The second phase of the PPP method is practice. This is where the students’ learning becomes more active. Through drilling and practice, students begin to use target language (TL) independently and fully commit new information to memory. This is where real learning begins.
What Is The Practice Stage?
PPP method stands for the Presentation-Practice-Production method of learning English (click here for an overview). Practice is the stage that follows your presentation. After presenting language to your students, you need to get them to say it.
It’s the only way to get better at something! You have to apply the same practice philosophy to language acquisition as you would to any other skill you want to get better at. Lets face it: no language practice means no confidence or ability, no refinement, no development, just a bunch of quiet and mumbling students. Lots of language practice means bags of confidence, excellent accuracy, brilliant fluency, and a bunch of hyperactive students that are happy to be yammering away in English! A class that is constantly made to practice the language shines out like a beacon. A class that does not get much practice stands out like a sore thumb!
This is what we actually do in the ‘Practice Stage’. It’s the ‘how’ of practice. If we want the students to have a chance of remembering and improving the language, they will need to repeat it time and time and time again. Actually, some people get confused with the difference between ‘practice’ and ‘drilling’, but I guess you could call them the same thing.
Target Language (TL)
The stuff you present to them! You can break TL into 2 broad categories:
Active TL = new language that you are trying to get into their heads, that they will be able to use and produce independently.
Passive TL = language that you use, but you are not intending for the students to independently use and produce it. Most students will increasingly develop a fairly good idea of the meaning of the language. Commonly, passive TL becomes the active TL of the future.
For example, when teaching a Question and Answer structure: on the 1st day we teach the Answer form, and on the 2nd day we teach the Question form and recycle the Answer form.
Day 1: Active TL = “They’re doctors.”
Passive TL = “Who are they?”
Day 2: Active TL = “Who are they?” & “They’re doctors.”
Total Physical Response (TPR)
This is attaching an action to a word or sound. It’s the same as shrugging your shoulders when you don’t know the answer to something, nodding your head when you agree, or extending your middle finger to someone you’ve had a falling out with. OK, not a pleasant example, but scientific studies overwhelmingly prove that it’s easier for students to learn and remember a word or sound when they learn it with an action. You first introduce TPR in the presentation stage, and then continue to use it throughout the practice and follow up stages. So, next time you are drilling ‘snake’, have the students squirming on the floor saying ‘ssssssssssnake’ like crazy!
This is when the teacher gives an example to the whole class of how to say something. This is first done in the presentation stage, and then again in the practice stage. Obviously, the teacher can be modelling a number of things in the same go: finger counting, pronunciation, intonation, etc. TPR can be used with your models.
We do this to encourage a response. For example, the teacher (or a student) silently holds up a red flashcard and the students shout “It’s red!” Another example might be, a student gives a TPR action for ‘rain’ and the other students shout out “It’s raining!” You can also prompt with language. For example, you could actively or passively ask a question like “What’s he doing?” while pointing to a flashcard of ‘washing the dishes’, and the students would shout out “He’s washing the dishes.”
A standard 90-minute lesson using the PPP method needs a 10-minute ‘Practice Stage’. The longer the lesson, the more drilling you will be able to fit in! You have to organise your choice of drills into an order that will fit neatly into the time slot. Don’t forget that in Shane Schools particular version of the PPP method, you also need to fit drills into the Review’s practice stage (about 4 minutes worth) and the Reading and Writing’s practice stage (about 3 minutes worth).
These symbols refer to how the drilling is conducted.
T = The teacher
The options of interaction are quite numerous. Here are some examples:
T → Sts
The teacher models the TL (see ‘modelling’ above) and the students simply repeat. This is therefore a very ‘controlled’ teacher led drill.
Sts → T
The teacher prompts for the TL (see ‘prompting’ above) and all the students say the TL. This is therefore still quite a ‘controlled’ drill.
St → T
The teacher prompts for the TL (see ‘prompting’ above) and one individual student says the TL. This is therefore quite a ‘controlled’ drill.
St → St
A student prompts the TL (see ‘prompting’ above) and another student says the TL. This is therefore a ‘freer’ student led drill.
St → St
This two-way conversation suggests that these two students are prompting or trading a question and answer. This is therefore a very ‘free’ student led drill.
Sts → Sts
This two-way conversation suggests that these students are prompting or trading a question and answer. This is therefore a very ‘free’ student led drill.
You’re joking! Who needs two teachers in the same classroom? O.K, I guess this could represent a Teacher and Teaching Assistant demonstrating a drill.
Though the PPP method is clear in that what happens in what order, the type of drilling is specific to the situation. It takes experience to know which of these is the best option.
You will need to correct your students during the practice stage! During the course of any practice stage, you should correct lots, especially at the beginning. As the stage progresses you should need to correct less (because they’re getting better at producing the TL). There are 3 main types of correction. Try and use them in this order (with number 3 being the last resort).
- Self Correction: After hearing a mistake, gently approach the student and suggest that they try again. Encourage the student to have another go. The teacher should use prompts to guide the student towards the correct form. This type of correction is the way to go! Move to the next option if they are still having problems.
- Peer Correction: Invite another student (or group of students) to demonstrate the correct form. Once the correct form has been elicited you can re-approach the student that needed peer support, and they should now be able to say their corrected form to the teacher. After they have achieved this, give them lots of praise and allow their confidence to be boosted.
- Teacher Correction: If all else fails (loud alarm bells should be ringing in your head if no one can help the weak student out) then you will have to resort to teacher correction. This simply means you have to give the correct form to the student. Remember though that the students then need to repeat the corrected language back to you. If you feel that no one is able to produce the Target Language, you should re-model it for the whole class.
Plan your Practice Stage with care!
This is one of the most important stages in a lesson. It’s too important to leave to chance. There is a clear and specific process to follow.
The four steps of the Practice Stage
The aim is to lead the students from ‘controlled’ to ‘freer’ drills. This means:
- The first stage must be led by the teacher (teacher models followed by lots of student repetition).
- The next stage is based on prompting. The students tell the teacher the TL (without the teacher having to model it).
- This stage is students prompting and trading the TL with each other. The role of the teacher now is to monitor to make sure that the TL is being accurately and that the activity runs smoothly.
- The final stage is an individual check. You need to check all of the students and their ability to use the Target Language.
Make your drills fun!
There is a common misconception that drills can be boring. Not true! Make drills lively through incentives, races, guessing, gambling, forfeits, bizarre charades, memory challenges, matching, paper scissors stone, stand up sit down turn around, hammer slap, stations, etc. You can find ideas for drills on the following pages. Also, ask fellow teachers, senior teachers or managers for ideas.
Use a variety of drills
Students have tolerance thresholds, too! Don’t use the same drills day in, day out. Experiment with different drills to build up your repertoire. Adapt drills to suit your needs.
For certain drills such as the rotation drill monitoring the output from students can be difficult as multiple students will be speaking at the same time. Here it may be best to enroll help from your TA.
Follow along with our series on the PPP method by signing up for the Shane Gazette.
A version of this article originally appeared in Shane English School’s Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) program, which is part of new teachers’ orientation.[
With schools around the world, Shane English School always has exciting new opportunities to offer.