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March 26, 2014 10 Quick, Easy (and Fun!) Ways to Practice Time Skills By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Trying to teach and reinforce analog clock skills in a digital world can be a challenge in the classroom. When I was young and heard the words a quarter to or half past the hour, I visualized a round clock that I could mentally divide into fourths or halves — pretty simple. Those words today carry much less meaning in the context of the clocks that our students have grown up with. It’s tough to visualize three-quarters or even a half of that rectangular, digital clock on their microwave or family car’s dashboard, yet we still expect our students to understand the language and readily move between digital and analog concepts.

    This year, I discovered that many of my students were struggling with time concepts. Our new math book offered scarce opportunity for reviewing or practicing these skills. I decided to put together a few fun activities that my kids could do during math centers, or even during indoor recess. After a few weeks using these activities, I could see improvement in their ability to convert digital times to analog clocks and vice versa. This week I’m happy to share with you a few of those fun and easy activities that have helped my students this year.


    1. LEGO® Time!

    My class loves LEGOs and thanks to great posts from super teachers like Alycia Zimmerman and Kriscia Cabral, I’ve come to realize their potential as a learning tool in the classroom. I decided to take some of my son’s old DUPLO® blocks and create sets to help my students practice the idea of minutes before the hour, and minutes after the hour. Of course I threw in a few pieces that were close, but didn’t match any set. Students worked together to match the digital times with the correct wording, then recorded the times on analog clock using the sheet you see below. Tip: The permanent marker comes off the plastic easily with just a little Murphy’s Oil Soap so you can create new time sets for the future.

    Use LEGOS to practice time concepts Use LEGOS to practice time concepts

    Use LEGOS to practice time conceptsUse LEGOS to practice time concepts

    Use LEGOS to practice time conceptsUse LEGOS to practice time concepts

    The sheet we used is below. Simply click on the image to download a free printable you can use in your classroom.


    2. Eggsactly the Right Time

    While I was in the basement looking for the old DUPLO blocks, I moved a box of Easter decorations out of the way. Looking inside, I spotted a few bags of unopened plastic eggs and instantly decided I could use those too!

    I created tops and bottoms that my students would have to match. So it didn’t become a color-matching game, I mixed up the tops and bottoms of all the eggs. This turned out to be a great cooperative learning activity. Students first began trying to match the pieces without any strategy, and surprisingly, they were finding it quite difficult. I loved watching and listening to the math talk that followed as students began helping each other strategize, creating separate piles of tops and bottoms, making the task much more manageable. Students recorded the times on a worksheet I created (below) representing each time three different ways. 

    Use plastic eggs to practice time concepts

    Use plastic eggs to practice time conceptsUse plastic eggs to practice time concepts

    Use plastic eggs to practice time conceptsUse plastic eggs to practice time concepts

    I did have to smile when, in the middle of the egg activity you see above, one of my third graders looked at me and said, “Now this makes sense. All along I thought teachers were talking about OUR hand. I never knew what my hand had to do with it!”

    Simply click on the image above to download a free printable you can use in your classroom.


    3. The Human Clock Game

    I noticed that when my students had to add numbers or draw the hands on blank analog clocks, the numbers weren’t placed symmetrically as they should have been. Some children were also still confusing the hour and the minute hand. I put together a game that we could play as a brain break, or during indoor recess. Watch the video below to see how we worked on these concepts with the students racing to be the first team to get the correct time on their human clock. (Mobile users can view the telling time video here.)


    Human clock gameHuman clock game


    4. I Have . . . Who Has . . . ? Activity

    This activity works well as a warm-up for students to practice listening, as well as time skills. I shuffle the 28 cards and pass them out. A student begins reading their card until we have gone all around the room.  

    Click on the image above to print a set of 28 I Have . . . Who Has . . . ? cards for your own classroom. Cut each sheet into four parts and laminate for durability. 


    5. Time Bingo

    I created a Bingo-style game to play with small differentiated groups. It's perfect for parent volunteers too. Depending on ability level of the students playing, I will change the way I say the time as I call off numbers. For example, instead of just saying 6:30, I might say half past six. The time of 8:37 could be read as 23 minutes before 9.

    Click on the image above to download and print a PDF of my bingo game which includes 30 cards, call numbers, and a board to track every time that has been called. 

    If you would like to create your own sheets using the digital font seen on the board above, you can download the free font, Digital 7. 


    6. Real Life Elapsed Time Word Problems

    Of all the things we do in our measurement unit, calculating elapsed time always proves to be the most challenging. In order to practice elapsed time skills in word problems, I create number stories modeled after those in our book, however I use familiar names (including their own) and situations. For example, one problem might be:

    Mrs. Connell is cooking lunch for her third graders. The chicken nuggets will take 37 minutes to cook, cutting the watermelon takes 22 minutes, and it will take her 9 minutes to pour the lemonade. She wants everything finished at 12:20 p.m. What time should she start each item?

    While this may not be a revolutionary idea, it helped a great deal because my students could hardly wait to see the day’s problems to find out who was "starring" in them. They seemed to tackle these types of word problems with more excitement and determination than the ordinary problems they had no connection with.


    7. Scholastic Printables

    Whenever I need a quick sheet in a hurry (think sub plans and warm-ups) Scholastic Printables is the first place I go. A few of my favorite time sheets can be found below. Click on each to download a free printable. 


    8. Timely Books to Use 

    I keep a math-themed basket of books that my students love to peruse through. Additional exposure to time concepts through literature is a big help when trying to reinforce what you are teaching. Click on each book cover below for more information. 


    9. Apps and Websites for Time Practice

    Splash Math 3rd Grade is an interactive workbook with 16 chapters covering math topics found in the Common Core State Standards for third graders. Time and measurement are both reviewed as well as all other areas of math. Splash Math is available in other grade levels as well. Free, with in-app purchases available.

    Mathmateer has 56 different missions students can work their way through to practice telling time, counting money, addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, decimals, geometry and more. $0.99.

    MathTappers: Clockmaster is a game to help children make the connection between hours and minutes and to help them become fluent in both reading and setting time on digital and analog clocks. Free.


    Telling Time: Students match digital time to the time shown on an analog clock in this free, easy-to-use app. Chapters cover math topics found in the CCSS for third graders. Free


    ABCya! Learn to Tell Time!

    Kids practice setting clocks by dragging the hands of a digital clock or clicking the up and down buttons of a digital clock. Leveled by grade.

    Clockworks helps students practice telling time, setting clocks, and calculating elapsed time.

    Matching Game: Telling Time to the Minute

    I do not know much about the Oswego City School District, but I do know they have some of the best simple resources out there for practicing basic skills. Check out their site for easy-to-use activities for all areas of math. 


    10. Blog Posts

    Check out these blog post for great ideas for teaching your students everything they need to know about time.


       "Teaching Elapsed Time: Strategies That Work"

    By Meghan Everette







                "Models, Music, and More on the Concept of Time"

    By Shari Edwards





    I hope you discovered something here this week that you may be able to use in your own classroom. Teaching time skills this year has been particularly challenging for me due to the varying levels of foundational knowledge my students came to me with. I would love to hear what you are doing in your classroom to help teach time skills or any other challenging area of the math curriculum.

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