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Thumb print stories

Sally Trowbridge, Teacher, British Council

I've found that this activity that works well with pre-intermediate 10 and 11 year olds but can be adapted for various ages and levels.

The students make a thumb print story about their last holiday (real or invented) using a blank cartoon page and an ink pad. They practice regular and irregular past simple verbs and holiday vocabulary.

Ink pads (1 for each group of 6), blank cartoon pages, pencils, tissues or wipes for cleaning inky fingers.

Blank cartoon grid >> 23k

Make your own thumb print story or use the one we have provided. Make an A3 sized photocopy if possible.

Example thumb print story >> 269k

Instructions for making thumb print stories
Make a thumb or finger print for each person then draw on a line and 2 dots for a face and sticks for arms and legs.

You can make a horizontal print into;

  • a car by adding 2 small circles for wheels;
  • a plane by adding triangles for wings and tail;
  • a dog, cat, elephant or other animal by adding ears, tail, whiskers or trunk.

Write a caption for each square as in the example. Keep your drawing simple. The more 'homemade' it looks the better, as the students won't feel demotivated by their lack of drawing skills.

Don't worry if your pictures aren't very realistic - the students can get lots of language practice discussing if this is a picture of a space ship or a castle, for example.


  • Write 4 countries on the board. Get the students to guess which one you visited in the summer holiday.
  • Show the students your thumb print story and tell them that this is the story of your holiday.
  • Ask students questions ( Who's this? Where did we go? Did I go with my friends or my family? What did we do next? Were we happy?) Get individual students to come to the front of the class to look at the story and answer questions if they can't see from where they are sitting.
  • Read the captions to the students, dealing with any vocabulary as necessary by getting students to explain to each other or translate. Ask the students to tell you the verbs from the story. Write them on the board. Elicit which are regular and which are irregular.
  • Do a 2 minute visualisation. Tell the students to shut their eyes and think back to their summer holiday (or imagine their invented holiday). Tell students to think about where they went, who they went with, what they did.
  • Students fill in their blank squares to make a thumb print story of their own holiday. The teacher needs to monitor, prompt, suggest ideas and help with drawing. If students can sit in groups of six they can easily share the ink pads. If not, encourage students to take turns.
  • Early finishers can make list of irregular past simple verbs and then test each other.
  • The teacher collects the finished stories and sticks them on the wall or board. Students mingle and read the stories and try to find one similar to theirs. Have a class vote: Which holiday was the most fun, most exciting or most boring?

You can use the finished stories for a classroom display. This is particularly good for the start of the school year as it will brighten up a dull classroom.