Telling time is challenging for young children, and it will take a lot of exposure before they master this skill. Model by demonstrating how to read the clock in your classroom frequently each day. If you use the Every Day Counts series, you might use the 8½-by-11-inch clock that comes with this program to teach students how to count the minutes each day as you color in and count them. Also, use a large model, such as a Judy clock or an old battery-operated analog clock, to show how the hands on a clock work by moving them around and having students observe the motion. Help children understand that the long minute hand goes all the way around the clock once in an hour, tracking 60 minutes, while the shorter hand moves from one numeral to the next, representing the hours.
Teach children how to first look at the long minute hand and count the minute spaces to determine the number of minutes past the hour. Then have them look at the shorter hour hand to see what hour the minutes come after. In first grade, as you teach students how to tell time to the hour and half-hour, model and encourage them to use math talk like this: The long minute hand is pointing straight up to the 0, and the short hand is pointing to the 2. So it is exactly 2 o’clock. And The long minute hand is pointing straight down to the 30-minute mark, halfway around the clock, so it is half past 2, or 2:30. Also, help students understand that the numbers on the clock tell two things: (1) how many minutes have gone past the hour, with each number representing another group of five minutes, and (2) what the hour is. A first grader put it well when she told me, “I get confused because I see the numbers on the clock, and I think that’s how many
To demonstrate that each number shows 5 minutes, point out and count the 5 spaces the minute hand passes through in order to reach each number on the clock. As the class counts the minutes by ones, emphasizing the groups of fives,
you might have a volunteer use tally marks to record each minute, accumulating a group of 5 each time the minute hand reaches the next numeral. Children can see that the numeral 1 is at the 5-minute mark and goes with 1 group of five,
that the 2 goes with 2 groups of five, or 10 minutes, and that the 3 goes with 3 groups of five, or 15 minutes, and so on. Continue counting the minutes and emphasizing each new group of 5 to the 12. This explicit demonstration is very different from teaching children simply to look at pictures of an analog clock showing time at the hour (reading just the short hand), as shown in many math books and on tests.
Make a class schedule using analog clocks to teach students how to put time shown on clocks in order. Children won’t necessarily know that 2 o’clock follows 1 o’clock, so be sure to highlight this in your teaching of time as well. Also, knowing what comes next in their day can reduce anxiety for some children.