Deutsch Intern
    Chair of Special Education III – Special Education and Therapy in Language and Communication Disorders


    Iconic gestures as a method to effectively convey unknown words in inclusive settings

    IkoGeWo was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from 12/18 to 02/2023 (01UL1811X).  

    Its goal was to examine the use of gestures, with a high degree of iconicity, i.e., very pictorial gestures (iconic gestures), for teaching novel words in inclusive kindergartens and elementary schools. In particular, the effects of the gesture-based language teaching and support strategy were analyzed for children with language acquisition difficulties (language development disorder, little to no knowledge of German). 

    The frequently expressed fear that the presentation of gestures or signs when learning novel words could hinder the acquisition of unknow words or the word learning process (c.f. Goodwyn, Acredolo & Brown, 2000) has now been clearly refuted (i.a. Capone & McGregor, 2005; Capone Singleton, 2012; Goodwyn et al., 2000; McGregor, Rohlfing, Bean & Marschner, 2009). 

    On the contrary, iconic gestures seem to act as a semantically enriched cue (Capone Singleton, 2012; Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014), thus deepening the semantic representation of a novel word in the mental lexicon (c.f. Levelt, 1989), which has a positive effect on the acquisition process of the novel word. 

    Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Carina Lüke  
    Project collaborator: Nathalie Frey und Verena Frank  
    Project funding:  The project / research is funded by the (German) Federal Ministry of Education and Research (01UL1811X)

    Movie about the Project

    Olivia: Do you know what day of the week it is today? 

    Child: Thursday. 

    Olivia: Great! Can you do the gesture for it? Thursday. Great. 

    Management of the kindergarten: Because we have so many different languages and many children whose first language is not German, our goal was to find a common language. 

    Children & Educators: ...twentieth of October, two thousand... 

    Prof. Dr. Carina Lüke: You can see a piece of the meaning in the gesture. And that makes it easier to link meaning with the word form. This helps the children acquire novel words. 

    Olivia: Put your plate there. Hang your backpack on the chair. Yes. Great. 

    Prof. Dr. Carina Lüke: It's all part of a research project called “IkoGeWo - Iconic gestures as a method to effectively convey unknown words in inclusive settings”. This project is funded by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research). We started the project at the end of 2018, first in inclusive primary schools, then in inclusive kindergartens. We have now been working in this facility for a year. 

    Olivia: Would anyone else like an apple? ... Here you go. 

    Olivia: It's quite different when you suddenly have to use words like "plate" and "play" and so on. But you get used to it quickly. Especially, because the words come up again and again. So, it's also fun, you suddenly do it in everyday life. I mean, I sit at home and tell the family "Yes, that's the plate". It's fun, I have to say. 

    Nathalie Frey: The great thing of our project is that it is divided into three phases. In the first phase, a project member - in this case, me - is in the kindergarten for six weeks, helping the kindergarten teachers use the iconic gestures in their interactions with the children. Our main goal was for the children to learn novel words they don't know yet. 

    Olivia: You take off your slippers, you put on your shoes, your jackets. 

    Nathalie Frey: Another goal we have is to provide teachers with a strategy that requires minimal effort. This visual aid strategy is so concise that children quickly learn the words through the signs and can remember them. 

    Management of the kindergarten: We benefit greatly from this because it makes our everyday life much easier. The children now clearly understand that this gesture means "tidying up." When I say we'll clean up the plate or clean up your cup, or go drink, these are the same gestures for all the children, and they all understand them. The children have made progress. Some children here still struggle to speak German well or express themselves, but now they have the option to communicate, for example, about going to the gym, and I understand that the child wants to go to the gym. 

    Nathalie Frey: The most important result of our study is that the gestures, taken from German Sign Language, support the children in novel word learning. The children really find this interesting because they have a new means of communication - their hands - to communicate, even if they can't say the word yet. 

    Children & Educators: Ippediwippel, the sausage has two corners, the ham has four corners... 

    Management of the kindergarten: You simply find a common language. Whether it's a Somali child, an Afghan child, a Russian child, a child who doesn't know German. There are only advantages! 

    Children & Educators: Bye! 

