In this activity learners make a thumbprint story about a holiday using a blank cartoon grid and an ink pad.

Sally Trowbridge, Teacher, British Council

Learners will practise regular and irregular past simple verbs and holiday vocabulary.

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


  • ink pads (one for each group of six students)
  • paper
  • tissues or wipes for cleaning inky fingers


Make your own thumbprint story or use the example (A3 sized or bigger if possible). If you make your own, here are some suggestions:

Make a vertical thumbprint for each person then draw on a line and two dots for the face and lines for the arms and legs.

You can make a horizontal print into:

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

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 it's a picture of a spaceship or a castle, for example.


  • Write four countries on the board. Get the students to guess which one you visited in the summer holiday.
  • Show the students your thumbprint 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 two-minute visualisation. Tell the students to shut their eyes and think back to their last holiday (or imagine an invented holiday). Tell students to think about where they went, who they went with and what they did.
  • Give students the ink pads and paper. They should draw six squares and then make a thumbprint 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 a 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 unusual?

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.

Example story429.73 KB

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