3. Using local resources to teach telling the time

There are several important facts pupils need to know about time (See Resource 4: Units of time), but one of the most challenging aspects for young children is often being able to ‘read’ a clock face. The use of practical ‘clock hands’ activities should help pupils to be able to read a clock and tell the time, as they are able to practise making the clock say the right times for different events of the day.

Once you have a clock or clocks, begin with times that are easier, gradually moving onto the more difficult times:

  • ‘on the hour’ (o’clock);
  • quarter past, half-past, quarter to the hour;
  • five minute intervals;
  • one minute intervals.

Case Study 3 and the Key Activity give examples of how you could do this.

Case Study 3: Telling the time

Mrs.Mireku wanted her pupils to be able to practise setting and reading different times from a clock face. She decided the best thing to do was to get her learners to make cardboard cut-out clock faces that they could practise with. She asked learners to help her collect enough cardboard for every four learners to be able to make quite a large clock face, and two hands upon it.

When they had enough, she instructed her pupils to cut out circular clock faces and hands from their cardboard; and showed them how to number them on the board making sure they had the 12, 3, 6 and 9 at the key points. Mrs Mireku had bought some ‘split pins’ to hold the hands onto the clock-faces.

Mrs Mireku then explained to her learners how they should use the clocks, starting first with telling the hours (one o’clock etc.); showing the class on her own cut out clock, whilst they made their clocks say the right time. They worked in small groups, helping each other as Mrs Mireku went round supporting all the groups. (See Key Resource: Using group work in your classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  

Mrs. Mireku asked pupils to keep the clocks they had made, and used them for several weeks, until learners could tell the time confidently. She also brought to the classroom everyday a little alarm clock that she used at different times of the day to see what time it was.

Key Activity: Telling the time

Collect the materials and make cardboard cut out ‘clock faces’ with your pupils.

Ask them in groups to make a table of the day putting in the time and what they did at that time. Write this on a piece of paper or card and display as group A, B, etc Day I in the classroom.

Begin with whole-class teaching to help learners see how the hours and minutes work.

When pupils have some confidence in this, you may ask pairs or small groups to challenge each other: either saying a time, and asking their peers to show it on the clock face, or making a time on a clock face, and asking their peers to say what time is shown. Now ask them to complete their Day diary – filling in the tasks they do and when. Give an example to help them. With younger children you could draw a picture for the time.

At the end of the lesson, or at the next lesson, ask them to draw clock faces in their books, and put in a time and then write down the time in words for each clock. If you can, have 1 or 2 small round objects that pupils can draw round to save time.

2. Cross-curricula practical work

Resource 1: Ways of measuring time long ago