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19 thoughts on “Gesturing”

  1. The relaxing thing is interesting. Just recently, I have been able to feel myself quietly in the moment when illiciting a story. It’s a place that is calm, but I feel so secure that I can wait on the kids for a response. Just wish it would be the rule more often than the exception. Looking forward to meeting Piedad Gutierrez In Bernardsville, NJ on the 24th. She is doing a PQA coaching session.

  2. Give a huge greeting to Piedad from the Alaskans! We got to meet her in August for a brief conversation. It was so hot on her end that she had the fan blowing her hair all around. I have this image of Piedad that looks like some sort of a dream!

  3. On the gesturing piece, I have to say that gesturing helped me ENORMOUSLY as a student in Fluency Fast Chinese and Spanish. I don’t know if she still does it, but Karen Rowan used gestures seemingly unconsciously for such words as wants, gives, has…. We never did the gestures, but she did, and for me that visual was a support of the auditory. And Linda Li used gestures for big, and lives in, and or, which I use currently in my classroom. I’m sure it didn’t help everyone, but it sure helped me. On the other hand, my Arabic teacher didn’t use any gestures; she did the pause and point with a pointer. I remember maybe 3 words of Arabic. But maybe there are other reasons for that (like I was taking Intermediate Spanish at the same time!!!)….

    Just some rambling thoughts…wondering if my gestures help my kids, are distracting, or are a crutch….


  4. I tried doing a very short little story for reading, orally first. I did it like a story-teller would vocally but without gestures and then with gestures. The comprehension shot up from 50 to 100% for even my weakest students. I asked them to vote for which style they preferred and they all voted for the gestures. Then I thought, ok they don’t remember the words just the gestures and one day without thinking, I just did the gesture alone and they immediately gave me the word! I was so shocked, they laughed when they saw my mouth hanging open. I could see they were proud of it too. I told them bravo.

    So, for me, I know that my kids are, as they say in French, “scotché” when I use gestures and are acquiring the vocab. I’m not advocating using gestures until you drop, but I think they play an important role for acquiring new vocab.

    NB My kids also have a rich oral tradition. Local associations bring in professional story-tellers (conteurs) from French speaking countries worldwide and sponsor local children’s competitions. BUT I’m having problems getting them to “hear” the written words. Understanding first helps alot but isn’t enough. How do I bridge this gap?

  5. I tend to use the gestures until I see that all students are getting the word without me having to use it. I think of it like a potty-trainer. I tend to use gestures more and for longer time with words that don’t really produce an image in peoples’ heads, like “there is” or “has”. I think the gesture becomes that image for them.

    On Dori’s comment, I also benefitted from Linda Li’s gestures during FF. However, I felt unchallenged when those gestures continued, and really enjoyed trying to figure out aurally what she was saying. I kind of wanted to close my eyes. (Not because she was a bad teacher. Because she was so good that we were able to acquire the words so quickly and probably didn’t need the gestures anymore. That’s just how I felt though, perhaps the gestures were still needed by some.)

  6. I see my students use them on quizzes from time to time. That is how I know they are helpful. I do agree with you , Jim! Get rid of them when they are not needed. Oh! And how do you gesture “there is”?

  7. I don’t gesture there is but I have seen it gestured. I can’t remember what the gesture was, though. I do remember one, with the hands out palms up but that can get inappropriate responses so I don’t do that. Unless my arms are straight and way out there.

    1. In German I have used the following:
      Left hand is held palm up in front of the body; right fist strikes left palm once.

      It works because the German can be said quite emphatically: “Es gibt” – I imagine it would not work as well with “Il y a” or “Hay”.

  8. I use right palm up, smack left fist into right palm for “hay” and I point back over my shoulder for “hubo” or “había.” “Hay” is so important that we simply HAD to gesture it.

    One problem I have is, often if I am using a script (ie a skeletal outline), I need one hand to hold a sheetof paper while I gesture, so I am trying to get the kids to come up where possible with one-handed gestures. Next year I’ll just use a clenched fist for “hay.”

  9. I find (after many years of doing this) that “hay” takes forever to acquire–really acquire. Gesturing “hay” seems to add one more layer of difficulty–one more layer of remembering a physical action that doesn’t really demonstrate the meaning of the word/concept for the student in my experience. Used to gesture this. Gave up. The following worked much better for me.

    The thing that has worked best is an 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper with a huge “Hay” and “there is/there are” underneath in big letters–but not as big as “hay”. EVERY time I say “hay”–I mean EVERY time, I stop, pause, and point to the sign. I repeat “hay” and say, “There is” or “there are” in a low, dramatic, kind of fast voice. Hundreds and hundreds of reps–really.

    Understanding “hay” isn’t the problem. The mismatch with English is the problem–“it is”, “there is”. It just takes a really long time to acquire. Somehow, after “hay” is “ka-thunk” inside them in the comprehension stage of acquisition, había seems easier for them–point over the shoulder (yes!). Hubo takes forever, too. Years.

  10. I just sing
    “hay, hay, hay, hay”
    “There is or there are”
    to the tune of cielito lindo
    while pointing at the Hay=there is or there are poster in the back of the room, and after a while they can recognize it when I start singing.

  11. LOLOL I just met with a former student for coffee. When I walked in the door she started singing “Ay Ay Ay Ay! There is or there are!! See Profe! I still remember!” She graduated in 1996!!!!! LOLOLOL

    with love,

  12. I teach Spanish I and I have experienced so many instances when a student asked me “como se dice ____?” and I gestured it and the word popped right out of their mouths that I see how important gesturing is. I’ve been reading the gesture articles to see if there is a point when I should phase out the gesturing, but my impression is that I should continue and just make sure I give longer lag times between the input and the gesture the more intensely we worked with the vocab. This week I had one student complain that gesturing was for babies, but when I do a gesture for a word we haven’t used for many weeks or more, it is amazing how the words pop out of their mouths.

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