ForumVol. 16, No. 2 (2016)

Co-teachers’ Coordinated Gestures as Resources for Giving Instructions in the EFL Classroom

Gahye Song

Teachers College, Columbia University


Giving instructions for a classroom activity can be a tricky business in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom, especially when the students’ proficiency level is low and the instruction is composed of multiple steps. Teachers may depend on linguistic resources only so far as students can understand the words and grammar used, which limits the scope of verbal communication in giving instructions. When an instruction is composed of multiple steps, signaling when to carry out an individual component in the instruction may also require additional interactional work. Previous research on gesture in language classrooms has largely focused on gesture as a means to provide comprehensible input (e.g., Lazaraton, 2004; Taleghani-Nikazm, 2008) or its role in error correction (e.g., Muramoto, 1999). Gesture as a component of classroom management technique, e.g., regulating turn-taking traffic between a teacher’s instruction-giving and students’ response production, has rarely been discussed in the literature so far. This short analysis illustrates one way through which two co-teachers signal the completion of instruction-giving and elicit students’ response to the instruction (i.e., compliance). It will be shown that co-teachers’ simultaneous gesturing, with or without accompanying verbal instruction, adds clarity to the instruction as something to be responded to immediately. In other words, when co-teachers produce the same gesture simultaneously, students tend to take it as a signal to carry out the instructed action.