Teaching primary kids to tell time past the hour can be a challenge but it doesn’t have to be a struggle for you or your students. In this post I’ll share with you some easy tips and simple strategies you can use as you teach your class to tell time. I should also mention they are hands-on, concrete, and FUN! Be sure to download all of the FREE resources throughout this post so your students can practice these simple strategies that really do work!
Make telling time concrete.
Telling time is one of the more abstract concepts we teach during our math instruction. When reading a clock it can be difficult for some students to make the leap in thinking to one is five, two is ten, three is fifteen and so on. Telling time past the hour can prove to be an even bigger challenge for some. Many students get thrown for a loop when the hour hand falls between two numbers. Is it 5:30 or 6:30? 11:30 or 12:30?
Believe it or not, using manipulatives like connecting cubes and pipe cleaners can make telling time much easier for kids. These along with practice clocks help students to visualize the hour space, identify the correct hour when the hand falls between two numbers, and to manipulate models that represent time.
Identifying the hour space
Once students understand the purposes of the minute and hour hands and the direction they move, introduce the hour space. I teach this strategy early on when introducing time as it’s important for students to understand “who owns the space” between the numbers on a clock. Get your kids up and moving by having them use their bodies to create hour spaces. This makes it easy to see “who owns the space”. Explain to your students that when the hour hand is in that space we say, “_____ (however many) minutes after ___ (that hour).”
Try this with your class:
Have groups of 12 students form a circle. Place a sticky note on each child’s shirt with a number in order from 1-12. Tell your students that each of them represents the hour on the clock that is written on their sticky note. Have students place their right arm down at their side and their left arm outstretched placing their hand on their neighbor’s shoulder. Help your students to see that just like on a clock the space their arm fills belongs to the hour on their shirt.
Practice this concept further by having students place connecting cubes on a clock face to show “who owns the space”. Give each child a blank clock face or use the page from the game below. Call out hours and ask students to place a cube in the space that belongs to the hour you called.
Students can practice this strategy further in your math groups or centers by playing Blast Off to Hour Space! Click HERE to download your FREE copy.
Break out those highlighters that every kid loves! Assess your students or give additional practice by having them read and identify which space belongs to the hour by coloring it. Download a FREE copy of both games HERE.
Do you have connecting doors in your classroom? If so, this is another way that I’ve taught this concept: Compare the spaces between the numbers on a clock to the doors connecting the classrooms in your hallway. Have your students imagine that each number on the clock is a door. Walking clockwise, each door (number) they pass through takes them into a new room. For example, when they pass the number two, they just entered two’s room. The hour hand is in two’s room until it touches three. Once they pass (or open the door to) three they are in three’s room and so on.
Determining the correct hour
When teaching kids to tell time past the hour determining the correct hour can be where the struggle comes in. Many children get confused about the hour when reading the time on an analog clock. Especially when the hour hand falls between two numbers. Yikes.
Here’s how to solve that problem: Have your students “make a hook”.
Start with the concrete by making a manipulative with a pipe cleaner. Cut each one in half or in quarters depending on the size of your practice clocks. Gently bend the pieces to form a hook that looks like a backward J. I do this ahead of time to make sure they are the right size. Place the straight end on the hour hand. The hook then points to the correct hour that the minutes have passed. This is such a simple, but effective trick for helping students learn to determine the correct hour. As students gain mastery they can then begin to use their index finger to trace an imaginary hook starting on the hour hand and stopping on the number just before it.
How do you make sure students use the hook in the right direction?
I get asked this question a lot. To make sure students are using the hook correctly I teach them this first:
Have your students use their left hand to make an L by pointing their index finger up and their thumb out. Then have them curve their thumb a bit to look like a hook, or a backward J.
This way if students forget which direction the hook should be facing they can “make an L and curve it up”. This gives a visual reminder and most kids learn to make an L with their left hand in Kindergarten as they are learning left and right. I’ve used this strategy for years and so far, I haven’t had issues with them using the wrong hand.
If you’d like to try this with your class I’ve made a simple game that you can add to your math centers for students to practice the strategy. Just add hooks by cutting a pipe cleaner into 4 pieces and gently bending them around your finger.
Download your FREE copy HERE.
Make it Easier by Making It Fun
Telling time can be hard for a lot of students but it gets easier if you make it fun! One of the most fun things I’ve ever done with my class, is to tie it to the song, “What Does the Fox Say?” and change the words to “What Does the Clock Say?” My class LOVED it! Get your kids up and moving with the adorable video in this post and have them practice their new strategies using fox clocks! You can grab another free math game while you’re there too!
Teaching kids to tell time past the hour doesn’t have to be a struggle. Try these simple tricks to make time more concrete, to get your class up and moving, and to make learning to tell time fun! Not teaching time yet? Be sure to pin these ideas and resources for later!
Happy teaching friends!