Everyone is talking about TPR (and TPRS, covered elsewhere) and language teachers are excited to try it out in their classrooms. The Total Physical Response method of language teaching was created by James Asher and is based on the work of Krashen, who wrote widely on his Monitor Model. One element of Krashen’s theory was the Affective Filter concept. Mainly, this states that when anxiety is low and learners are comfortable, they are less likely to block understanding.
TPR builds upon this concept in that learners are not forced to speak until they are ready, but are rather encouraged to first demonstrate comprehension through movement and gesture. Drawing on first language acquisition research which shows that children demonstrate understanding before they produce language, TPR encourages learners demonstrate understanding before producing language.
One major benefit that I have personally observed in my classroom is a rise in student confidence as they recognize their ability to almost fully understand a class conducted entirely in the target languge. When they are focusing on this one skill early on rather than trying to speak, read, write, and understand aurally, they achieve recognizable success very early on. This then motivates them to continue to build on their success.
Students move on to speaking and essentially take on the role of the teacher in directing classroom activities. There are several books on TPR to help teachers better understand the techniques and there are numerous workshops offered throughout the country. You can find more information on the TPR Website.