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  The Many Educational Benefits of Play with Finger Puppets
( by Lynda Roberts)

Fingerplays are a useful tool for the teacher in a practical way, as well, for they help to get the children's attention. In my classroom, I have found that children like surprises. When I tell them there is something different on my glove today, I know that they will be curious and interested. If I tell them we are going to do a familiar fingerplay in a new way, I have their attention. Only when I have their attention can I teach them.

Counting and early math learning go hand in hand. A five year old child should have number concept to five, and a much younger child may be able to master number concept to five. The manipulation of real objects is one important way that a child masters the concept of number. More complex math concepts can also be taught with these simple fingerplays. When there are five little ducks, and one goes away, the idea of subtraction is being introduced. Whenone little bird finds a friend, I have introduced addition. And if I take the donuts and the pennies and combine them, I illustrate one to one correspondence. Math, experienced this way, as a natural part of the world, is easy and fun.

Language skills, too, will benefit from the use of these verses. The children I teach come to school with various experiences and from diverse backgrounds. Some of them know very little spoken English. I have found that when I use fingerplays, illustrated in a variety of ways, the children gain significantly, both in vocabulary and in their ability to conceptualize. New words are introduced and spoken English is increased by the students' participation.

Children will enjoy using the gloves and puppets themselves, and a glove with a set of figures makes a wonderful present. After hearing the fingerplays a few times, most children will be delighted to show you the story by themselves.

I do try to be sure that every child who wants one has a turn. Remember that not all of the children will want a turn, and that you don't have to give everyone his or her turn on the same day. The same fingerplays can be done for a week, or more. Children love repetition, and, after a few days, a child who would not have participated earlier may be ready for a turn. The teacher will often become bored with the activity long before the children will.

When we are done, the ones holding the figures come up and put them back on the glove. This is an excellent small muscle, hand-eye coordination exercise, especially for very young children.

The fingerplays can be used as flannel board stories. Since only five characters are necessary, they are a good introduction to the flannel board for young children. The illustrations should be enlarged, then transferred onto pellon or felt. The teacher can place these on the flannel board, or take them off, depending on the story; or the children can do this. When you are using the flannel board for counting activities, it is important to remember that the pieces should beplaced on the board from left to right. You are always modelling the reading process for the children.

In closing, let me remind you of a familiar saying, which can help us all to be better teachers.

"I hear, and I forget;
I see, and I remember;
I do, and I understand."

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