, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 347–360 | Cite as

Managing common ground in the classroom: teachers use gestures to support students’ contributions to classroom discourse

  • Martha W. AlibaliEmail author
  • Mitchell J. Nathan
  • Rebecca Boncoddo
  • Elizabeth Pier
Original Article


Maintaining shared understanding in classroom interaction is challenging for both teachers and students. In this paper, we consider the role of teachers’ gestures in promoting shared understanding. Our specific aim was to document ways in which teachers use their own gestures to support students’ contributions to the classroom discourse. We present three illustrative cases that represent the range of variation in teachers’ use of speech (i.e., repeating the students’ speech vs. not speaking at all) and variation in the spatial positioning of the teacher, the student, and the referents of the student’s speech. We argue that teachers use gestures, both to ensure that they share common ground with the individual student who is speaking and to foster common ground among the class as a whole.


Gesture Classroom discourse Revoicing Teachers 



We thank Rachaya Srisurichan and Iasmine Ledesma for assistance in identifying addressee gestures and generating transcripts, and Beth Atkinson for preparing the figures. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (Grant No. DRL-0816406).


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCentral Connecticut State UniversityNew BritainUSA

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