Carpenters' Hall

Colonial Hornbook Lesson

Skill Development

letter and picture recognition, art


The students will construct an 18th century hornbook. They will identify the names of pictures and their first letter.

Materials (per student)

  • print picture page from computer
  • glue
  • string
  • scissors
  • one piece of cardboard (12x8")
  • color writing and decorating utensiles

Pre-procedure (for the teacher to complete prior to the lesson)

  1. Cut the outline of the hornbook from the printed page.
  2. Trace the outline onto the piece of cardboard.
  3. Punch a hole through the handle of the hornbook.
  4. Draw seven rows of blocks (1.5 x 2") onto the hornbook.
  5. In each block write one letter of the alphabet, in sequential order, starting with "A"


Begin by displaying a pre-made hornbook for the children. Explain that the hornbook was used by school children in the 1700's. Discuss present-day learning materials with the children. For example, computer, and dry-erase board. Have these examples available to show to the students, reminding them how they are used in their classroom. Explain to the students that they will use the hornbook to match pictures to each letter of the alphabet. Use a picture of a computer, for example. Ask "what letter does the word 'computer' begin with?" Check for comprehension.


  1. Pass out the printed pictures and the horn books
  2. Have the students cut out the pictures on the dotted lines
  3. Color the pictures, if desired
  4. Glue the pictures in the appropriate places
  5. Tie the string onto the handle of the hornbook


End the lesson by having all of the students hold up their hornbooks to show the rest of the class. Lead the class in "The Alphabet Song" as they point to each letter. Praise the students for their achievement.

Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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