I have always used a lot of TPR in my classroom. Two years ago I went to a seminar where the presenter used a lot of TPRS (which I didn't realize at the time was a different method) so I went to my administration and asked permission to run an entirely TPR class. I had one class that no matter what I did they were not learning. They were disruptive, argumentative, and they just hated coming to my class.
I read a lot of books in my "free time" mostly I read Dr. Asher and Ramiro Garcia over and over again. I kept meticulous notes in that class and my other classes. What I found at the end of that year was that the students in that class scored the same as my other students on their weekly and end of year assessments. Their individual scores increased substantially from where they began. But most telling for me was that their motivation increased and their behavior problems decreased. Although they did not score above the other classes, it was a sell. I went to a fully TPR classroom.
I love a lot of the philosophy behind TPR. The idea that we teach students the same way that we learned our native language is so logical. It fits right in with a lot of the language acquisition theories I picked up in college such as The Natural Approach. Incidentally I remember in one of my methodology classes, having to model a lesson using The Natural Approach. Each group had to pick one theory and model a lesson on that. The teacher absolutely did not agree with Asher. After my lesson, she said that I had shown her how it could actually work in a classroom. :) Besides learning in the same basic order that we learn our native tongue, TPR makes learning fun. The affective filter of students who are having fun is much lower, which allows them to learn more. We aren't trying to cram information through a locked doorway.
My students have an amazing vocabulary for first year students. They have truly acquired and retained words that most students simply memorize for the vocabulary test and promptly forget (at least, that's my experience.) When I give them the opportunity to direct their peers, they never cease to amaze me with the words that they recall from the very beginning of the year.
Their comprehension is similarly high. They don't get stressed when I talk to them in Spanish, or even when strangers ask them questions on the bus. They respond appropriately. And they have had a lot more fun learning like this than they have before.
The biggest problem I have had with TPR is that the students are not learning the grammar. I read a book about teaching grammar through TPR, but it was very simplistic and did not sit well with me. While my students have acquired many words, and can understand the language when it is spoken to them, when they speak they do not have any comprehension that habla and hablamos are different forms. They seem to use these interchangeably.
This is why when Blaine Ray was presenting at my local conference this spring, I leapt at the opportunity to go. I was hoping that he would give me that magic answer to having students show proficiency not just of vocabulary and commands, but also of conversation and writing. I want it all :)
1 day ago