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What's a Hornbook Anyway?

Making a Hornbook

Hornbook. London?, 1630

Did you ever wonder what it was like to be a student during Shakespeare’s time? During the Elizabethan Era, beginning students were taught from a hornbook. Because religion dominated everyday life, it was taught in the classroom. Although different hornbooks had many different lessons on them, a great many had a cross in the top left-hand corner and the Lord's Prayer in the middle. Traditionally, the hornbook would also have the alphabet, basic vocabulary, and illustrations.

Typically, a hornbook was made from a piece of parchment or paper pasted onto a wooden board and protected by a leaf of horn from a ram. A hornbook measured about 3 1/2" x 2 1/2."  Books were quite expensive at this time, which made them costly to replace. However, the durable hornbook could last through many years of young students. 

Make Your Own Hornbook


Try making your own hornbook!! It is really very simple and quite fun! All you need is a pair of scissors; a piece of cardboard; crayons, markers, color pencils, or paints; and saran wrap. 


• With the scissors, cut the cardboard into the shape of the hornbook that you see here.

• With crayons, markers, color pencils, or paints, decorate one side of your hornbook with any images you want. This will be the front of your hornbook. Be creative. 

• Next, decide what you want to put on your hornbook. This will go on the other side. What subjects would you include?  You can put anything you want. Follow the Hornbook Activity Content Ideas  link on the right for ideas.

• Now, wrap your hornbook with saran wrap to protect it from spills and dirt.


Click here to return to the main games and activities page.

English hornbook. London, 1625?

Additional Information

Hornbook Activity Content Ideas

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