It Just Takes Time

Usually when I put out a provocation, we look at it as a full class right away. We talk about it. We ask questions. We share thinking. But last week, I tried something a little bit different.

I noticed that my students are taking an interest in the time. We have a digital clock in our classroom, and they love to be responsible for certain times (e.g., when to clean up after lunch time). Every time that I’m on duty, I tell them the time on¬†the clock that we need to start tidying up, and I watch (amazed), as students regularly look back at the clock for that special “tidy up time.” For some students, I think it’s helped them recognize larger numbers, as they’re identifying these numbers as they look for different key times.

While the digital clock has been a big success, I didn’t know what to do about analogue time. Students rarely see analogue clocks anymore. I know that I just need to teach my students how to tell time to the hour and half-hour, but I’d prefer to help them gain a better understanding of this concept. I’ve been that Grade 1 teacher that then teaches Grade 2 students that I’m certain never even heard of time in Grade 1. I’m sure that they did, but the skill was lost without the continued practice and the deeper understanding. So this year, I vowed to do things differently.

Last weekend, I went to Dollarama (possibly my favourite store on earth ūüôā ), and I bought an analogue clock. I added the battery at school on Tuesday¬†morning and set the time. Now I did manage to have a little oops –¬†where I dropped the clock and broke the frame¬†– but with a good pair of scissors and some perseverance, I still managed to make the clock work before school started on Tuesday¬†morning. I then left the clock on the ledge beside my door, and underneath our digital clock. The students have been commenting on the time all week.

  • They’re talking about the numbers that they see.
  • They’re wondering if the time is the same time as that on the digital clock.
  • They’re telling me that they know how to tell time, or don’t know how to tell time, or really want to learn.
  • They’re making guesses about the time, and asking me if they’re correct.¬†
  • They’re giving me a chance to do some one or two minute time lessons as we line-up at the door to go out for recess, leave for one of my preps, and/or get ready at the end of the day.¬†

My class is definitely getting excited about telling time. This is perfect, as now we can build on this excitement this week. Yesterday, I went back to Dollarama, and bought eight analogue clocks: enough to set-up two on each table. I asked people to tweet me photographs of watches and clocks, and I was overwhelmed with the response. I got photographs from people that live in Hamilton to those as far away as England and Hawaii. It was awesome! There are clocks with no numbers, the benchmark numbers of 12, 3, 6, and 9, Roman Numerals, and even, thanks to Melvina in Hawaii, a clock with Kanji numbers.

2015-02-08_10-49-28Tomorrow, for Math Talk Mondays, students are going to work in groups with this Google Doc to discuss the math that they see in these clocks and watches. They’re going to figure out a way to share their learning and questions/wonders with the rest of the class, and we can then start teaching each other. We’re also going to look at the passage of time, as some of the discussion after the 100th Day Celebration on Friday, makes me realize that this may be an area of need.

Also during the week, students are going to work together to create stands for the analogue clocks, so that we can add the clocks safely to the tables for the class to see and talk about throughout the day. Creating the stands will link to our Science unit on Structures, but an¬†immersion in both clocks and time, should help the students as they continue to figure out how to read and understand analogue clocks. We’re also going to refer to these clocks throughout the day, especially as we begin our Kindness Catchers Challenge. Watching the students in class this week made it clear to me that they love taking photographs and videos and documenting their learning throughout the day. Now they can have more of an opportunity to do so, while also learning about telling time. Kindness Catchers could also become one of our new classroom jobsa very important responsibility!

I know that I’m going to have to do some teaching about time, but I hope that the excitement over the clocks last week will continue on until this week. I also hope that seeing the passage of time with real clocks –¬†instead of just demonstration ones or paper ones¬†– will help the students see how time really works. They can look closely at these clocks. They can see where the hands point at the different times, and even discuss why this might be the case. We can even look at the even spaces between the numbers, and maybe even make a link to fractions. Instead of me just telling the students what to do, I want to see what we can uncover together. Time may be one of those math topics that students continue to address throughout the year, but I hope that when next year’s teacher introduces it, the¬†students¬†actually remember their experiences with it in Grade 1.

How do you teach “telling time?” How do you help students really understand this concept so that they remember it from year to year? What else would you suggest that I do?¬†I’d welcome any feedback!



4 thoughts on “It Just Takes Time

  1. Don’t forget to include egg timers, those that look like hour glasses as well as the usual ones. These give a sense of how long a minute or whatever is. I use them at tidy up, by playing beat the clock or for turn taking. For science you could also place a stick in the ground and observe how to use shadows to tell time (providing we get some sun).

    • Thanks Donna! I’m so glad that you made this comment about egg timers. I don’t know if I have any at school, but I actually found a great digital one that I planned on using tomorrow as we explored the passage of time. Hopefully I can also find some actual egg timers that students can even use as they explore “minutes.” I like the stick in the ground idea. I never thought of this. That would make a really cool inquiry, and a neat different way at looking at telling time. Here’s to hoping that we get some sunny days!

      Thanks for the ideas!

  2. Aviva, you have a wonderful way of bringing the curiosity out of your students. The learning becomes grassroots and meaningful as students are exposed to ideas in just the right way. I appreciate how you have introduced the analogue clock to your class. It just makes your students knowledge about telling time richer and these kinds of clocks and watches aren’t going away. ¬†I teach older students but when I was teaching my kids about time, it was important to have different clocks available and also making time meaningful: “Bedtime is at 7:30pm but you can stay awake in your room until 8:00pm”, “you can get out of bed at 6:30am and visit mommy and daddy”. Much like what you are doing. Thanks for a great post.¬†

    • Thanks for your comment, Sean! I love hearing about your experiences as a parent. You’re giving me ideas that I could share with the parents of students in my class to hopefully extend the learning beyond the classroom.


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