TPRS and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

Okay — first of all, depth of knowledge has to do with knowledge, not acquisition…but assuming that many teachers do need to provide this sort of administrivia, let’s see how beautifully TPRS and common TPRS-related activities fit!

Incorporating some of the action words into the descriptions of tasks, and breaking down each individual action or activity may be helpful in assisting administrators to make the match between TPRS activities and these levels. (After all, matching is a Level 1 activity. Most admins should be able to do this! :-)  )

Level 1: Recall and Reproduction: Tasks at this level require recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. The task does not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula. Copying, computing, defining, and recognizing are typical Level 1 tasks.

  • Identifying single words
  • Identifying word parts that correspond to specific meaning (pop-up grammar);
  • Copying words/phrases off the board
  • Identifying radicals in a Chinese character
  • Responding to an oral word with a gesture
  • Assessment items: matching, blanks with a word bank, cloze

Action words: identify, discriminate, define, recognize, comprehend, match

Level 2: Skills and Concepts: At this level, a student must make some decisions about his or her approach. Tasks with more than one mental step such as comparing, organizing, summarizing, predicting, and estimating are usually Level 2.

  • Offering suggestions as to the next detail or occurrence in a story
  • Answering questions about parallel stories or relating story content to actual students
  • Restating a story asked over a 15-minute period in a few sentences
  • Assessment items: 5W questions in native or target language, comparisons, T/F, writing summary after hearing story

Action words: Compare, contrast, summarize, predict, suggest, integrate, restate

Level 3: Strategic Thinking: At this level of complexity, students must use planning and evidence, and thinking is more abstract. A task with multiple valid responses where students must justify their choices would be Level 3. Examples include solving non-routine problems, designing an experiment, or analyzing characteristics of a genre.

  • Translating phrases or sentences in either direction
  • Formulating sentences in the target language
  • Stating or pointing out structures of the language
  • Writing a story in the target language
  • Assessment items: as above

Action words: integrate, analyze, translate, formulate

Level 4: Extended Thinking: Level 4 tasks require the most complex cognitive effort. Students synthesize information from multiple sources, often over an extended period of time, or transfer knowledge from one domain to solve problems in another. Designing a survey and interpreting the results, analyzing multiple texts by to extract themes, or writing an original myth in an ancient style would all be examples of Level 4.

  • Writing based on a picture prompt
  • Writing a class story with modifications (changed details, alternate ending, etc.)
  • A spontaneous speaking task telling a story based on a picture prompt
  • Narrating a series of pictures or video
  • Assessment items: as above

Action words: write, compose, integrate, narrate, create, interpret


(Definitions of the various levels taken from

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