Understanding and improving the development of language skills in primary school children


In this proposal two projects are laid out, both of which seek to understand and improve the developments of language skills in primary school children. The background of this proposal 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 improve language instruction in the classroom. Specifically, we suggest that by strengthening the link between action and language during instruction, vocabulary learning can be improved 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 research endeavor is supported by a major developer of primary school educational software (Malmberg), as well as networks of local primary schools (Conexus and BOOR) allowing us to test our hypotheses directly in educational materials in the classroom. In summary, this proposal seeks to improve language learning in primary school children by applying knowledge about how language is represented in the brain to methods of language instruction.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • J.A. De Nooijer(2013): Effects of imitating gestures during encoding or during retrieval of novel verbs on children's test performance. Acta Psychologica pp. 173-179
  • J.A. De Nooijer(2013): When Left Is Not Right: Handedness Effects on Learning Object-manipulation Words Using Pictures with Left or Right-handed First-person Perspectives. Psychological Science pp. online-first


  • beoogd: proefschrift
  • J.A. de Nooijer(2015): Lending the brain a hand  10 september 2015





Prof. dr. H. Bekkering

Verbonden aan

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour


Dr. J.A. de Nooijer , Dr. L.A. Hald ,


01/06/2011 tot 30/09/2015


€ 500.000