Teaching tool codified gestures - Can more people learn more?

Experiences with the Earth Speakr app from digital teacher training





gesture, pandemic times, teacher training, digital teaching, language learning, art in education


During spring of the academic year 2020-2021, the English Didactics department of the Freie Universität Berlin offered a seminar on drama pedagogy. Given the pandemic and a syllabus which promised future teachers ‘teaching through actual classroom practice’ it was decided to take the in-person sessions between university students and grade six students online. The result of these collaborative drama lab sessions were Earth Speakr messages which, after being practiced online, were recorded in person at school in the Earth Speakr app by the English teacher, a university student assistant and the course instructor. Once uploaded, these messages become part of the global Earth Speakr artwork initiated by the artist and climate activist Olafur Eliasson. This article lays out some of the parameters, contexts and challenges of the sessions. These are complemented by individual reflections as well as outstanding questions for further research. Linguistic actions used in performative teaching, such as acting during an online guessing game or using gestures to practice pronouncing a word can have transformative effects. Even during pandemic times, there is evidence that these experiences can help learners and teachers to connect and find their own place in the social worlds they move in.

Author Biography

Natasha Janzen Ulbricht, Freie Universität Berlin

Natasha Janzen Ulbricht holds an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from St. Mary's Twickenham, London. She has trained teachers and taught English as a foreign language in Germany, Zambia and the United States. Her research interests include gesture and foreign language learning and teaching in difficult circumstances. She is completing her doctoral studies in the English Didactics Department of the Freie Universität Berlin.


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