What is it about?

Everywhere in the world gestures are part of everyday human communication. When used in second language instruction gestures have frequently been shown to improve learning outcomes. But measuring progress in learning grammatical morphemes – the smallest unit of language that carries meaning – is difficult. This is especially true when learning takes place in primary school classrooms. Using the gesture speeded fragment completion task, this study focuses on learning the plural {-s} and possessive {-s} in English. Tests carried out after lessons showed that learners (N = 19) found it easier to internalize and apply grammar rules when gestures which distinguished between grammatical morphemes were used as a learning aid.

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Why is it important?

Many children and adolescents attend school where the main language spoken is not their first language. This makes it all the more important that additional support is provided in a way which helps students learn language and understand its grammar. By demonstrating the benefits of using gestures as a teaching tool, this study offers valuable insights for educators and language teachers. Moreover, these results highlight the importance of movement in learning and suggest that this way to help students acquire grammatical morphemes is an effective teaching strategy. Overall, this research is important for anyone interested in language acquisition, education, or teaching strategies, especially in diverse classrooms.


Just as written notes can act as memory aids, gestures can provide a stable physical reference for learning – even though speech is inherently ephemeral. If nothing else, I hope you find this article thought-provoking and appreciate the many ways hands can help education.

Natasha Janzen Ulbricht

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Can grammatical morphemes be taught? Evidence of gestures influencing second language procedural learning in middle childhood, PLoS ONE, February 2023, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280543.
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