Monday, August 6, 2012

Gestures to Teach Vocab

Getting a lot of questions like this one from my friend Glen Irvin up in Minnesota:
Hi Jalen,
I think I've asked you this question, but I'm not sure of your response so here it goes again. Do you have a description of the gestures you use for your vocabulary in your Level 1 and 2 new books? I also believe that gestures really work, but maybe I'm not creative enough, but I can't seem to think of anything good for some of the gestures. I have had the kids make stuff up on occasion but this sometimes distracts from the learning of the vocabulary and becomes all about the gestures. If you have suggestions or if you have something down I would be interested in hearing it.
Thanks!!

My response:
Hi Glen, I've been meaning to write a post about this but I've been swamped with trying to finish 3B and processing fall book orders (a happy problem...)

The short answer is...no, I don't have a list of gesture descriptions.  I don't worry too much about whether the gestures we come up with are "good" or not...it doesn't seem to matter, as long as they do a gesture when I say a phrase.  We use the same gesture for several things, like thumbs up with a goofy smile means a jillion different things, depending on which vocab set we're on.  As long as the 5 or so gestures of the day are different, it works.  So if I made a list of gestures, you'd look at it and go, wow, those are all lame. : - )

The point is, they are doing a movement that we agreed on beforehand would represent that word or phrase, and their brain makes the connection.  I repeat, the gestures do not have to be "good," there just has to be one for each phrase.  (Or sometimes it's a couple of movements for the phrase, if the phrase is long.  Example from 3A:  Joe le mintiĆ³ a su hermana = cross your fingers then point at Jade, who we all just now decided looks like Joe's hermana)  Also, I draw quick stick figure drawings of stuff on the board for them to point at if we can't gesture it.  (These also do NOT have to be "good.")

Yes, sometimes this process of coming up with gestures takes away from the focus more than I'd like, but that is mostly just in the first class of the day, because after that I use their gestures unless the following classes jump in with a better idea, which they sometimes do.


And there is more to say about gesturing, but that's all I have time for at the moment!  Back to work.  I'm on Lesson 17 in 3B.

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