An Investigation on the Effectiveness of Iconic Gestures as a Vocabulary Teaching Strategy for Novel Concepts in the L2 Classroom

No Thumbnail Available
Olson, Collin Stewart
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Gestures and other bodily movements are frequently used as instructional strategies in second language classrooms. Research has demonstrated that gestures are an effective strategy to improve L2 vocabulary recall. However, previous studies have only used vocabulary items that are known to participants in their native languages. Additionally, previous research has only investigated if gestures improve L2 recall, but whether such recall results in improved passage comprehension has not been studied. In this study, adolescent Spanish-speaking participants learned vocabulary items in English. Half of the words were concepts known to the participants in L1, but the other half were concepts that they had not yet learned in their native language. Half of the participants learned the vocabulary items while making representative gestures, while the other half learned the words by copying them down. After four days of instruction, participants took vocabulary and comprehension assessments over the words they learned. Results suggested that gestures were no more effective for learning L2 vocabulary as conventional second language teaching strategies, and that participants who copied the words learned abstract concepts better than those who made gestures. All participants demonstrated improved comprehension of sentences containing target vocabulary, but there was not a statistically significant difference between conditions. The results of this study suggest that gestures are not a useful strategy for students learning a second language in content-embedded classrooms. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.
Gesture, SLA, Vocabulary, Education