I spoke about this at yesterday’s Teachmeet East conference at UEA in Norwich. Here’s a simple idea for using fingerpuppets in Primary science to teach about keys and classification.

To do this I use simple fingerpuppets. I got several sets of these from Ikea a few years back. I’m not sure if they still sell the exact puppets any more, but any animal puppets would do. At a pinch you could always use photographs of animals, but the puppets are more fun. The puppets have the added advantage of having other uses – perhaps for use in movie making/storytelling activities.

Hand these out so that every child has a different puppet. Give them a few minutes to get the “playing” out of their system 🙂 Then ask them to get into pairs. In their pair they have to think of one question that they could ask that would differentiate their puppet from their partners. Does it have wings? Does it swim? etc. Get them to write it down.

Once done, ask them to join up with another pair. Then they need to do the same thing – think of questions they could use to differentiate the four animals. Then maybe get into an 8, or just use a table group and repeat.

Basically, we’re getting across the idea of making keys. Which is something children (and pgce students!) often struggle with.

Ikea Finger Puppet classification tree

In their groups they can then draw out a key to identify the animals on their table. Give them a large sheet of paper to do this on. Take photographs of their finished keys.

The questions need to be Yes/No questions. So you can’t have “How many legs does it have?”. Questions should be “Does it have 4 legs?” or similar.

As a extra activity – look at making a key for Liquorice Allsorts (or biscuits) – more ideas on the SAPS website.

Sorting Liquorice Allsorts

To help organise the finger puppets, I store each set in a small plastic pot so that I know each set of 8 has no duplicate animals.