    Publications (* peer reviewed)

    *Frey, N., Seidel, J. & Lüke, C. (2023). Bedeutung von Gestenrezeption und -produktion beim Worterwerb. Sprache Stimme Gehör, 47(4), 205-210. doi: 10.1055/s-00000082 

    *Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2023). Iconic gestures support novel word learning in multilingual students with SLCN in classrooms. Child Language Teaching and Therapy 39(2), 119-134. doi:  

    Frank, V., Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2022.). Einsatz ikonischer Gebärden – Multimodale alltagsintegrierte Sprachförderstrategie in Kita und Schule. Sprachtherapie und Sprachförderung, 4, 267-273. 

    Frey, N., Frank, V. & Lüke, C. (2022). Gesten und Gebärden als Sprachförderstrategie im inklusiven Unterricht. Praxis Sprache, 67(3), 174-178. 



    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2023, September). Iconic gestures in inclusive kindergartens – Facilitating novel word learning for children with language support needs. Vortrag bei der 3rd International Developmental Language Disorder Research Conference (IDLDRC), Brisbane, Australien, digital.

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2023, August). Use your hands – Multimodal teaching strategy to foster novel word learning in preschoolers with SLCN. Vortrag beim 32nd World Congress der International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Auckland, New Zealand. 

    Frey, N., Gausmann, M. & Lüke, C. (2023, June). Logopädie meets Elementarpädagogik: Gebärden als alltagsintegrierte Sprachförderstrategie. Oral presentation at the 51st dbl Kongress, Erlangen. 

    Frey, N., Frank, V. & Lüke, C. (2022, November). Präsentation ikonischer Gesten als alltagsintegrierte Sprachförderstrategie in inklusiven Kindertageseinrichtungen. Oral presentation at the Interdisziplinären Tagung über Sprachentwicklungsstörungen (ISES 12), Marburg. 

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2022, July). Acquisition of novel words in inclusive education settings by iconic gestures. Poster at the 9th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS), Chicago. 

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2022, May). Wortschatzerweiterung durch ikonische Gesten in inklusiven Kindertageseinrichtungen. Oral presentation at the 50th dbl Kongress, Koblenz. 

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2022, April). Iconic gestures as a teaching strategy to foster language development in kindergartens. Poster at the Young Researchers’ Talk der iGesto Online Series 2021/2022. 

    Frey, N., Seidel, J., Egger, E. & Lüke, C. (2022, April). Ikonische Gesten als Sprachförderstrategie in inklusiven Kindertageseinrichtungen Poster at the 34th Workshop Klinische Linguistik [Clinical Linguistics], Würzburg, online. 

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2021, September). Ikonische Gebärden als didaktische Methode zum Erwerb neuer (Fach-)Wörter. Oral presentation at the 56th Jahrestagung der Sektion Sonderpädagogik der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft (DGfE), Würzburg, online. 

    Frey, N. & Lüke, C. (2021, September). Iconic gestures in inclusive classrooms – Facilitating children with language support needs. Oral presentation at the 1st International Developmental Language Disorder Research Conference (IDLDRC), online.  

    Lüke, C. & Frey, N. (2021, August). Facilitating novel word learning in pupils at inclusive elementary schools via iconic gestures. Oral presentation at the 19th Biennial Conference der European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), Gothenburg, online. 

    Lüke, C. & Frey, N. (2021, July). Iconic gestures support word learning in pupils at inclusive elementary schools. Poster presentation at the 15th International Association for the Study of Child Language Conference (IASCL), Philadelphia, USA, online. 

    Lüke, C. (2020, November). Ikonische Gebärden zur Wortschatzförderung in inklusiven Schulklassen. Oral presentation at the 11th Interdisziplinären Tagung über Sprachentwicklungsstörungen [Interdisciplinary Conference on Developmental Language Disorders], Marburg, online. 

    Lüke C. (2019, October). „Ich zeig‘ dir wie das heißt“ – Unterstützung des Fachwortschatzlernens in inklusiven Grundschulklassen. Oral presentation at the SprachHeilbronner Tage 2019, Heilbronn. 



    Frey, Frank & Lüke (2023, März). Multimodale, alltagsintegrierte Sprachförderstrategie in inklusiven Bildungseinrichtungen – Praktische Implikationen für Kita & Schule. Workshop at the 23rd Wissenschaftlichen Symposiums des dbs, Dortmund.  

    Frey N. & Frank, V. (2021, November). Wortschatzerweiterung durch Gebärden – Praktische Umsetzung in Kindertagesstätten und Schulen.  Workshop at the 10th Würzburger Sprachheiltage der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachheilpädagogik e.V. (dgs), online.