The Five Finger Rules

What are the Five Finger Rules?
1. No notetaking
2. Nothing on the desk
3. No repeating after me in any language
4. Signal me when you don’t understand
5. Everything I say is interesting, so if you understand, then let me know
So, if a child is in anyway breaking one of the rules, I am able to just hold up a finger and thereby stay out of English, which is the key. Just smile and look at the kid, walking over if need be, and hold up the finger of the rule not being followed.
If I had to point to the most important three things a teacher could do on the first day it would be these three, based on my own experience today, and in order of importance here:
1. Go SLOW-Li
2. use and exlain in English the Five Finger Rules
3. Circling
Yes, in my view on the first day, FFR is the key to a great start for the year, right behind SLOW and just ahead of Circling.
[Credit: Linda Li, Annick Chen, Abraham Lincoln HS WL team]



13 thoughts on “The Five Finger Rules”

  1. Hey Ben,
    I must have missed something….. When did we stop requiring a response? How are we making sure they are with us – just by having them signal?
    sorry if I am behind some…

  2. Finger #5 – see above – requires a response, because at any moment in class they either understand (aahhhhh!) or the don’t (slapping fist in palm). Does that make sense? That’s how I trained them today. They soon learn that if I say something and there is no response, either the ahhh or the fist in palm, then I will stop and require one. Maybe #5 should be:
    everything I say is interesting, so if you understand, then let me know, and if you don’t, let me know….
    But is is kind of implied…..
    Does that make sense?

  3. I have been toying with the idea of changing the ahhhh around a bit when they are ready for more output – like the phrase of the week, or “really”? or the French version of the “you don’t say” or “It’s not true!” The rank beginners could simply respond to the command “applaudissez” or snap your fingers like the “old” beatniks in Greenwich Village. Ahhhhh has its place, but Carol Gaab kept insisting that variety is the spice of life and the brain craves it!

  4. I remember doug stone saying that he does this. I wonder if these kinds of response words are acquired faster because they are emotional. I had a class last year that loved saying “you don’t say” in Spanish. I would forget but various people would just blurt it out. And a student told me today that her older sister (who struggled in my class last year) says it all the time. It seems to stick to them, like the word for French fries. Who would have thought.

  5. How about making finger rule number two be: Only your hands on the desk, to avoid the texting, checking time ones?
    We haven’t started school yet, but these rules seem quite good. I’m going to try them.

  6. I don’t remember hearing about the five finger rules before reading this blog. Was this something new this year at NTPRS? Is there a more detailed description of it? Could I be directed to the originator’s description?

  7. Linda Li just did it over the years, but with four fingers. She is the originator of:
    Four rules:
    1. no notes
    2. no repeating after me
    3. signal me with both hands flat and moving downward if you don’t understand
    4. everything I say is interesting.
    Then Annick Chen added a very good one to that. She added a rule 2 after Linda’s rule 1 (pushing rules 2-4 back into 3-5 position. That rule 2 is “nothing on desks”. That one is huge, because that eliminates a ton of discipline problems early including heads on desks, pencil tapping, coin tapping, book bags (which convey disrespect in my opinion), etc.
    One thing, Sally, is that this stuff will never be codified or clear. It just keeps evolving. Ideas are shared, credit is given to originators if possible, but it’s really one big fast growing snowball, no single person’s intellectual property, and no it wasn’t at NTPRS. The only reason I got that great rule 2 above is that I started working on the same team as Annick this year. The entire department is TPRS and we meet once a day for 45 minutes. Sometimes we just hang out and stare at our laptops, and then if someone has something to say they just throw it out and we talk about it. We help each other write syllabi, lesson plans, etc. It’s amazing – a group of teachers sharing ideas in a fun and low key way to get better at serving the kids. Who woulda’ thunk it?

  8. I’m wondering how these 5 finger rules relate to the other class rules. Do you have a poster on the wall for the 5 finger rules as well as the other ones, or do you just use your fingers to explain them to the kids?? thanks!

  9. The finger rules are not written down anywhere. They are kind of informal. The most useful one is nothing on the desks. It is used a lot right now when kids are testing us by doing exactly that, more to see how we will react than any other reason. The Classroom Rules are more formal. Both are used agressively now, but once the kids get them, are rarely needed during the rest of the year. I can really see the difference when a new kid comes into the class, as happened twice today. They look “untrained”.

  10. Why no note taking? I understand that it breaks up their engagement somewhat, but this is how my students collect their words to use for freewrites and stories. I usually have them write the 3 structures down before we start a story, and have them write the story down when we finish the story.

  11. Annemarie, my interpretatino of that is no ‘ongoing notetaking’ – I also have my kids document the daily structures at the beg. of class and if they want to add ‘enrichment’ vocab that has come up during class they may do that at the end of class, after CI is over.

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