Twelve- and fourteen-year-old school children differentially benefit from sensorimotor- and multisensory-enriched vocabulary training

Brian Mathias* (Corresponding Author), Christian Andrä, Anika Schwager, Manuela Macedonia, Katharina von Kriegstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Both children and adults have been shown to benefit from the integration of multisensory and sensorimotor enrichment into pedagogy. For example, integrating pictures or gestures into foreign language (L2) vocabulary learning can improve learning outcomes relative to unisensory learning. However, whereas adults seem to benefit to a greater extent from sensorimotor enrichment such as the performance of gestures in contrast to multisensory enrichment with pictures, this is not the case in elementary school children. Here, we compared multisensory- and sensorimotor-enriched learning in an intermediate age group that falls between the age groups tested in previous studies (elementary school children and young adults), in an attempt to determine the developmental time point at which children’s responses to enrichment mature from a child-like pattern into an adult-like pattern. Twelve-year-old and fourteen-year-old German children were trained over 5 consecutive days on auditorily presented, concrete and abstract, Spanish vocabulary. The vocabulary was learned under picture-enriched, gesture-enriched, and non-enriched (auditory-only) conditions. The children performed vocabulary recall and translation tests at 3 days, 2 months, and 6 months post-learning. Both picture and gesture enrichment interventions were found to benefit children’s L2 learning relative to non-enriched learning up to 6 months post-training. Interestingly, gesture-enriched learning was even more beneficial than picture-enriched learning for the 14-year-olds, while the 12-year-olds benefitted equivalently from learning enriched with pictures and gestures. These findings provide evidence for opting to integrate gestures rather than pictures into L2 pedagogy starting at 14 years of age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1739-1770
Number of pages32
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number3
Early online date11 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This work was funded by the German Research Foundation (grant KR 3735/3-1) and a Schulbezogene Forschung grant from the Saxony Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Schulforschung (ZLS).


  • Multisensory learning
  • Sensorimotor learning
  • Gesture
  • Enrichment
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Foreign language education


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