Understanding Fingerprints

Courtney Brantley

November 4, 1998

Description of the Lesson: This lesson will introduce the students to the different types of fingerprints such as; an arch, loop, and a whirl. Students will also understand why fingerprints are important. They will see that everyone has different fingerprints. They will engage in a hands-on experiment to understand fingerprints.

Grade Level: This activity would work well with second grade or third.

Background Information: Learning about fingerprints can be very exciting for children. They can learn through fun activities that everyone has a different set of fingerprints. Students can be told why fingerprints are important. They could be told that police catch bad people or criminals by their prints a lot of the time. The students can be told that criminilists are people who study crimes and analyze clues for catching robbers or other crooks. The students can observe their fingerprints and compare it to a classmate to see how everyone is unique with their fingerprints. The students can also give their other ways why fingerprints might be important. Some examples to help them might be to say that police can find missing children by looking at their prints. Learning the different types of fingerprints is fun for children because they can tell you what their print looks like to them. It is interesting to hear what they say. Fingerprints are important for children to learn about. It helps them to understand why we have them and how everyone is unique. It would also be interesting to tell the students that fingerprints were used as signatures in ancient China and Japan. Tell them that fingerprints have been recorded for thousands of years. The students will really enjoy this lesson.

Concepts: 1. Children will understand that everyone has a different fingerprint pattern.

2. The children will be able to analyze their own fingerprints with the different types of prints.

3. The children will understand why fingerprints are important.

Materials and Equipment:

Ink pads



Handprint pattern

Or worksheet from fingerprinting gem guide

Sentence strips

Cookie box

Different prints patterns (arch, loop, whirl)


1. I will pick a child to be the thief. That child will put his prints on a sheet of paper. The paper will be put in a cookie box.

2. Hold the box of cookies up to the class and ask them to guess who stole the cookies.

3. Discuss with the students that they will learn about fingerprinting while discovering who stole the cookies.

4. Talk to students about the different types of prints and why they are important.

5. Display the different types of prints on the board for them to use.

6. Give the directions on how to make their own fingerprints.

7. Each child should have either a worksheet with handprint on it from the gem guide or a traced hand to put their prints on.

8. Each child should have ten or five pieces of tape to put on their fingertips to transfer their prints to the paper.

9. After they have completed their prints tell them to analyze their prints from the prints on the board.

10. Tell them to transfer their print types onto the sentence strips.

11. Have students place the sentence strips on the board and let them see if they can decide who the thief is.


1. Have students write a letter to their grandparents or friend telling them what they learned about the fingerprints.

2. Break students into groups of three and let them analyze their friends' prints.

Internet Resources:



Teaching the students about fingerprinting was very interesting. The students seemed to enjoy learning about the different types of fingerprints. I started the lesson off by discussing why we have fingerprints. I allowed the children to ask any questions that they might have had about fingerprints. The students gave me examples of why they thought fingerprints were important. I continued the lesson by showing the three different types of prints that people may have. I allowed the students to analyze their own fingerprints and distinguish the characteristics of each type of print. They did an excellent job determining their print types. I could tell right from the start how eager and excited they were to continue learning about fingerprints. This was a very fun and great hands- on experiment for the students. The students wanted me to see how neat and unique their prints were. I enjoyed walking around the room and helping them in any way I could. I could tell how proud they were to share their prints with their classmates and me. There were about two students who had a little trouble transferring their prints onto their paper. I worked with them and tried to help them. When the class had to decide who they thought was the thief it was exciting to see how the children thought in different ways. I enjoyed teaching this lesson to the class. I do not think that they have had n activity like this before, so it was very interesting to see how each child worked. I would have probably extended this activity to two days so that the students could have learned more about the different types of fingerprints. I think that everything else went well with this lesson. I did not see very many things that that needed to be done differently. The classroom management and behavior was great in my opinion. The teacher that I worked with had told me that she had a very well behaved group of kids and I saw that right from the start. I feel that the students had gained a lot from this lesson and it will always be something that they can remember because of the great interaction of the class and the hands- on involvement.