Todd & A Series On CI (Part 6) – Forms Of Input: Gesticulated Input

This post contains links to a video recording of Señor Howard demonstrating how he uses gestures in his classroom.

target language tips

Does staying in the target language feel like a game of “GUESS-tures” or “Charades?”

I’ve heard people say that it’s tiring to constantly be trying to get students to GUESS what what’s being said.  “All my gestures and visual aids result in students giving me looks like these…!”


There are many strategies that foreign language teachers can use to avoid making class feel like a L2 guessing game.  In this series we’ve already discussed some of these strategies, which include:

This post will cover how to make the move from GUESS-tures to gestures.

tips for staying in the target language

Gestures Tip #1 – Use multiple gestures for one L2 phrase.

When I say, “How are you?” I use 2 gestures.  (See video example)

When I say, “Raise your hand,” I use 2 gestures.  (See video example)

When I say, “This is a big pencil,” I use 3 gestures.  (See video example)

See more video examples here.

Why use multiple gestures?

Answered simply: multiple gestures helps a student find more comprehensive meaning in your L2 phrase.  The question, “How are you?” (for example) has 3 distinct components: a verb, a subject pronoun and an interrogative word.  How will a student find comprehensive meaning for all three components if there is only one gesture used?

If you’re like me, it’s easy to forget how confusing a foreign language can sound.  Sometimes I don’t realize that even the simplest L2 words sound like a messy jumble of sounds to my students.  In order to effectively help them find meaning, I need to facilitate repeated and direct connections between small, “bite-sized,” incomprehensible pieces of L2 input and a matching form of comprehensible input.  Using multiple gestures for 1 target language phrase helps me do this.

See video examples here.

Gestures Tip #2 – Repeat your “L2-gesture pairing” more than once.

If one of my students gives an answer out of turn, and I need to say, “Raise your hand,” I will repeat the L2 phrase 3-5 times.  (See video example)

If my class is chatty, and I need say, “It’s important to be quiet,” I will repeat the L2 phrase 3-5 times.  (See video example)

Why repeat?

Repeating a target vocabulary word/phrase multiple times can be like using a SPOTLIGHT on a theater stage or a HIGHLIGHTER on a page full of text.

If a teacher immediately repeats an L2 phrase 3-5 times it can be an effective strategy for focusing student attention on an important word or phrase.  It helps a piece of L2 input to be noticed when it wouldn’t otherwise be unnoticed.

Of course repetition can get tiresome.  Teacher’s can avoid tiresome repetition by giving students MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which the target language structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.

Click here to watch a video of Sr. Howard doing this with 1st graders.

Gestures Tip #3 – Ensure students are watching the source of instruction.

how to help students stay in the target language

Gestures won’t help any students find meaning if they aren’t watching the source of instruction.  For ideas regarding how to motivate students to watch the source of instruction, browse through some of the following posts:

Managing Student Behavior AND Staying In The Target Language

The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

We also observed that:

“It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.”

In this post (part 6) we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”


“Gestures and facial expressions are one such form of extralinguistic input that I will refer to as ‘Gesticulated Input.'”

Todd (The Input Theory Stick Figure) and Gesticulated Input

This is Todd:

Todd - Comprehensible Input

Todd can receive input:


Todd can receive linguistic input:

Spoken Linguistic Input

Todd can receive comprehensible extralinguistic input.  One of the forms of extralinguistic input Todd can receive is “Gesticulated Input” (as illustrated in the diagram below):

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input: Gesticulated

Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Gesticulated Input” (i.e. hand motions, facial expressions and other gestures) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.

The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.


 See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – – @calhwrd

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