Teaching Time

This is a picture of a sundial on the southern wall of our new school building. The shadows are much crisper when the sun is out, but I’ve been told when it’s lightly overcast, you can still see a shadow. If you haven’t figured out when this shot was taken, it was at 5pm.

One thing that our math specialist told me she learned about teaching time to kids on an analog clock is to start with the hour hand. At about 5 to 3 today, the sun was shining brightly and I quickly moved my group of second graders outside to take a look and ask them what time it was and how they could tell. It was unanimous: It was almost three o’clock – and time to go home!

Teaching time is tricky. First the day is measured in 24 hours, but on a clock face we divide that by two and use am and pm. Then each hour is divided into 60 minutes and we use the same clock face. We just use different length hands to differentiate. Yet once the kids have internalized it, whether it be a faceless clock, or one with fancy numbers, it will be an important skill. Having said that, I haven’t worn a watch in three years. I reach for my pocket and pull my phone out to tell the time. Still, learning to read a dial and tell time on an analogue clock is an important life skill.

Watching the sand pour through an hourglass or looking at water drip out of a water clock, these experiences are also important for kids to learn about time. I want to hand it to the lower school math specialist and the 1st grade teachers at my school. It seems like more students this year can already tell time. The analog clock in my classroom has no numbers. Kids love challenges.

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