“Chinese orthography is a major factor in the difficulty of learning to function in Chinese.” Walker indicated this in his essay published in the Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association in 1989, which was mainly referred to the second/foreign language learner. However, honestly speaking, it may also the undeniable truth for the Chinese native speakers.
I still remember how my first character-writing workbooks looked like and the satisfied feeling that when I finished one workbook so that was given a new fresh smell drill book to start over with. The local Chinese kids practice writing characters every day until the end of their primary education. Starting with the mechanical practices of tracing, copying, and repeating to learn how to write the strokes and to be familiar the stroke orders, character writing practice gradually become the strategy (or habit) to help identify the parts in a new character and memorize its structure after the learners can master the basic character strokes and its rules for writing.
Similar to the Chinese as a second/foreign language learner, students need to practice character writing from tracing, copying, repeating etc. and then progress to the stage where no new stroke needed to be learned but how the strokes consist of a character.
In short, students must practice Chinese character writing just like people need to memorize vocabulary when they learn English. In other words, teachers need to provide writing worksheets which have different assistance for the various levels of students to practice with. However, making worksheets for character writing was a not-hard but very time-consuming job when there was no handy ICT available years ago. Teachers hence tended to rely on the resources provided the textbooks so the Chinese learning could be as dull and “unreal” as possible when it needed to cling to the invariable textbook content.
Nowadays, several “free” resources have been available online for teachers to create their own character writing worksheet. (There are more commercial products provided by private sects but I aim to collect free Web 2.0 resources in this blog).
For the beginner learners, teachers can download the "hollow font” and install it in computer so the customized character writing worksheets for students practice by tracing can be produced within one minute in MS Word like this:
For the primary and intermediate level learners, these websites can help generate worksheets with stroke orders like this in a few minutes.
1. National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center http://web.mtc.ntnu.edu.tw:88/ebook/index.aspx
2. Hanlxon Chinese http://www.hanlexon.org/index.htm?lang=en
3. zdt (Zhongwen Development Tool) [needed to be downloaded and installed] http://zdt.sourceforge.net/main/
With the help of these tools, I believe Chinese teachers can have more time and flexibility to create customized learning materials for students so that they will be more able to be set free from the domination of the textbook-based teaching (if the teacher wants to………)
 Walker, G. (1989). Intensive Chinese curriculum: the EASLI model. Journal of the Chinese Language Teacher’s Association, 24 (2), 43-83. For the Chinese strokes, refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke_(Chinese_character)
For the Chinese stroke orders, refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke_order