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What do learners make of teachers' gestures in the language classroom?

Sime, Daniela (2006) What do learners make of teachers' gestures in the language classroom? International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 44 (2). pp. 211-230. ISSN 0019-042X

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Abstract

This study explores the meanings that learners of English as a foreign language give to teachers' gestures. It is a qualitative, descriptive study of the perceived functions that gestures perform in the EFL classroom, viewed mainly from the language learners' perspective. The data for the study was collected through interviews with twenty-two adult learners based on a stimulated recall methodology (Gass and Mackay, 2000). Findings indicate that learners generally believed that gestures and other non-verbal behaviours play a key role in the language learning process. Learners identified three types offunctions that gestures play in EFL classroom interaction: (i) cognitive, i.e., gestures which work as enhancers of the learning processes, (ii) emotional, i.e., gestures that function as reliable communicative devices of teachers' emotions and attitudes and (iii) organisational, i.e., gestures which serve as tools of classroom management. These findings suggest that learners interpret teachers' gestures in a functional manner and use these and other non-verbal messages and cues in their learning and social interaction with the teacher.