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Classroom Activities

English Teaching Materials, Games and Activities

January 17, 2009


I have a large, 105cms x 135cms Judy Instructo "Learning About Telling Time Play Mat", which I have used for teaching stroke order and letter formation. The children love it and it adds spice to what could be a boring activity, but only one child can use it at a time so sometimes it becomes, what I'm trying to avoid, "a boring activity". Still, let's not give up. A clockface can be very useful for teaching stroke order, most of the rounded parts of the letters of the alphabet start or finish at the 2, 4, 8 or 10 o'clock positions and some reading and writing schemes use a
clock extensively in the teaching of letter formation. These schemes usually give quite precise oral instructions for forming the letters.

Giving each child a play mat is not an option. It costs too much money, the mats seem to give off toxic fumes, and there are problems with storage and how much space they need when in use. So, after years of thinking about it, I finally got round to designing and creating a simple and inexpensive clockface to use for teaching stroke order and letter formation. Let me show it to you.


Now how can we use this? I printed out a large A3 sized clockface for myself and several A4 sized ones for my students. If you need a high-definition copy of the clockface or any of the materials in my column, then contact me and I will send you a copy via e-mail. Laminate the clockfaces and give one to each of your students, then give visual and oral instructions and have the children trace out the letters on their own clock faces with their fingers. In other words, talk them through the tracing of individual letters. Show a picture card and have the children write the associated lowercase/uppercase letter, with a water-based marker, onto their clock faces. Show a letter and have them write it on their own clockfaces. Have them clean the materials and play again. Put the children in pairs and they challenge each other to write (trace) different letters, with their fingers, "write this letter", "write a big /a/ (or 'A' if your children use alphabet names)". Bring their attention to the arrowed alphabet if their stroke order is 'far out'.

If you have other ideas on how to use the clockface, then please let me know.

Now might be a good time to give your students a letter formation worksheets. I made this first one for a friend who wanted a worksheet in lowercase letters only. Young children can easily lose their place on a worksheet, so I put in a second full line of tracing letters.


The second worksheet is taken from Blending a Hand disk 1. A teacher wrote to me and was concerned about having the anchor word printed on the worksheet, he was worried that his students would start sight reading these words. This is why you will not find any words on this series of worksheets. I tried to make them as graphically interesting as possible for young children. Most children enjoy completing these worksheets and they also enjoy colouring them after they have done the tracing.


Here's another simple activity related to letter formation. Say that we want the children to form the capital letter 'B'. Give them a copy of the letter and a lot of picture cards beginning with the letter 'b', here's a list for you:
bag, bat, bed, book, bus, bottle, bucket, boy, bedroom, bedbug, bank, baby, ball, balloon, banana, bee, bell, bird, and so on. Ask the children to form the letter out of the picture cards. I usually do a few letters at once. I first have the children help me sort the cards according to their initial sound and then in groups they form individual letters from the picture cards. It really makes them think about the letter shape. They need to think about the shape, how the shape is best formed and the sound that shape represents; they may also have to remember the name of that shape.

I hope you find some of this helpful. If you have any comments or requests, then please throw them my way.


« Alphabet Slam | Main | Alphabet Tracks »


Hi, David,

It's Mari here!
Guess the 'friend' who asked you to make a worksheet with lowercase letters was me. :-)
You are exactly right about children losing their place on a worksheet. The extra tracing element in the middle line was a great help for them, and made my life easier!

You know what teachers and students really need.


Thanks for your comment Mari and sorry I didn't write back here straightaway, but I'm still not used to this website. You are indeed that "friend" and your request was welcome.


Hello David,

Well David, I have been a teacher for about 12 years teaching mainly to adults, Corporate, University, and Private. I started out teaching kindergarten, elementary, junior and senior high school, and may be going back to elementary education very soon in Japan. As it has been awhile, your ideas are going to help put me back on track with elementary education. I love the fact they are communicative and student centered, as well as visually appealing.
Please keep up the good work. I'm sure to be in touch in order to acquire the materials you've presented here.

Jody Friberg

Hi Jody,

Thank you very much for your kind words. I look forward to hearing from you again


i just had a question about the clock face is it also for capital letters?
If so can you please explain it a little, i cant see how the B was done my son just started school and his name is Ben so it would really help
Thank you


Thanks for your question. Yes. You can also teach capital letters using the clockface. As to the letter "B". You can teach it as a single stroke or as two strokes. For the single stroke, start above the 12 on the outside line of the clock, then comes straight down to below the six until you hit the outside line again, take your finger of and go back to the start and follow the outside line until just after the two, then bring your finger to the centre of the clock, then move your finger back until it hits the outside line just before the four, then continue around the outside line and stop below the six.

In the single stroke, you do as before except that you don't take your finger of the clockface, instead you go straight back up to the start.

I hope this helps and all the best with teaching your son.

David Lisgo

Dear Mr. Lisgo,

I am very interested in getting a copy of the full alpabet shown under the clock and the first worksheet only for the whole alphabet in lower and uppercase?

I have a 2 year old I want to start home schooling beacuse I am just not happy with the schools in our area. I really like the way you have laid these out showing the correct way of doing them and the numbering.

I also love you have these in a .png file format so that they can be printed on anything. I was hoping I could make flash cards out of them for my little one as well? I am really happy I came across your page...

Thank you for your time. I truely would cherish any help I can get...


Dear David -- I am interested in your clockface.I am a home-based English teacher and most of my students age ranges from 3 years old to adult. The first time I read about you was from the home page one year ago, you had featured how to make your own flashcards and how to take good care of it.It helped me a lot eversince.

Can I have a clear copy of your clockface/worksheet?My computer uses an Adobe flashplayer. Hoping for your response. Thank you.

Good day!

I ran into your article about tracing/ writing the small letters of the alphabet. May I ask if I may have a copy of the worksheets? I am currently working as a pre school Teacher and I find your worksheets very useful. Thank you very much!

This is a great idea! In Italy, students start writing (and reading) much earlier with the phonetic alphabet. It's nice to have support materials for my younger ESL classrooms. I've already made a few of my own- thanks for the inspiration.

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