Intro and contents




Reaching out



English classes with gesture.

Back in 1998, I put together a set of hand gestures for teaching English and compiled them into a dictionary. The gesture language was intended to help my elementary level students, especially primary school children, gain access to English in its spoken form through heightened comprehensible input. The idea was quite simple. I provided an iconic gesture for each and every word of a sentence. There were gestures for objects, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions... Every time I uttered the spoken target language in the classroom, I accompanied the words with gestures and asked my students to do the same. Very soon, practically everything I said in English was easily understood, which meant I could bring interesting texts into my classes: stories, jokes, anecdotes, poetry and songs and a wealth of linguistic richness I had never been able to achieve before.

Mike author of gestureway

The first mention in academic circles of my own classroom research on this gesture language was at the TOEFL conference, Madrid, back in March 2002, when I gave a workshop and informal feedback on a three-year project teaching English to primary school children with gestures at a private academy in Seville, Spain.

Despite its time in existence, this gesture tool together with an accompanying methodology and theoretical rationale have been described in SL learning investigative literature only through my own conference visits as a speaker, brief conference selection articles and TEFL site articles, so I have begun this site to provide a concise description at one digital venue of the main underpinnings of this gesture tool approach. The site articles here at will attempt to explore these areas of gesture usage and classify the principles supporting the classroom procedures. Throughout the articles on this site, I have also made references to more familiar, documented FL acquisition research and classroom practices to facilitate the reader with a better understanding where this gesture approach lies in relation to them.

This site is not just about my own methodology with gesture in the language classroom. It's about gesture and language teaching across the board - for all age groups and levels. In later articles (not yet included here) I will explore with you other ways gesture is relevant to various language teaching scenarios and how it can potentially help us provide a richer learning experience for our students.

I am an English teacher and have worked in schools and academies in Spain over the past twenty-five years so the content of this site is meant to have a practical end - useful for other teachers hungry for ideas. I admit, the site does contain rather a lot of theory - that's normal I suppose. I spent many years studying my Phd in second language acquisition methodology at Seville University, where procedural rigour and theoretical debate were essential. But the theory is just the background to what I intend to be a springboard to activities for teachers wishing to introduce what I call a "consistent gesture language" in their own foreign language classrooms. Particularly interesting (though not exclusive terrain) if you work with primary school children.

On the left, you will see links to three different sections. The first is to the research articles. These are about formal research findings on gesture for teaching language. They are listed in the order that I thought it would be best to read them though you may wish just to dip and browse.

The second link is to what I call reflections (just one as a starter so far). These are thoughts and anecdotes of a more informal nature from my own perceptions and experiences in the English language classroom over the years.

The third link is to activities. These are practical classroom activities with gesture (just a starter at the moment). I will soon be including more of these so hope you will call back again for more.

You may quote brief extracts from these pages providing you acknowledge authorship from my thesis paper:
Bilbrough, M. A. (2017). A gesture-based approach to teaching English as a foreign language. Department of English philology, University of Seville.

You can contact me directly for any queries you may have via email:

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All for now,

Mike Bilbrough, Phd.

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