Presentation, Practice and Production, commonly referred to as PPP, is a kind of instructional sequence, i.e. a model of lesson planning.
Presentation stage: The teacher begins the lesson by setting up a situation, either eliciting or modeling some language that the situation calls for. Presentation may consist of model sentences, short dialogues illustrating target items, either read from the textbook, heard on the tape or acted out by the teacher.
Practice stage: Students practise the new language in a controlled way. They drill sentences or dialogues by repeating after the teacher or the tape, in chorus and individually, until they can say them correctly. Other practice activities are matching parts of sentences, completing sentences or dialogues and asking and answering questions using the target language.
Production stage: Students are encouraged to use the new language in a freer way either for their own purposes and meanings or in a similar context introduced by the teacher. It can be a role play, a simulation activity or a communication task.
Within this model the language is presented by small, discrete items that are gradually combined over the length of course. The language is tightly controlled and the emphasis is on accuracy. After a definite time period (at the end of a unit) students are tested on the items presented within the unit.
Though the PPP model looks quite sensible for language teaching and at least it looks ideal for lower levels, it has been recently criticized-
1) for being too teacher-centred
2) for keeping students passive
3) for its linear sequencing of language items
The theory of learning underlying this sequence is rooted in behaviorist psychology: practice makes perfect and rote learning and repetition help to ‘automate’ responses (see the Audio-Lingual Method).
However, the findings of recent SLA research prove that language learning does not happen in an additive fashion with bits of language being learnt separately. Rather, the process of second language acquisition is multi-directed and the student’s mind is working on constructing several knowledge systems at a time. A human mind is capable of attending to several language points at a time without paying conscious attention to each of them. When taught to use some specific language point which is in focus in the PPP lesson the student is deprived of the opportunity to develop her interlanguage system from the point where she is at the moment and in the direction she needs to go. A PPP lesson does not provide enough space for language development (there is no space for Krashen’s roughly-tuned input or Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development). It doesn’t secure proper language exposure.
Furthermore, automatic performance does not always originate from intentional learning and mechanical practice. Language learning does need practice but practice which would rather call for the learner’s involvement and her effort to process the language input. The student may be not aware of attending to a language item, yet it eventually becomes automated. In addition, the student’s involvement in the learning process is a safer guarantee that the new knowledge will be taken in and retained.
As J. Willis (Longman, 1996, p.134-135) concludes in her book ‘A Framework for Task-Based Learning’ the PPP model has further major drawbacks:
Sometimes learners manage to do the task or role play at the production stage without using the target form at all. This may be because their interlanguage system is not yet ready to cope with its use, or because they don’t need the new pattern to express the meanings they want. The goal of the final ‘P” – free production is not achieved.
When focused on a specific language item, learners tend to overuse it, apply it to wrong situations and make very stilted and unnatural conversation, e.g. Maybe I’m going to go to the cinema on Sunday. By doing so they want to display control of the new form rather than express their own meanings.
PPP gives an illusion of mastery because learners are able to produce the required form confidently in the classroom, but once they are outside the classroom and the drill, learners seem to forget it completely. Therefore, since learners are required to produce forms which have been specified in advance, the last stage of a PPP lesson is nowadays referred to as a freer or less controlled practice of the target structure.
The PPP lesson model is often contrasted with TBL – Task-Based Learning.