Children's Comprehension of Gesture as Representing Verbs
Jankowski, Jessica M.
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Recent research shows that gesture is a powerful teaching tool. More particularly, studies suggest that gesture helps children generalize mathematical equations. Verb learning is an area in which children have trouble generalizing. Properly applied, gestural teaching techniques could help to aid children's learning of verb generalization. In order for this to work, children must be able to understand a gesture as representing a verb. This study asked whether or not children could do just that, using a verb learning paradigm modified from Capone and McGregor's design (2005). We hypothesized that children who learned novel verbs using gesture would be more likely to retain said verbs than those who learned verbs using action. This hypothesis was not supported. We also hypothesized that those children who were relatively older and / or possessed greater linguistic ability (as measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Third Edition, Form IIIB) would better understand a gesture as a referent for a verb, and would thus be more likely to benefit from gesture as a learning tool for verb generalization than those children who were relatively younger and / or possessed lesser linguistic ability. This hypothesis was supported in terms of participant age, but not participant linguistic ability. Limitations of the study are discussed, as well as recommendations for future research.