The effects of iconic gestures on L2 vocabulary learning in a Norwegian primary school
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- Student papers (HF-IKS) 
The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of iconic gestures on young learners’ vocabulary acquisition in L2 settings. The main purpose of the study was, therefore, to determine the effects of teacher and learner gestures on vocabulary acquisition in a Norwegian primary school. Secondly, the study set out to evaluate the benefits and challenges of a gesture-based approach to vocabulary instruction. In recent years, researchers have shown an increased interest in studying use of gestures in L1 and L2 instruction. McNeill (1992) was one of the first who argued that speech and gesture make up a single integrated system. Since then most of the studies demonstrated that verbal information was better recognized and recalled if subjects encoded it by performing gestures (Allen 1995; Tellier 2008; Macedonia et al. 2011, Rowe et al. 2013). The present study contributed to an understanding of gesture as an important aspect of L2 teaching and learning as in the Norwegian settings traditional methods of introducing new L2 vocabulary using pictures and the textbook are still prevalent. This study is even more relevant at the level of primary school where vocabulary instruction serves as a stepping stone to further second language learning. Overall, far too little attention has been paid to the effectiveness of gestures in L2 acquisition among the very young learners in Norway, so this study attempts to increase interest in this topic among teachers and educators and contribute to an understanding of the role played by iconic gestures in L2 vocabulary instruction. The methodological approach taken in this study was a mixed methodology based on an experiment. During regular class instruction over a period of three weeks, 42 pupils of the second grade were presented with ten English words paired with either an iconic gesture, or an image. Tests on the recall and recognition immediately after the instruction and after a 2-week delay served as the primary tool to collect data. Classroom observations and the semi-structured interview with the teacher were then conducted in order to investigate the benefits and the challenges of the gesture use in the classroom. The prediction that gesture production during vocabulary instruction would lead to better recall and recognition than picture observation in the immediate and delayed post-tests was partially supported. In brief, the findings of the present study revealed a relationship between the use of gestures and improvement of L2 vocabulary learning in the long-term retention and in the recognition test type. These findings, in general, demonstrated that gestures could be used as a teaching strategy to improve learners’ vocabulary mastery. The study also showed that the gesture-based approach allowed the pupils to learn new words via playful activities and exercises with gestures and movements as one of the main purposes of the research was to introduce to the teachers the activities with physical movements and gestures, which they can use in their lessons with young learners. In the process of the vocabulary teaching, the pupils benefited from the use of hand movements in various ways, for example, motivation and concentration increased considerably in the lessons, engagement was also enhanced when the teacher offered opportunities for physical participation during lessons. Moreover, the gestures provided numerous opportunities for group work and peer teaching in the classroom. In addition, the study also revealed that gestures could be used as a tool for differentiating the learners in terms of their learning styles and language abilities. To sum up, it could be concluded that the use of gesture seemed to improve vocabulary mastery and enhance motivation and engagement of the second grade pupils in a Norwegian school.
Master's thesis in Literacy studies