Fall 2019



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

LeeAnne Godfrey

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Betsy Maloney Leaf

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Catherine Burns


In this six-week action research study, 18 participants between the ages of 12 and 14 were given four week-long gesture-based vocabulary lessons to determine the role that gestures have on L2 vocabulary acquisition in an eighth-grade beginning-level Spanish classroom. Each week, students were encouraged to learn and practice a list of vocabulary words using gesture-based activities, seeing that gestures, a form of embodied learning, has proven to positively affect L2 vocabulary acquisition and address the needs of diverse learners. The first and third lessons consisted of teacher-generated gestures, while the second and fourth were student-generated gesture-based lessons and the two methods were analyzed. As a way to gain insight into students’ perception of their learning, a teacher’s journal was maintained and students completed a questionnaire and answered student feedback questions in audio-recordings. During the study, pre- and post-quizzes, observational checklists, and a final Spanish vocabulary test were administered to measure the vocabulary acquisition of each lesson. According to the results, both student- and teacher-generated gestures had a positive effect on students’ vocabulary acquisition. However, according to the student feedback, students felt a sense of student agency when they were able to create their own gestures. Overall, students preferred to create their own gestures, while teacher-generated gestures served as a way to warm up the students to the new way of learning. The results suggest that when students partake in their learning through embodied ways, and feel a sense of agency, students learn and engage in their learning. This, in turn, fosters a culturally responsive learning environment.

Research Methodology

Action Research


ESL/ ELLs, Foreign Language, Multicultural Education, Embodied Learning








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