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Psychol Sci. 2005 Feb;16(2):85-9.

Children learn when their teacher's gestures and speech differ.

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University of Chicago, Department of Psychology, Chicago, IL 6037, USA.


Teachers gesture when they teach, and those gestures do not always convey the same information as their speech. Gesture thus offers learners a second message. To determine whether learners take advantage of this offer, we gave 160 children in the third and fourth grades instruction in mathematical equivalence. Children were taught either one or two problem-solving strategies in speech accompanied by no gesture, gesture conveying the same strategy, or gesture conveying a different strategy. The children were likely to profit from instruction with gesture, but only when it conveyed a different strategy than speech did. Moreover, two strategies were effective in promoting learning only when the second strategy was taught in gesture, not speech. Gesture thus has an active hand in learning.

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