Sticky Fingers – is a noun countable or non-countable?

How To Teach English, Parts Of Speech


Countable nouns in the landscape. (license)

Sticky Fingers is a simple way to demonstrate to your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable.

The idea here is that you begin by telling your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable. Then you have a visual sign for this along with telling them. Then you just use the sign.

There are several advantages to this:

  • you speak less; less noise in the class
  • the students need to pay attention to you to make sure they’re doing it right
  • the students will begin to use the sign themselves
  • it’s a silent, less intrusive way of correcting students


Talk about countable and non-countable nouns. When dealing with countable nouns, use your fingers to count them off:

One boy, two boys, three boys…

Then, when talking about non-countable nouns, show your hand as a clenched fist with no fingers showing; you are “unable” to count

* One water, two waters, three waters…

Every time you deal with countable/non-countable nouns in the classroom use this visual signal to demonstrate what each noun is. Then, when the students are speaking, use the sign to guide them. Finally use it – without speaking – when they make a mistake. If a student says:

* The spaghetti are tasty.

simply stop them and hold up the clenched fist.

Useful Links

Count and Non-Count Nouns‏‎ in English Grammar – all about countable and uncountable nouns.

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