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Time Flies: Teaching the Quarter Hour

Teaching your students to tell time is a standard in many grades, from second to fourth, but they will use this skill for the rest of their life. While learning to tell the time in half hours is relatively easy for students, the elusive quarter-hour is tricky. Here is a lesson that can help you in teaching the quarter-hour.

Lesson Objective

Teach students to tell the time in quarter hours on digital or analog clocks and record them in words. Other lesson objectives include students being able to:

  • Identify and explain the difference between the hour and minute hands of an analog clock.
  • Explain the connection or difference between telling the time in quarter hours on an analog or digital clock.
  • Identify the time in quarter hours as indicated on a digital or analog clock.
  • Position the hour and minute hands of an analog clock to tell the time in quarter hours.
  • Accurately write down the time in quarter hours as shown on a digital or analog clock.
  • Explain the most common mistakes one can make when telling time in quarter hours.

Lesson Prerequisites

Before this lesson, students should already be familiar with:

  • Using a digital and analog clock
  • Identifying and writing down the time using a half-hour measurement


  • Whiteboard and pen
  • Large movable model of analog clock
  • Smaller models of analog clocks
  • Digital clock

Main Lesson

While we have outlined a simple and introductory lesson for teaching a quarter-hour, there are many online activities and worksheets to include as homework or additional classwork for your students. 

Lesson Introduction

Ask and teach the students the importance of time telling skills.

Briefly discuss previous lessons on learning about a one-hour and half-hour variable.

Ask the students, "What is a quarter-hour?" 

Ask the follow-up, "Why do 15 minutes translate to a quarter when telling time in a quarter-hour?"

Lesson Demonstration

Build upon your student's answers by demonstrating what a quarter-hour is and explaining why it is essential to learn how to tell the time in a quarter-hour.

Give an example of a time in a quarter-hour (Say, "4:15"), then position the time on a model of an analog clock. Provide a few more examples for students to see (Say, "7:45" and "6:15" as you move the hour and minute had to represent the correct time.)

Lesson Activity

Next, you will give your students a time, and they have to either write down their answers on a whiteboard and show you, or if each student has a small analog clock, they will change the hand positions to showcase the correct time and show you their answer.

Position the hour hand on 12 and the minute hand on 3 and ask the students what time it is in a quarter-hour. Let the students answer. Correct the wrong students by stating what time it is in the quarter hour; 12:15. Practice until students have a grasp on identifying the correct quarter-hour.

If you have older students or feel like your students have mastered simply identifying the quarter-hour, you can introduce common phrases like, "What is a quarter past 7?" or "What is a quarter to 9?"

Lesson Wrap up

Explain that determining the quarter-hour is similar when using a digital clock. Many students already know how to read and use a digital clock; the tricky part is identifying phrases like "What is a quarter past X?" or "What is a quarter to X?"

As you conclude your lesson, ask, "What have you learned about telling time in a quarter-hour?"


To ensure your students have learned the correct way to tell time using the quarter-hour, you can use the following standards:

  • Students can explain the importance of telling time in quarter-hour.
  • Students can position the hour and minute hands of an analog clock to tell time by the quarter-hour.
  • Students can accurately write time in quarter-hour after looking at the clock.
  • Students get most of the answers to your questions about telling time in quarter hours correct.
  • Students can verbalize or write the correct time when told, "It's a quarter past X" and "It's a quarter to X?

Wrapping Up

Many adults still struggle with telling time on an analog clock, and when you throw quarter-hours in the mix, it can get even messier. Help your students nail down time telling by teaching them how to read the quarter-hour.

Written by Steve Ndar
Education World Contributor
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