“Signs are to eyes what words are to ears. “- Ken Glickman
At the core of many WBT strategies is the use of hand gestures while teaching to solidify main concepts/idea/vocabulary. If you have ever watched any of Chris Biffle's lesson videos on the WBT website or their YouTube Channel you'll notice that he gestures almost the entire time he speaks! Before we go any further, I want to clarify that WBT encourages the incorporation of effective iconic/representational and metaphoric gestures that are meant to portray a thought or idea as compared to deictic gestures that are used in pointing. What I've noticed on many blogs and on the WBT forum, however, is that the idea of gesturing while teaching can be a challenge for some teachers who are new to WBT. Some people feel it is too "silly" or a distraction while others feel uncomfortable getting used to gesturing while speaking and/or are unsure if gestures actually benefit learning.
I think, however, that Wollf-Michael Roth (2001) makes an excellent point when he states that, "Gestures constitute a central feature of human development, knowing, learning, and communication across cultures; even congenitally blind individuals gesture when they communicate." Why then, are teachers and critics of WBT so apprehensive about the use of gestures in the classroom?
An aspect that may make some teacher's uncomfortable is how to incorporate clear, appropriate and effective gestures that assist student's understanding as opposed to confusing the student, which can happen! This means that deciding to incorporate gestures into our teaching needs to be a thoughtful and purposeful process. For example, having multiple gestures for one idea or one gesture for multiple ideas is likely to confuse our students and results in them not making the connection between the gesture and the concept it is tied to. A great resource for teachers using WBT strategies and accompanying gestures is the gesture brain storming forum thread on the WBT website. Teachers have posted their ideas for subject specific gestures, themed gestures, modified gestures, anything you may need! This can assist teachers in planning and ensure that the gestures used are well thought out and appropriate for the concept they are linked to as opposed to thinking them up on the spot which can easily lead to confusion.
Once gestures have been incorporated into a classroom they can be specifically used to gauge student's comprehension of a topic. Are they using gestures correctly when explaining an idea or topic? Can they explain why a specific gesture is a good representation for that idea? To really get our students thinking ask them, "If you used this gesture without verbal communication could someone understand what it meant? Why or why not?". You could also have your students brainstorm an idea of an effective gesture when you present new information, having them specifically think about what the idea is and how it can best be represented. This encourages students to think of the idea in the big picture and make connections to previous knowledge. So by using gestures you are not only reaching the multiple intelligences that your student's may display but you can also encourage further reflection on the topics being discussed!
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Gesture's Role in the Learning Process
Theory into Practice , Vol. 43, No. 4, Developmental Psychology: Implications for Teaching (Autumn, 2004), pp. 314-321
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Gestures: Their Role in Teaching and Learning
Review of Educational Research , Vol. 71, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 365-392
Published by: American Educational Research Association
Rope Them in With Hand Gestures
The Reading Teacher , Vol. 64, No. 4 (DECEMBER 2010/JANUARY 2011), pp. 282-284
Published by: International Reading Association