Literacy Teaching Toolkit video: Gesture and joint attention

This video explores children’s early communication development, including their use of gestures, eye gaze, and joint attention.

In a range of contexts and experiences, the educators use key pedagogical strategies to encourage and develop children’s nonverbal communication.

Reflective practice


  • The examples of children’s eye gaze, gestures and joint attention.
  • The educators’ use of language stimulation strategies such as comments, descriptions, and questions to facilitate children’s gestures and eye gaze.

Reflection questions

  • Why are forms of nonverbal communication like eye gaze, gestures, and joint attention important for language development?
  • What strategies can educators use to enable instances of joint attention?
  • Why is joint attention a “perfect opportunity for language learning”?
  • What contexts and teaching practices do you use to interact with children, and develop their nonverbal communication?
  • What evidence did you observe of children engaging in reciprocal interactions and joint attention?
  • Discuss with colleagues, what you would plan next to consolidate or extend children’s learning?

Learning experience plan

This learning experience plan relates:

  • interacting with others
  • early communicators (birth –18 months)
  • learning foci: making meaning and expressing ideas (interacting with others) concept development and vocabulary
  • teaching practices: language in everyday situations, language stimulation.

Links to VEYLDF

Outcome 5: communication

  • engage in enjoyable reciprocal interactions using verbal and non-verbal language
  • respond verbally and non-verbally to what they see, hear, touch, feel and taste

Learning intentions

I can develop children's:

  • use of gestures to communicate
  • joint attention
  • receptive vocabulary (the words they can understand).

Assessment of learning

This is demonstrated when children:

  • use showing, requesting or social gestures to communicate
  • engage in joint attention episodes with educators
  • respond to educator’s use of words or gestures.


  • An Australian ABC of Animals by Bronwyn Bancroft
  • B is for Bedtime by Margaret Hamilton and Anna Pignataro
  • Big Machines by Lissa James
  • E is for Echidna by Bronwyn Bancroft
  • There Was an Old Lady by Child’s Play (International) Ltd.
  • The Wheels on the Ute Go Round and Round by Loraine Harrison and Claire Richards.

Group size

  • Individual children or small group (2-5 children).

Experience process

  1. Choose any interaction/situation, where educators and children have opportunities to communicate and share attention, for example:
    • everyday situations (mealtimes, nappy changes)
    • play areas
    • reading with children
    • fine arts experiences.
  2. Model the use of gestures, eye gaze, and language to initiate joint attention with children. For example:
    • pointing to a picture in a storybook: "I can see a boat! What can you see?"
  3. Use self-talk and parallel talk (language stimulation strategies) to use language to interact with children.
  4. Respond to children’s nonverbal (and verbal) communication, by using a combination of gestures, joint attention, and vocalisations/words.
  5. When children start using words with their gestures, use other language stimulation strategies like expansions and extensions.
  6. Throughout the interaction provide children with new vocabulary, to describe and provide new language for what they are showing interest in.

Related videos and learning experience plans


    Experience plans

    Links to sections