In 1990, when I first took some training to be a teacher of English as a foreign language, we were strongly encouraged to use the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) framework for planning lessons. Here’s a reminder of how it works…
Presentation: The teacher presents an area of language to the learners. The language area is contextualised through a written or spoken text, and typically involves clarification of meaning, form and pronunciation.
Practice: The learners practise the area of language. This is usually tightly controlled in two ways; firstly in that it is only the target area of language that is being practised, and secondly in that the teacher is available to provide assistance and feedback throughout.
Production: The learners produce the language in context. Here a situation is set up where the learners can experiment with using the language naturally. Along with the target area, they can also produce other areas of language which fit the context. The teacher monitors and may make a note of language issues which arise, but typically does not intervene.
Like many ideas which have become widely used, PPP has come in for a lot of criticism from different corners of the ELT community. Some of this criticism, has unfairly linked PPP to behaviourism. I don’t have space here to go into much discussion about this, but would just like to mention how much I learnt from reading Jason Anderson’s (2016) article, in which he strongly defends PPP, especially for more challenging contexts around the world where classes are large and where opportunities to use English are limited (like those places in which The Hands Up Project works). Jason traces PPP back to its origins in Teaching Oral English by Don Byrne (1976) and its interesting that, even then, Byrne was suggesting that the stages didn’t necessarily need to be followed in that order, and that starting with production could inform what is later presented and practised. This emphasis on natural, free use of language at the production stage negates any links with behaviourism.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about frameworks for teacher training, and wondering whether PPP might be an appropriate paradigm for planning training sessions. If we replace ‘language area’ with the content of the teacher training programme, then perhaps PPP could provide the necessary stages in order for teachers to take on board new ideas. Two weeks ago I had the chance to try this idea out in practice when I was invited by Relief International to do some face to face training on the Stories Alive material with Syrian teachers of English in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps in Jordan. I only had about four hours training with each group of teachers so chose to just focus on activities that could be done before telling the story with the big versions of the pictures, and on ways of telling the story.
Presentation: I demonstrated the material with the teachers in role as learners using one of the stories – The jackal and the crow. I also showed videos of real learners in Zaatari doing the same activities in our online classes.
Practice: The teachers worked in small groups. They picked a different story from the Stories Alive collection to work with and planned a lesson using some of the activities I had demonstrated. They tried out the activities as micro-teaching on each other. We all gave the teachers feedback on how we thought the activities would work with a real class.
Production: We were given a real class of learners for the teachers to teach using the material and ideas they had practised during the previous stage. The teachers team taught the class.
Of course, it won’t always be possible, in every teacher training context, to have a production stage where teachers try out ideas with real students. But if a class is available, it does address a problem we encounter regularly as teacher trainers, where teachers can be sceptical about whether things we demonstrate would work in a real classroom.
I also made a video showing short excerpts of the activities they used with the students which I think other teachers working in similar contexts could learn from. Huge respect to all the teachers in the video. You did a great job!
So what do you think? Is PPP a useful way of organising English classes in the context in which you work? And is PPP a viable framework for training teachers?
Anderson, J (2016) ‘Why practice makes perfect sense: The past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education.’ ELT Education and Development 19 http://www.elted.net/uploads/7/3/1/6/7316005/3_vol.19_anderson.pdf
Byrne, D (1976) Teaching Oral English; Longman