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Fiddly Fingers For Fast Focus

Updated: Mar 20

Guest Author - Shane Hill

With Learn From Play’s focus on gamifying education this article provides a fun method for gaining student attention during a noisy game. Yet with so many students set to return from lockdown it could also be a nice refresh for your classroom and a simple, quiet way to gain class control.


Called Fiddly Fingers this is a simple and playful way to gain your student’s attention without straining your voice, ringing a bell or even making a sound. At its simplest, it is just you putting up your hand and making different finger gestures and signs. Spock’s paired finger Vulcan salute, the various hand signs of the scuba diving world and the entire vocabulary of sign language, ‘thumbs-up’, ‘hang-5’, ‘rock-on’ (accompanied with slow silent head-banging, the kids love it), ‘peace’, there are plenty available to mix it up.

Prompt the students that as soon as they see you making hand signs, they should stop what they are doing and copy you. This saves you having to say anything as each time you do your fiddly fingers students will copy you, becoming silent as they do, intrigued and amused to know what sign you will make next. Be sure to practice because the fluidity of your gestures will impress the students, especially when you slowly cycle through a number of gestures familiar to them.

Once students are familiar with the activity you could occasionally call out ‘guess the next one, 3,2,1, go’ then pause for a moment before making the next gesture and the students will naturally understand what to do, making a finger sign as you make your next one. Scan the room and if a student has guessed correctly, offer your congratulations.

As you are trying to silence the room a good way to praise students during Fiddly Fingers is to point at the student with one hand and clicking your fingers with the other. To end Fiddly Fingers you simply raise your hand into a closed fist and slowly lower it or show both hands, slowly and silently place your palms together, interlock your fingers and lower both hands or place them in your lap if you are seated. This is an effective way to indicate your intention to move on without breaking the silence.

The point and click method as a form of expressing spontaneous and respectful acknowledgement, praise or delight is common in the art form of spoken word performance and can be utilised in the classroom just as effectively. It is an alternative to offering verbal praise or clapping and, by virtue of it being quieter and more subdued than clapping, it can be used at other time by both you and your students.

Fiddly Fingers is a great way to develop student’s finger dexterity and their knowledge of hand signals. Using finger clicking as a form of praise is a dignified subtlety which, in itself, could be a revelation for some students. In a world where noise and clamouring for attention is the norm, introducing subtle dignity with a twist of playfulness could pave the way for greater calm in a busy classroom environment.

Let me know in the comments below what you use as a method for gaining attention in your classroom and, if you try Fiddly Fingers, how it goes for you.

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