ForumVol. 16, No. 2 (2016)

Embodied Vocabulary Explanation in ESL Group Interaction: A Preliminary Account

Carol Hoi Yee Lo

Teachers College, Columbia University


In recent decades, the study of language learners’ embodied behavior amongst themselves has gained much currency. Broadly speaking, a wealth of studies on learner gestures connect gestures with second language acquisition, and have shown that gestures play a role in facilitating communication, acquisition, and retention (Gullberg, 1998, 2011, 2014; McCafferty, 2004; McCafferty & Gullberg, 2008; Stam & McCafferty, 2008). Another line of research examines learner gestures through the lens of sociocultural theory, and has found that learners use gestures to rehearse new knowledge and to self-regulate (Lee, 2008; McCafferty, 1998; Negueruela & Lantolf, 2008; Platt & Brooks, 2008). These studies, however, adopted experimental designs as a research method, and therefore, how learners actually use gestures when interacting with one another in situ remains largely a “black box.”

To this end, a growing number of research on learner gesture now adopts a conversation analytic perspective, which focuses on uncovering members’ method by analyzing naturally occurring classroom data (Olsher, 2004; 2008; Mori & Hayashi, 2006). Continuing this line of research, this paper aims to provide a preliminary account of how learners employ gestures to do vocabulary explanation in the context of group work.