WHAT EXACTLY IS PPP?

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In the world of TEFL there are numerous and various abbreviations and acronyms – EAP, IELTS, TESOL, to name a few. They can be confusing and don’t worry if you don’t know what all of them stand for or what they mean yet, but we’re going to introduce you to one which you really need to get to know because it’s the basis of most TEFL lessons: PPP.

PPP stands for Presentation, Practice and Production. It is a procedure which is widely used in TEFL classrooms when teaching a language structure, especially at lower levels. How does it work? Let’s look at an example to see what we mean:

Lesson topic: The Worst Day Ever

Language structure: third conditional

Presentation:

The teacher introduces a character – Mary. Mary is a student who enjoys going out clubbing with her friends. One Thursday night Mary goes out for her friend’s birthday and stays out very late. The next morning, she oversleeps and wakes up at 10am. When she wakes up she realises she’s going to be late for class. “If I hadn’t gone out last night, I wouldn’t have overslept”, she thinks.

The story continues with many bad things happening to Mary because she went out the night before. Each time something happens, she makes a comment in the third conditional. This story can be presented as an oral story with pictures, a written story or a video. It can be taken from a coursebook or it can be made up by the teacher.

The teacher then focuses on Mary’s comments and the third conditional. The teacher boards the basic form of the structure, elaborates on its meaning and establishes its use. In this way the students are presented with the language structure.

Practice:

The teacher then provides the students with an opportunity to practise constructing the language structure themselves. This is usually a very controlled practice exercise which focuses on students’ accuracy. One way to do this would be for the students to recap Mary’s story in their own words, writing down what they remember and working with another student to recreate the story. The whole class then works together until they have the perfect story.

This is also the stage the teacher focuses on issues of pronunciation and lets the students practise producing the structure in sentences.

Production:

The production stage is when students are allowed to come up with sentences with the target structure relating to themselves. They have had time to focus on the form in the Presentation and Practice stages, so this stage is about using the structure in appropriate situations. This is a much freer situation, so though the students may be given prompts, they are free to talk about whichever situation they choose.

During this stage the students usually relate the target language to themselves so that the production becomes more personalised and meaningful.

As you can see, this is quite a basic procedure and it’s very flexible, meaning that it can be used for a wide range of structures. It is easy to understand why this is the procedure most commonly taught in TEFL courses. However, PPP has been around since the 1960s and upon close examination, we can see there are a few drawbacks to this procedure.

Firstly, PPP is completely teacher-centred. It maintains the traditional status quo of the teacher being the provider of knowledge and the student being the passive recipient. We now know that it is more beneficial in most situations for the student to be actively engaged in the learning situation. The student learns more and better when they are involved in working out meaning or discovering rules and forms themselves.

PPP also assumes that students learn in straight lines, from zero knowledge to a state of comprehension to immediate production. Obviously language learning doesn’t take place like that and even if our students are able to produce the target structure accurately during the Production phase, this does not mean that the structure has been learnt or will be used outside the classroom.

Nevertheless, PPP is still one of the most popular procedures around and will probably continue to be so. The fact remains that it has proven effective for so many years that there must be reasons it has stood the test of time. Having said that, though, it is a good idea to mix it up and utilise PPP in a different way or play around with different teaching approaches such as ESA.

Variety is a good thing in the TEFL classroom and as a teacher it is important for you to have range of procedures at your disposal in order to be able to create and carry out the most effective lessons possible. Making use of the PPP procedure is just one way of helping your students learn new language structures.

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