TECHNIQUE: Words on Fingers

Attaching words to your fingers leads to a number of opportunities for students to work on various aspects of spoken language.

  1. The teacher’s fingers instantly give words an physical form, without requiring any writing on the board. It is spontaneous and immediately accessible even to illiterate students.
  2. Students can use their fingers to practice a sentence. In pairs they can point through the sentence and check with their partner that they are correct. This creates a quick and precise tool for peer assessment and feedback on oral language.
  3. Teachers can correct a student by:
    1. pointing to (or wiggling) the finger that represents an error or mispronunciation
    2. folding down the finger that represents a word that should be deleted
    3. inserting a finger between two others to represent an erroneously omitted word
  4. The teacher can put fingers together to show words spoken together, opening up many opportunities to work on phrasing.
  5. The teacher can tap a particular finger to show that this word is stressed.

There are two important points which must be emphasised in concluding. Firstly, the visual and kinaesthetic forms given to sentences with one’s fingers supports the oral and aural forms of perceptions by providing a “shape and feel” to the sentence. Working in this way encourages the co-ordination of all the senses. Secondly, the use of fingers for correction make students aware of an error without providing a solution (in the form of a verbal correction to be repeated). While the teacher may indicate that a word should be deleted, it is the student himself who must perform the task.

Once you start to use fingers in the class, you’ll wonder how you missed something so obvious. The simplest, most available tool has been there all along. Your students will appreciate that you have put the language in the palm of their hand.

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