10 Finger Sentences: a Speaking Activity

If you are an ESL teacher in the WIDA consortium, you are probably getting ready for the ACCESS test.  ACCESS is a 4 part test that assesses ELL's on reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  Last year, our students did really well on three of the four domains, but did kind of poorly on speaking.  To be fair, the speaking test is utterly and completely boring, so I don't blame them!   In the last couple of weeks, I've come up with this simple activity to boost their skills, which will hopefully be a muscle-memory reminder during the test.

It's as simple as it sounds.  I will either put my hands up as a visual or tap each finger on the table, depending on the student.  Here are some of the ways I've used it in my classes:

1.  When we talk about our weekends, students have "10 fingers" to tell me their story.

2.  I will pass out picture flashcards, and each student has "10 fingers" to tell a sentence about the picture.

3.  I have shown a picture prompt on the whiteboard/in a book and called on someone to give me "10 fingers" about what is happening.  

Reasons it works:  

1.  Students are more cognizant of their speaking and do not ramble on. 

2.  It allows newcomers the chance to use vocabulary they have stored up in their minds.  

3.  It forces (gently, of course) newcomers to string words together and take those risks they might not take.

4.  It shows more proficient students that there are several ways to say the same thing, using different words. 

I am sure you could do this with as many fingers as you need to!  This could turn into a writing activity as well, I bet.  I noticed that during the test, my students like to answer in one-word or two-word sentences, even though during class they are chatty chipmunks.  I am hoping the muscle memory kicks in during the speaking test so we get some quality 10 finger (or more!!) sentences!

What do you do to promote speaking at length in your classrooms?


  1. Sounds like a great idea. The visual and kinesthetic approach probably really helps your students out. Good luck getting ready for all of the testing!

    Eclectic Educating

  2. Can you explain more about this? Are you using the 10 fingers to keep track of how many sentences they are saying? How many words they must use? I'm very interested, not just for my ELL students, but also for the students coming from lower income families who don't have a lot of language.

    1. I'm wondering about this as well! 10 word sentence? Or 10 sentences??

  3. Hi, I usually have students state just one sentence using 10 fingers, one for each word. That is generally enough to get them thinking deeply about the prompt.


Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top