Using gesture to support preschool word learning

This article shows that, when teaching 3–4-year-old children new words, it helps to accompany the word with an iconic gesture (looks like what it means). For teaching nouns, they alluded to the shape of the thing (e.g. indicating horns to teach word for deer). For teaching verbs, they indicated the manner and/or path of the action (e.g. making slow, tip-toe motions with hands to teach the verb creep). The word­–gesture combinations were embedded within stories, play, and video story retells. They found that the iconic gestures aided word learning, but that non-representational gestures, or those used to gain the child’s attention, did not. They also found that the benefit was consistent for both typically-developing children and those with developmental language disorder.
 
Vogt, S., & Kauschke, C. (2017). Observing iconic gestures enhances word learning in typically developing children and children with specific language impairment. Journal of Child Language. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1017/S0305000916000647