Guidelines for Using Hand Gestures to Help Students Learn

Teachers have another tool at their disposal to ensure that students retain what they have learned by understanding how gesturing facilitates communication.

I bet her a bagel sandwich that she was unable to talk without moving her hands similarly as one more educator was going to address a gym loaded with 10th graders. She stammered into the microphone for a few seconds while stuffing her hands in her khaki pockets. After that, out of frustration, she took her hands out of her pockets and started gesturing. Her oral fluency was immediately restored.

Guidelines for Using Hand Gestures to Help Students Learn

Speakers benefit from gesturing.

Manual gesturing, which involves moving one’s hands and arms, aids in the formation of oral messages, as numerous educators and students have discovered on their own. When we talk on the phone, we naturally gesticulate, even though the person listening to us can’t see us. It’s easier to find words; sentences appear quicker.


The adage that gesturing causes listeners to become disoriented is generally incorrect. According to Science of People, the most well-liked speakers at the TED conference used an average of 465 gestures, whether they were performing the “diamond” of Angela Merkel or the “hand-on-heart” pledge. That’s nearly twice as many gestures as the least popular TED presenters did.

Students focus more when teachers gesticulate. “Hand signals alert the hear-able cortex that significant correspondence is coming,” states hand motion analyst Spencer Kelly. A meta-analysis conducted in 2011 found that students retain and comprehend more of what teachers say when they are accompanied by hand gestures, with representational gestures like President John F. Kennedy’s “beat gestures” leading to greater comprehension.

When do students need to use gestures?

When students act out topics with their hands during encoding—also known as initial learning—they are more likely to recall the material later. Similar to the benefits of observing a teacher gesticulate, student recall improves weeks later when they watch a peer manually explain how a bill becomes a law or perform the four steps of photosynthesis.

Gesturing facilitates the retrieval of unusual vocabulary and other information. Learners perform better than those who were not asked to try gesturing difficult words when they were on the tip of their tongues. In a similar vein, gesturing while students reproduce sentences in a foreign language aids in their retention and retention of what they have learned. As a result, gesturing during encoding and recall aids learning.

However, not every gesture is the same. Unlike impulsive gesturing, deliberate, enacted movement is more memorable. Additionally, gestures have less of an impact on memory when learners manually represent graphs or other types of visual information. One of the hypotheses for this discovery is, “Signaling urges speakers to create their own interior visual portrayals of occasions, diminishing the handiness of the genuine visual portrayal as a review prompt. Such overt repetitiveness is what could be compared to conveying two overcoats.

Evaluate cognizance by noticing understudy motions.

Annie Murphy Paul, in her book The Extended Mind, writes: Children frequently send out “mixed messages” when they gesticulate and explain a concept simultaneously, according to The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain.

The concept has been grasped if the learners’ words and gestures are consistent. The student has a long way to go if both their words and gestures are off. The student is on the verge of understanding the concept and is receptive to instruction if their gestures and spoken words do not match.

For instance, if a student correctly answers that -6 divided by -8 equals -2, which is the universal sign for “I don’t know,” the teacher has a good opportunity to say, “Walk through how you arrived at this correct answer,” before asking about a similar mathematical problem to help the student consolidate her understanding.

Keep in mind these important points.

The following strategies are suggested by recent research on manual gestures:

-Before you present concepts in class, practice gestures like showing your fingers while identifying the order of planets.

-When you explain something new, tell your students to pay attention to your hands.

– During activities like turn and talk, in which students converse with a partner about a topic, encourage students to gesture actively.

-If a student is having trouble finding the right words, you should notice and suggest, “How about moving your hands to help find the words?”

-Provide students with this study tip: Recreate the gestures you or the instructor used to introduce the subject when recalling information.

-During the encoding process, ask students to use deictic gestures like tracing geometry figures, pointing to parts in an anatomy diagram, or looking at a world map.

-Watch the hands of the students as they speak to determine their comprehension and time your interventions.

Put your faith in your hands to manage the intricate orchestration of teaching and learning in your next class. They will understand what to do.


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