Time, Space and Direction
Movement-based preposition teaching in an urban German school
Natasha Janzen Ulbricht, Supervisor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. M. Sambanis
In the context of learning and performing a play (14 hours), can we measure a long-term gain in L2 preposition use on a transfer task?
If the same text is learned in different ways (3 hours), both of which utilize movement, are there measurable differences between groups?
•While not the only approach to classroom research,
using complete methods can establish how different
teaching elements, such as gesture type and access to
text, work in combination and provide more ecologically
valid grounds for generalization than experiments
differing in one variable only.
•These results suggest that codified gestures can
help proceduralize preposition learning, resulting in
an increased ability to generalize to new situations.
• Children from a class of refugee (N=10) and
grade 5 children (N=19) were tested on their
use of English prepositions in Week 1, Week 3
and Week 7.
• In Week 2 of the experiment, matched codified
gesture (CG) and scenic learning (SL) units
were designed for a common English theater
project. While learning the text (for a total of 3
hours over 4 days), the children were randomly
placed in these two experimental groups where
they learned and memorized the same text.
• In the CG group the teacher provided a gesture
per morpheme for all the words of the play,
meaning words and gestures were learnt
together. Consistent with the SL methodology,
the teacher taught the children the play
supported by movement and the written text
(Böttger & Sambanis 2017).
• Prepositions describe how we see space.
They require a linguistic and non-linguistic
cognitive foundation and are highly relevant to
describing and creating narrative space
• For beginning foreign language learners,
prepositions are frequent, important, abstract
and for teachers often perceived as difficult to
Why prepositions? Why bodily movements? Why gestures?
• ERP research shows that simple gestures can
make a difference in how we understand
complex language (Holle et al. 2012).
• Research comparing gesture and physical
action for learning math have shown that action
is not better for representing abstract ideas
(Novack et al. 2014).
• Research from multilingual classrooms
indicates that gestures may differentially benefit
beginning learners (Janzen Ulbricht 2018).
• Action, in addition to seeing or hearing
information, creates a richer memory trace
and provides a physical cue for remembering.
• Movement allows users to shed some of their
cognitive load, the burden created by the need
to keep track of information.
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CG M = 3.85, SD = 2.53
SL M = 1.13 , SD = 1.30
p = .0019
d = 1.35
Baseline number of correct prepositions
• Research has shown that movement and language are
closely linked. The present study exploits this relationship
by investigating codified gestures as a teaching tool.
There is a positive gain in both groups, but in the CG
group the odds of a gain is 4.2, while the odds of a gain
for the SL group is 1.9. This means that the exposure to
the CG condition is associated with twice as high a gain
in test results as compared to the SL condition for the
prepositions around, over, in, on, under and to.
Post Test Gain
Participants and Conditions Post Test Gain in Prepositions
Gain in correct prepositions