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.

Once you have a clock or clocks, begin with times that are easier, gradually moving on to 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 Ondieki 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 ask her pupils to make cardboard cut-out clock faces that they could practise with. She asked pupils to help her collect enough cardboard for every four pupils to be able to make quite a large clock face, and two hands for it.

When they had enough, she asked 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 Ondieki had bought some ‘split pins’ to hold the hands on the clock faces.

Mrs Ondieki then explained to her pupils how they should use the clocks, starting first with telling the hours (one o’clock etc.). She showed the pupils a particular time on her own cut-out clock and they made their clocks say the same time. They worked in small groups, helping each other. (See Key Resource: Using group work in the classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

They used the clocks they had made for several weeks, until Mrs Ondieki was sure that all her pupils could tell the time confidently. Every day, she also brought to the classroom a little alarm clock. She looked at this with her class 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.
  • Begin with whole-class teaching to help pupils 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.
  • Ask them, in groups, to make a list of the key things they do during the day, including the times they do them. You may have to help younger children. You could do a picture for the time.
  • At the end of the lesson, or in 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 one or two small round objects that pupils can draw around to save time.)

2. Cross-curricula practical work

Resource 1: Ways of measuring time long ago