This project seeks to understand and improve the developments of language skills in primary school children. The background centers on recent insights from the fields of education, psychology, linguistics and neuroscience. Specifically, recent studies show that word meaning is represented in the brain in a manner that reflects real-world experience (i.e., embodied language): for example, cortical motor areas, responsible for action performance and observation, are also involved in understanding action verbs. We apply this knowledge to making improvements in how language is instructed in the classroom. Specifically, we suggest that by strengthening the link between action and language during instruction, vocabulary learning can be improved already in very young children. Since cortical motor areas are responsive during action observation as well as action execution, we investigate the use of both action animations and overt movements during language learning.
This project was funded by The Netherlands Initiative Brain & Cognition, residing under The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NIBC # 056-33-016) and has two subprojects: