Teaching Kids Time: 1st in Our Math Teaching Tips Series

Telling time can be a difficult concept for young students to grasp. It’s made harder by the fact that the majority of clocks today are digital. And it’s made harder still by the way adults talk to kids about time. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ll be there in a minute,” and it was anything but 60 seconds later?

First graders are expected to tell time to the hour and the half hour. Second graders should be able to tell quarter to or quarter after the hour, and know the difference between a.m. and p.m. And third graders need to tell time to the minute and be able to answer questions about elapsed time. For example, “If the movie starts at 6:00 and ends at 7:30, how long is the movie?”

Here are a few ideas on helping students learn to tell time throughout the year and not just during that one chapter on telling time!

• Make students aware of the clock. Notice when the clock is on the hour or half hour and ask, “What time is it?” Do this multiple times throughout the day.
• Post a daily schedule with times. On your daily schedule make sure to include times, not just the order of events for the day. You might even want to include a.m. and p.m. next to the times. Instead of writing the times on the schedule, use small clock faces with moveable hands.  (You can make these yourself or find them where you buy other math manipulatives.)
• Use real situations in the day for problem solving. Find times to ask questions like, “I see that it is 11:00, since we go to lunch at 11:45 how much time will we have to work on this art project?”
• Be accurate about how you talk about time. If you tell the class that they have ten minutes to finish what they are working on, set a timer on your desk. Or better yet, go to www.online-stopwatch.com. It’s a free web site that has stop watches and timers that count down. Use it on your computer with a projector or interactive board to display it for the class. It’s a great visual for students to see how much time they have left or how much time has passed.

Make time for telling time and you make math a real part of your students’ day!

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