Digital Digits: Creative Ideas for Finger Plays (by Shelly Sanchez Terrell)

I teach students between the ages of two- and six-years-old. When you teach young learners you discover how much they love finger plays. The children memorize the English quickly and are able to repeat the words and actions on their own.

Introducing the Finger Play

Finger plays are best used in the classroom with the children watching you and modeling your actions. Try having the children sit in front of you or in a circle. We like to sit on pillows on the floor. You may also want to use a felt board to begin introducing the vocabulary. Put up the characters in the order they will appear in the finger play. Place the name above each character. For example, for the Incy Wincy Spider I put a spider, a water spout, the sun, and the rain. I have the children repeat the words. When possible I also vary the voices for each character. I want the children to visualize the characters in order for them to remember the words that go with that character.

Digitize Your Finger Plays

One way to get the children to memorize the finger plays is to have them practice at home with their parents! You can give the parents hand-outs of the lyrics, but some parents will not know how to perform the hand gestures. Save a few trees and include your finger plays in a wiki. In my English Story Time wiki, I list the lyrics and videos where people show the hand gestures. I try to find the most lively videos with colorful characters.

Try Blabberizing your finger plays. Babblerize is a free Web 2.0 tool that allows you to make the fingers appear like they are speaking. Below I use a drawing, but you can use a picture of one of the student’s hands with finger puppets. You can easily embed the Blabberize video in your wiki so the children can look at them with their parents at home!

Other Creative Ideas

Children love to create! Have the children make finger puppets with ready made templates, old mittens, socks with toes, or with felt. You may also want to purchase a very colorful glove and add googly eyes. Use felt to decorate the characters for each finger play. It is like having costumes for the glove! Each time you do a finger play, pull out the glove and have the children take turns wearing it. They have to sing the words in order to wear the glove!

Have the children draw the characters. Children love to trace their hands or another student’s hands. My students also spell the names of the characters above the fingers. While they draw the characters and spell the words, I play the music. The children always sing the words out loud while they draw.

I have a set of washable crayons and markers. I let the students sometimes draw the characters on my fingers. This activity is so much fun and motivates them to sit down and listen!

What other creative ideas do you have for using finger plays in your classes?

Shelly Sanchez Terrell began teaching inner city children in 1994 in Texas as part of a pantomime and puppetry troop. She later managed hands-on science museum programs for children. In 2000, her nonprofit organization, ETHOS, won the SAMMinistries Volunteer Group of the Year award for their creation of a homeless children’s art and music program. Currently,she is a freelance technology trainer, the VP of Educator Outreach or Parentella.com and an English languge teacher based in Germany. Explore her Teacher Reboot Camp blog for tips on integrating technology effectively into the classroom. She can be reached via Twitter, @shellterrell.


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  1. I LOVE this idea! My kindergarten class enjoys finger plays, and they’re going to really enjoy making their fingers talk. I’ve never tried Blabberize, but will definitely give it a try soon.

    Thanks for sharing this idea, Shelly. It’s a winner :-)

    • Thank you so much for letting me post this! I love working with young learners and finding new ways to incorporate technology to motivate them. I love the other fun stuff we do in class as well! Finger plays are a necessary component for every young learner class.

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  3. Hi Shelley,

    I’m a real fan of finger play songs and countdown songs. My favourite two this year are Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and Five Little Brown Frogs on a Brown log. I like to make gloves and masks to act out the songs. At the moment I’m trying One,Two,Three, Four, Five Once I caught a fish alive. It’s working really well with the kids and I love it too!

    Going to check out blabberize thanks for the idea!

    Leahn

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