The majority of class time in TPR lessons is spent doing drills in which the instructor gives commands using the imperative mood. Students respond to these commands with physical actions. Initially, students learn the meaning of the commands they hear by direct observation. After they learn the meaning of the words in these commands, the teacher issues commands that use novel combinations of the words the students have learned.[10]

Instructors limit the number of new vocabulary items given to students at any one time. This is to help students differentiate the new words from those previously learned, and to facilitate integration with their existing language knowledge.[10] Asher suggests that students can learn between 12 and 36 words for every hour of instruction, depending on their language level and class size.[10]

While drills using the imperative are the mainstay of total physical response classes, teachers can use other activities as well. Some typical other activities are role plays and slide presentations.[10] However, beginners are not made to learn conversational dialogs until 120 hours into their course.[10]

There is little error correction in TPR. Asher advises teachers to treat learners’ mistakes the same way a parent would treat their children’s. Errors made by beginning-level students are usually overlooked, but as students become more advanced teachers may correct more of their errors. This is similar to parents raising their children; as children get older parents tend to correct their grammatical mistakes more often.[10]