Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Prints and Patterns

Bill Chapman
Escambia County Schools


Students learn to lift a latent fingerprint and identify the fingerprint pattern.


The student writes text, notes, outlines, comments, and observations that demonstrate comprehension and synthesis of content, processes, and experiences from a variety of media.

Researches and analyzes the levels of technology applied in an industry.


-White paper (1 sheet per student)
-Scotch tape (clear tape is best)
-Soft pencils (#2 or softer: 1 per student)
-Hand magnifying glass ( 2-4 : students can share)
-Fingerprint history/Intro (attached file: 1 per student)
-Fingerprint Patterns (Associated File: 1 per student)


1. Download Associated File and/or look up Website.
2. Review the content and prepare a short lecture on the physiology of fingerprints and how they are deposited, as well as places to use fingerprint indentification.
3. Copy the Fingerprint Patterns to distribute to students.
4. Sharpen pencils.
5. Count out enough white paper sheets and scrap paper for each student.
6. Distribute magnifying glasses.


1. Begin the lesson by asking the students if they have ever watched the television show, 'C.S.I.' or any other movie involving crime scenes and/or processing the scene for fingerprints.
Example of discussion questions:
Why do we use fingerprints for identification?
Why not use photographs?
How are fingerprints found?
How are fingerprints recorded when located at a crime scene?
What are some other uses of fingerprint identification?

2. Discuss the physiology of fingerprints using information from the Assoicated File.

3. Distribute the Fingerprint Patterns handout ( see Associated File).

4. Have the students look at their own fingertips and discuss the different patterns of prints.

5. Demonstrate the following process to lift, examine and classify a fingerprint for the students.

6. Using the soft pencil, scribble a dark smudge on a piece of scrap paper.

7. Tear off a small piece of clear tape, approximately 1/2 inch in length, and lay it on the table, sticky side up.

8. Beginning with the little finger of the right hand, rub the finger on the pencil smudge until it is covered.

9. Gently press the fingertip onto the tape, letting it attach to the finger.

10. Carefully remove the tape and place it on the top right side of the clean piece of white paper.

11. Repeat for the remaining fingers and thumb of the right hand. Place each "lift" approximately 1/2 inch below the previous "lift."

12. Below each "lift," label the print as follows: Right Little Finger-RL Right Thumb-RT, etc.

13. Repeat the process for the left hand, placing the "lifts" on the left side of the paper.

14. Using the naked eye, or with the magnifying glass, identify each lift, using the Fingerprint Pattern handout (see Assoicated File), and label it next to the print.

15. After the demonstration, ask the students if they have any questions about the procedure.

16. Have the students begin the procedure. Observe and make note of the following: a. Are students using the correct procedure as demonstrated? b. Are the procedures being completed in the correct order as demonstrated? c. Are the lifted fingerprints clear and legible? d. Are students identifying their prints correctly using the Fingerprint Patterns information?

17. Once the students have completed the indentification, have a discussion on the types of patterns found, and the frequency of patterns in the class, as well as ways this information could be used in the crime field.

18. A discussion could also include the ways this skill can be applied in a other career fields. (statistics, security, etc.)

19. Have students write a paragraph summarizing what they just did and suggesting ways this information can be used. Encourage them to think of ways other than just for crime solving. Collect the completed fingerprints, any notes, and the paragraphs from the students for assessment.


Use a three tier rubric to evaluate how well students gather evidence (the lifted latent print), record the findings (fingerprint lifts and labeling), and comments (in the paragraph):

Excellent: Strong latent print gathering and recording skills.The student uses the proper steps and equipment without difficulty. The details of the lifted fingerprints are clear and easy to read. Above average ability to draw conclusions based on the evidence gathered and materials provided. (may include ways to use this knowledge)

Good: Needs assistance gathering latent prints and/or recording findings. Student has some difficulty using the proper steps and/or equipment. The details of the lifted fingerprints are somewhat clear and can be read with some difficulty. Some difficulty drawing conclusions based on the findings.

Poor: Little or no effort in gathering latent prints or recording findings. Doesn't use proper steps or equipment properly. Lifted fingerprints are not legible. Cannot draw conclusions.

Web Links

This Website provides information on fingerprints, latent print development, and has other Website links.
Fingerprint Identification: Craft or Science?

Attached Files

Fingerprint Patterns     File Extension: pdf

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