Thursday, 12 April 2018

What's the time, Mr Wolf? - teaching time

Being able to read the time is a tricky concept to learn - and teach! As adults we often take reading time for granted, and living in the digital age means that our children are exposed to digital time on everything - from smartphones, computer screens to microwaves and televisions - and with this means that increasingly being able to read analogue time receives less value and importance. 

But what is it that makes learning to read time so tricky? Well, students must master skip counting by 5's in order to properly read an analogue clock. They must be familiar with the different versions of a clock face, number orientation and the function of all the clock hands. To read and analyse time students must have an understanding of how many seconds there are in a minute - minutes in an hour - hours in a day etc. and possess the ability to add and subtract hours and minutes. They need to have an understanding of the order of events in a day, as well as the ability to estimate a reasonable length of time that a certain activity may require (some adults still struggle with this). They also need to be familiar with calendar concepts.

Ultimately, I believe that surrounding your children with opportunities to read time is the best way to teach them - refer to your clocks at home, both analogue and digital. Use visual timetables in the classroom that present both the analogue and digital formats. Talk about time with your students by telling them how long til the next activity, how long until someone's birthday etc. Immersing kids is often the best way, as it subconsciously sinks in, so that when they do come to direct learning of time, all the puzzles pieces start coming together and making sense.

It's never too late to teach time, and more importantly time management, to kids. School-ages kids who have no ability to follow a schedule or to be self-organised will have a rougher time in the older years when responsibilities that come with age, such as rigorous study and work, mount. My editable classroom timetable is a great tool that combines both analogue and digital time, side-by-side, as well as incorporating a daily schedule. It also allows teachers to work on elapsed time, as you can direct students to work out how much longer is left in a lesson by using the visual images and relating them to the classroom clock. 

For some hands on learning, my Time Match cut-and-paste activity provides opportunities for students to practice recognising time in analogue - both twelve and twenty-four hour, digital and word formats. This can be used as small group bingo game, in focus groups as a hands-on follow up or as a whole class activity.

These 12 hour time clip-cards are another great hands-on learning activity that help younger student's grasp the concept of 12-hour time in 5 minute intervals, and recognise time in both digital and analogue formats.

For some more resources that will help your kiddos learn to read time, check out these fun and engaging hands-on activities created by teachers, for teachers:




What are your tips for teaching time to students? Share them in the comments below


  1. These are wonderful ideas for learning time. I also learned how to understand the clock in this way. Children are often difficult to navigate with time, and therefore they are ashamed to talk about it. I read various experiments on this, because I had to write my research paper about this. I believe that the study of the hours should be gradual and clearly evident.Show the child what the various clocks are. Then tell about which hour you get up or go to bed so that she can associate this time with the events in her life. So it'll help and learning process became more quickly.

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