Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gesture to teach L2 vocabulary (and pronunciation) by!

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Required reading: New, 2014 article by Macedonia (University of Linz) and Klimesch (University of Salzburg), published in Mind, Brain and Education 8 (2): 74-86, entitled, "Long-term Effects of Gestures on Memory for Foreign Language Words Trained in the Classroom." In essence what the study revealed (or confirmed) was--as the title declares--that systematic use of gesture, especially dramatic and iconic gesture, enhanced long term memory for vocabulary. The comprehensive literature review on the function of gesture in learning and memory alone makes the piece worth reading.

Although from the description of the treatment in the experiment it is not entirely clear just how many of the gestures involved touch, those that were used were reported to be generally dramatic and/or iconic (representing an object by tracing its shape in the air). Words learned with accompanying gesture were remembered better, even 4 months out in the follow up.

And the fascinating aspect of that research for out haptic work is that the terms were learned generally in short phrases or as single words in isolation, out of any context such as a story, conversation or other narrative. Our upcoming workshop at TESL Canada this weekend in Regina focuses on just that: haptic (gesture +touch) anchoring of relatively out of context terms taken from the Academic Word List. Good to have a little more empirical evidence for the efficacy of gestural anchoring with us as we do!

Keep in touch!

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