4 Tips for Using Hand Gestures (TPR)

Using hand gestures, TPR (Total Physical Response), nonlinguistic visual representations, kinesthetic instruction, or ASL (American Sign Language) is a wonderful way to make your teaching comprehensible to all students. Here are some quick tips on how to start integrating them into your instruction without feeling overwhelmed.

1. Get help!

Use your resources! If you are interested in using ASL (as Common Core recommends), these are some great (and free) online ASL dictionaries we love to use. You can quickly look up the vocabulary words from our units.




Benefits for using ASL: teaches students another language, creates common key vocabulary within a grade level and between grade levels, & is less work for a teacher to come up with them.

2. You've got to move it!

Use gestures! Remember, the purpose of using hand gestures/signs is to increase comprehension in the classroom. You don’t need to be fluent in American Sign Language to use this strategy. A gesture you create works just as well.

3. Be Purposeful & Selective

Start Slow! No need to have a gesture or sign for every single word you say in the classroom. Start with what is a manageable chunk for you. Some may feel comfortable using 3-5 gestures a day whilst teaching - and others may use 10+ gestures a day.

We recommend using hand gestures for the high level academic vocabulary students will be interacting with (hearing, speaking, reading, & writing) throughout the day. Choose hard words that students will find most useful and start by creating gestures or looking up the ASL for those high value words.

4. Rely on your Students!

Just like our other strategies, we use Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) for everything even this. Through our direct instruction, the responsibility is placed on the teacher to model gestures. However, we want to start releasing this practice to teams and then individual students. During this Gradual Release process, students will look up ASL signs for academic words using their resources and teach their teams the rest of the class (and you, eventually)!

Here are more tips:

Site Achievement Director

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