WebQuest: Gestures

If you're unfamiliar with WebQuests, read this introduction first.

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We often communicate through body language. A simple gesture can convey as much meaning as a whole sentence (and sometimes more). Many of these gestures are universal, both others are more prevalent among certain people groups.

Let’s make a long list of common gestures.

Which Gestures Come to Mind?

What gestures are common in your culture? Write a list of 10-15 different gestures. In what situations is each of those gestures used? What does each one mean?

Establish Some Prompts

Doing a vast search may or may not yield lots of results. Just in case, let’s come up with some prompts to help us narrow our search and find more pointed gestures. Make short lists (5-10 entries) of the following:

Make a Table

Make a table with six columns.

  1. The first column is for a short description of the gesture (i.e. “pat one’s stomach” or “furrow one’s brow”).

  2. The second column is for the primary emotion that the gesture conveys.

  3. The third column is for the featured body part.

  4. The fourth column is for setting or situation. You can use ‘formal’ and ‘casual’ to fill most if not all of these spaces, but you’re welcome to get more specific.

  5. The fifth column is for prevalence. Is the gesture universal or not?

  6. The sixth column is for notes. Some gestures communicate more than just an emotion, so you can add that here. Other times, entries in this column will be blank.

Your teacher can decide how many rows you need. We recommend around 35.

Search the Internet for Gestures

You can do a wide search and see what comes up if you choose to, but then move on to more narrowed searches. Use the prompts you came up with earlier to find more gestures (for example, search for ‘chin gestures’ or ‘frustration gestures’). As you go along, add each gesture and its details to your table.

Limit your search to gestures common in the UK or the US or whichever English-speaking country is most relevant to you.

Assess Your Findings

  • Which gestures did you find that are not common in your culture? Did you notice any from your culture that aren’t common in English-speaking countries?

  • What emotion or type of emotion (happy ones, angry ones, etc.) have the most gestures in your list?

  • Which body part is featured the most on your list? Why do you think that is?

  • Select one of the gestures that’s not universal. What do you think this says about the English-speaking culture? If you’re not sure, use the internet again.

  • Do you notice any differences between the formal gestures and the casual ones?

  • If you were to add one of these gestures to the ones you regularly use, which would it be and why?

Bonus Activity

In groups, draw or print out a outline or silhouette of the human body on a large poster. Then write gestures next to the body parts they involve (or use arrows to connect the text to the right body part). Either use different colors for the text to denote their emotion (put the emotions into a few groups) or write the emotion under the gesture.

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