Intro and contents



Reaching out



Gestures in communication

My research 1

My research 2

Student profile

Video of class

Input and output

Output and interlanguage

Gesture and grammar

Eliciting with gesture

Silent period

Fading gesture

Gesture in CLIL



Form correction and explanations.

Students read story they have heard before from keywords and pictures on the board.
With GestureWay the teacher can correct errors silently using gestures.
(24 hours of GestureWay)

Correction with gestures during output (recording from 2015).

Teachers usually feel they want to correct mistakes and it is difficult to resist doing so. The problem is, although students make the correction prompted by the teacher, are they really listening? Teacher interventions on form during output will often be (subconsciously) ignored by the student because he/she is concentrating on meaning.

However, if we can silently suggest an alternative (the correct) option via gesture, the student must consciously rethink his/her answer and provide it themselves. Despite the interruption during fluency output, students may take more note of a correction they themselves have produced than one given to them by the teacher. Furthermore, the process of corrective feedback through gesture is quicker so does not break the student's flow of production delivery so much.

Talking about grammar - focus on forms.

There has been criticism from researchers of explicit teaching of grammar in a systematic and linear way as students often fail to make adjustments to their interlanguage as a result. This approach has been called "focus on forms" (Ellis 2008). They might be able to learn grammar for controlled tests but are unable to acquire it for output in the language. Ellis, while summarizing previous research on the long-term effects of focus on forms which dominated and precluded meaning in classroom tasks has this to say, "There is [.] sufficient evidence to suggest that instruction does not always have a long term effect" (Ellis 2008:867). Lightbown went further and stated, "when form-focused instruction is introduced in a way which is divorced from the communicative needs and activities of the students, only short-term effects are obtained" (Lightbown 1992 in Ellis 2008:867). In other words, forms must be included with meaningful tasks and the students "may also need subsequent and possibly continuous access to communication that utilizes the target features after the instruction has ceased" (Ellis 2008:867).

Focus on form - without the 's'.

Feedback on correction on form appears to work well during the presentation stage before Silent Sign or even during it. As a group, the students and I even discuss structure and vocabulary issues in class when they crop up during these sessions - especially when the students themselves enquire. This is the approach for dealing with grammar I ideally adopt. Student initiated enquiry about grammar and vocabulary is interesting because we can assume if a child asks a questions he/she will be more receptive to the answer. Michael Long termed this scenario as "focus on form", which is, an approach which "overtly draws students' attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication" (Long 1991:45-46). Both Long (1991) and Doughty and Williams (1998) argue that guarantees of full acquisition will only occur if learners have the opportunity to engage in meaning-focused tasks while attending to form.

When students are ready to listen about grammar.

There are moments when students are more receptive to structure teaching. This was suggested in Pienemann's Teachability Hypothesis (1985). Pienemann believed, "there are certain structures in a language which can only be acquired when the learner is ready" (1985). When students specifically ask questions, would be the moment when they are most receptive to grammar/vocabulary acquisition.

"High" or "tall"*. Some students interrupted to question "tall trees".
It seems that in school they had learnt "high" is for things and "tall" is for people.
I believe the fact they asked, shows they are "ready" to receive new information on this point.
Perhaps I could have explained better and listened more. On the other hand, my explanation is purposely brief as all explanations on form should be (2015).

During each presentation stage, the teacher will need to introduce new words and structures. Will students be ready to ingest that information? My own belief on this procedure is to make this it very brief. As teachers, many of us like to do just that - teach the language. However, as much foreign language acquisition research has thrown up doubts regarding the effectiveness of explicit form teaching, I feel it is better to limit the time spent on sessions of explanations on grammar and repeat them often. It might be preferable if a teacher does not explain the whole structure problem in its entirety at one time. Brief explanations repeated are often better than lengthy explanations in one class. To do this, the English teacher must be patient and willing to remind students again and again when mistakes occur during the input phase.

*Ok, so a tree can be "high", of course and a mountain can be "tall"! It's the shape that's important and generally wide things are said to be "high" and narrower things "tall". If we usually say "tall trees" and "high mountains", it is because these refer to the generic shape of these things.

We can even drill with gestures.
After five years of English at school, (30 hours GestureWay) these students are still making mistakes with conjugating verb "to be".
Gesture drills are wonderfully brief!


I prefer to think of the effectiveness of grammar instruction in this way: a structure explained is equivalent to just one exposure on that point no matter how much time is spent on the instruction session and how much effort is made on making grammar "memorable". Making grammar memorable is fine for better results in grammar tests but does relatively little to improve a student's interlanguage skills. For these reasons, why spend lengthy periods and effort on grammar instruction? When a child learns his/her mother tongue, no matter how much time and effort a parent spends trying to correct a child's utterance, "I eated an ice-cream" it will be the repeated exposures through correct input over time together with when the child is ready to say "ate" which will change the child's utterance.

Student who did English homework
Student homework mp3 recordings (2015).
I know 3rd person "s" - Listen...
English language homework tasks are a great opportunity for students to do controlled practice on structures.
But are beginners really ready for the 3rd person 's'?
In this lovely recording she did at home my student certainly wanted to show her knowledge but producing 3rd person 's' during fluency output was "another story".

Article based on findings from Phd thesis (Bilbrough 2017).


Doughty, C. and J. Williams. (Eds.) (1998). Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (2008). The Study of Second language Acquisition, ed. OUP.

Lightbown, P.M. (1992). Getting quality input in the second/foreign language classroom. In C. Kramsch and S. McConnell-Ginet (eds.): Text and Context: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Language Study. Lexington, Mass.: D-C. Heath and Company.

Long, M. (1991). Focus on form: a design feature in language teaching methodology. In K. de Bot, R. Ginsberg and C. Kramsch (eds.) Foreign Language Research in Cross-cultural Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.

Pienemann, M. (1985). Learnability and syllabus construction. In K. Hyltenstam and M. Pienemann (eds.): Modelling and Assessing Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

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