

Teacher: Great! (Adding a hamburger to the drawing) Tim also likes hamburgers.

Teacher: (Pointing to a third student) Sophie, what color are the hamburgers?

Sophie: The hamburgers are brown.

Teacher: Excellent! (Coloring the hamburgers brown) The hamburgers are brown, just like this.

Teacher: (Pointing to the whole class) Class, say it with me. Tim loves pizza and hamburgers.

Class: Tim loves pizza and hamburgers.

Teacher: (Creating more interaction) Now, let’s make the story more interesting. (Pointing to a student) Liam, where does Tim go to eat pizza and hamburgers?

Liam: Tim goes to a restaurant.

Teacher: Fantastic! (Drawing a restaurant scene on the board) Tim goes to a restaurant to eat pizza and hamburgers.

Teacher: (Pointing to another student) Emily, who works at the restaurant?

Emily: The chef works at the restaurant.

Teacher: Great job! (Drawing a chef’s hat on a character) The chef wears a tall, white hat. The chef is cooking pizza and hamburgers for Tim.

Teacher: (Pointing to the whole class) Everyone, say it together. The chef is cooking pizza and hamburgers for Tim.

Class: The chef is cooking pizza and hamburgers for Tim.

Teacher: (Engaging more students) Now, Noah, what does Tim drink with his pizza and hamburgers?

Noah: Tim drinks soda.

Teacher: Wonderful! (Drawing a soda cup on the board) Tim drinks soda with his pizza and hamburgers.

Teacher: (Pointing to the whole class) Class, let’s say it together. Tim drinks soda with his pizza and hamburgers.

Class: Tim drinks soda with his pizza and hamburgers.

Teacher: (Concluding the story) That’s the end of our story today. Tim is happy because he eats delicious pizza and hamburgers at the restaurant. Well done, everyone!


Teaching ESL with TPRS brings a sense of adventure and creativity into your classroom. By harnessing the power of storytelling, you can create a dynamic and immersive learning environment where students acquire language naturally. Remember, TPRS is a flexible method that allows you to adapt stories to suit your students’ age, level, and interests. Embrace this storytelling approach, and watch your ESL students flourish as they embark on language-learning journeys filled with compelling tales and interactive experiences.