Gesturing: Learn New Words Using Your Hands


Hand gesturing is a flexible way of communicating that can help with language learning in both hearing and deaf children.

Previous research has found that hand gestures accompanied with learning can help children develop cognitive skills and improve academic readiness. In particular, one study found that observing teachers’ hand gestures promotes lasting learning for children by creating motor representations for mathematical facts. 

This study sought to examine the role gesturing plays in both hearing and deaf children. Researchers designed this study to measure and compare the use of gestures in hearing children, children of deaf parents, and deaf children. First, they measured how hearing children used gestures along with speech to facilitate language learning. Next, the researchers looked at hearing children who learned sign language from their parents. Both groups used sign language along with speech, which researchers believe helped promote language acquisition.

Finally, the researchers looked at deaf children whose hearing losses prevented them from learning any spoken language. The researchers found that many of these children used unique gesturing systems to communicate with their families and other deaf children.

The three groups of children used gesturing to communicate. Furthermore, in all three groups, it proved to facilitate language acquisition.

Thus, researchers conclude that gesturing is a visual representation that not only captures children’s attention, but also creates a motor representation for their brains’ to learn and process. Gesturing with spoken language or alone can predict the word acquisition. 

NeuroNet Note

In addition to using sign language as a form of gesturing, parents can also point to objects and concepts while talking to help guide their children’s learning. Similarly, with NeuroNet Air Writing exercises children are internalizing the concepts of up, down, etc. in body space. They are feeling air_writinghow their body space relates to their visual space. They are writing this language in their own body through movement. This relationship between body space and visual space helps them “see” the spatial relationships they need for quick and accurate letter formation in handwriting.  

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