A Portal to the Mind: How Gestures Relate To Learning And Memory

Scientific American explores how our gestures can have a profound influence on how we take in new information, and explains why they can also offer clues to how we think.

How do our hand movements affect memory and learning? Scientific American explores how our gestures can have a profound influence on how we take in new information, and explains why they can also offer clues to how we think.

They report:

We often use gestures when explaining a complex topic, but we also move our hands when simply chatting. These spontaneous hand movements are not random; they reflect our thoughts. Children who are on the verge of mastering a task advertise that fact in their gestures. Listeners glean information from these movements, often unconsciously. Good teachers change their instruction in response to a student’s gestures, altering their explanations and even their own gestures. Children learn better from this kind of tailor-made instruction.

Children naturally shape their own learning environments just by moving their hands. But encouraging kids to use gestures while they learn can amplify the effect, bringing out their implicit knowledge and thus changing the way they approach problems and tasks. Kids master tasks faster, and they better remember how to do them when they move their hands. In this way, bringing gesture into the classroom can facilitate learning.

Scientific American: Hands in the Air: How Gesturing Helps Us to Think

image by jurvetson

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