Activity: TPR, Directions and Interpersonal Semantics

Recently, I’ve been spending more time with lower level learners on the Interpersonal semantics of exchange. This is a short activity that tries to highlight the differences between giving/demanding information and giving/demanding service in a more physical way. It is based on a ‘Giving Directions’ lesson and is a kind of TPR game.

First, highlight on the whiteboard the four (although the game concentrates mainly on the first three):

  1. Demanding Information: Where is the station?/Is it far?
  2. Demanding Service: Turn left.
  3. Giving Information: It’s on the left.
  4. Giving Service: Shall I take you?

The game is then very simple. All the students stand and the teacher reads a line of script from a ‘Giving Directions’ lesson and the students must perform an action that reflects the role of the listener. If the line is 1., the students point (showing). If the line is 2., the students walk once on the spot (action). If the line is 3., the students put their hand to their ear (listening). If a student makes a mistake, he or she sits down. The last one standing is the winner. To make the game increasingly more difficult, the lines can be spoken more quickly so that students have to focus mainly on intonation and initial sounds, or lines can be combined so that students have to perform two or more actions, e.g. When you reach the corner (3.), turn left (2.).

One tricky point that can also be introduced is the difference between Turn left, Demanding Service, and You turn left, Giving Information. I think the difference between them is one of expectation. For Turn left, the speaker expects that the action will be carried out immediately, whereas for You turn left the expectation is that this is just information that may or may not be acted upon at a later date. This can be a difficult concept. I often try to use the difference between giving directions on the street (more likely to be acted upon) and giving direction in a tourist information centre (information).

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