Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Problem with PPP

PPP stands for Presentation, Practice, Production and it is perhaps the dominant teaching method in Japanese junior high schools. PPP means that teachers will first present a grammar point, for example, present perfect, have students practice it, and then give them some kind of activity where they are expected to produce it. This way of teaching is efficient because it is easy for students to follow. Although I would probably use this method sometimes if I was a JHS teacher, I think it is important to recognize the problems of this method.

First, although a lot of teachers say that the field of Second Language Acquisition is completely useless for teaching, it does reveal a limitation of PPP. That is that learners acquire grammar structures (for example, the regular past tense) gradually after passing through various developmental stages. PPP might give the learners and teachers the false impression that learners should have mastered the particular grammatical structure after the presentation, practice and production. It is only through constant exposure and use that learners acquire a grammatical structure though.

This leads to the second and in my opinion the biggest limitation. In a PPP lesson, Learners and teachers might think that the goal of using English in class is to show that they know a particular structure but this could be counterproductive to their language learning. In my opinion, the most important goal for language use in the classroom is for learners to learn how to build their fluency in English and learn the communicative strategies necessary for them to make the best use of the knowledge that they have. As teachers, we also want learners to make the effort to learn from their miscommunications and errors to become more accurate and effective communicators. In other words, the major limitation of PPP could be that it leads learners and teachers to ignore the most important goals of communicative activities.


Rintaro said...

Thanks, Jamie. Yes. PPP has some weaknesses. I understand that. Every method has its own weaknesses and disadvantages, too.
What is important for teachers is to know them and not to stick to only one method. I think the PPP based English class is more effective (not just efficient) than TBLT in junior and senior high school. But tasks should be also flexibly used depending on the purpose of the class. Actually, my English classes now are often task based ones. Yes. This is an interesting topic. We can continue over beer soon.

JH said...

Thanks for your comment. Let's talk about this over a beer or two or three.
Have fun at JALT!

مهراد ایرانی said...

I’m an English Learner in IRAN. I Learn English for get TOEFL to go to university in Canada.
From reading your blog, I got some information about Learning English in Japan.
Methods of Learning English in Japan better than Iran, because in IRAN, schools and universities don’t pay attention to Learning English, and who want to Learn English, Should endeavor on him(her)Self and go to TOEFL classes and Learn English from a good teacher…
Fortunately, there are several nice recourses in the Web to Learn English. Such as: that I think this is a very Good Method to learn Foreign Languages.
Also Seeing English Films can have a good influence on learning English.
In some countries, English teachers sometimes Show an English Movie (long movies or short movies, a movie of seminar, etc.) and then want from students that write the story of film and also their views about it.
I think this is a Good Method, too.
In IRAN it isn’t usual. but is it usual in Japan schools?
And also I think that blogging in English is a good way to reinforcement English taught, but it’s only suitable when Grammar learned nicely…
I want to start my English Blogging as soon as possible…

Best Wishes

JH said...

Dear مهراد ایرانی,

Thank you for your comment!
In Japan, it is hard to speak very generally about how English is taught; some teachers are good and care and others don't.
Usually when I use video, I use video that I myself made when I went to a different country. I think that most teachers at the secondary school level in Japan do not use video because they have to teach the textbook to prepare students for high school or university entrance exams. I would imagine that many university teachers do use movies, though.
I have tried blogging. As you said, I think it can work but sometimes you need to encourage students to pay a little more attention to the quality of their language (spelling and grammar).
Well, if you start an English language blog, please let me know.

Poppy said...

I think PPP is a good strategy for older learners who have motivation to learn.

Otherwise my experience from ELD classes is that there are SO many different methods and approaches and of course none of them is perfect. A teacher should combine them in order to make the lesson relevant for the students.

Anyway, I'm still a student teacher, my experience consists of a 2-week teaching practice so maybe I should be quiet and talk about it in a few years. :)

Anonymous said...

I liked your article.It makes a teacher think over their method of teaching.
I agree with your proposition. It is the dominant method in our country as well.In many schools teachers use this method and as you said they forget about the goal of using english in class. The goal is not showing that you know this rule but using this rules to make our speech more meaningful and accurate. Students who have been taught by this method will certainly use it to teach their students in future. Of course it will not lead to good things ,I mean that they will not reach their goal.
Can you suggest anything to solve this problem?

Tefl Jobs said...

Agreed Jamie,

I don't think PPP is a very good way to teach a language. The Japanese often won't speak English for fear of making mistakes. Language learning needs to be focused on communicating a message, not on being grammatically correct.

Best, Jon.

Kazume said...

I'm not familiar with the PPP teaching method, but I can agree with you in this point. Since the era of TERAKOYA, private schools in the EDO period, it has been a standard procedure to teach the course of studies. The method has been utilized and attested as a powerful tool to "train" the students because it requires no autonomy of the individuals. Indeed, it has been proved to be an efficient way to train the students to response to the conventional problems, as in the training course utilized in the driving schools in Japan.

Contrary to the PPP teaching method, in my opinion, an idea of individual is highly respected in the western style one. It may naturally lead to the discussion based teaching style. The discussion based teaching style is highly effective to educate the "productive" students while the training based PPP teaching style may be effective to educate the "stereotyped" students.

In other words, if we want to train the students to ride a bicycle we should use the PPP teaching method, however, if we want to develop the ability of the students to find the solution of their future problems we should adopt the discussion based teaching style. Of course, I like the discussion based teaching style. ;-)


JH said...

Dear Kazume,
That is a great point. Perhaps our first job is to teach children how to rife a bicycle and after that teach them some tricks.

yaling said...

Dear Jimbo,

This is the first time I visited your blog. What caught my attention was the title "The Problem with PPP". As I read along, I couldn't stop reading until the end.

I agree what you said that PPP does have big problem. I didn't realize what it is until reading your article.

In Taiwan, the lesson plan format is like that of Japan's kind. I am glad that you pointed out that the use of PPP might mis-lead the direction of learning language from communication goal.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Yaling, Taiwan

English Teacher Brian said...

Good perspective. I start as an ALT soon in Japan. I'm also currently studying Japanese at a private school (classroom setting). I agree with you 100%.

In my class they also PPP...I see many weaknesses and struggle with it daily. However, I see many weaknesses with a classroom setting, as well.

Keep adjusting and keep flexible. Try to find your own way within the system you are forced to work.

Great blog!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jimbo,

I am in the process of getting my TEOSL/TEFL. I already have a BS and a MBA. I was looking to come to Japan to teach, but I hear the job market has dried up their for Native Speakers. Do you agree with this perspective or is it a buch of Bull?

Hopes of Teaching in Japan.

Anonymous said...

Presentation, Practice and Performance should be the framework for any commonsense teaching framework. It has certainly helped me a lot for developing lesson materials and lesson plans. It considers students, directs the stages of the class, and the Presentation aspect does not need to be a grammar structure.

Anonymous said...

Always though PPP stood for,


but gotta agree, it's an easy formula for the teacher and students to follow.

Most English teachers like me are entirely out of touch with what the J-learners already know, so it flounders unless a strict pseudo-structure is imposed on the classroom, and the PPP provides that (even if uni students are listening to a presentation about 1st year junior high grammar)