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Telling Time

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  • Mathematics: Arithmetic


K-2, 3-5

Brief Description

This fun activity involves students in learning how to tell time.


Students will

  • identify the placement of numerals and hands on an analog clock;
  • experience in a physical way the values of the intervals of minutes and hours;
  • learn the meanings of expressions such as half past, quarter past, and quarter of (to, till).


clock, time, minute, hour, analog, telling time

Materials Needed

  • heavy-duty electrical extension cord, 20 feet or more in length
  • 3 x 5-inch index cards or larger
  • heavy black marker

Lesson Plan

  • Ask students whether there is more than one kind of clock. Help them to identify the two types of clocks -- analog and digital. Show examples of both. Then tell the students they will be making an analog clock.
  • Take the class outside. Find a large, open area. Plug the male and female ends of a large electrical cord together to form a circle. Have students hold the cord and spread out to form a large circle. Then have them lay the cord down and sit around the outside of the circle.
  • Introduce the index cards that are labeled with the numerals 1 to 12 (one digit on each card). Demonstrate the placement of the 12, 6, 3, and 9 on the "clock face" by placing them one at a time in the correct position for a clock.
  • With only those four numerals in place, have the students discuss what we call the minutes when the minute hand is on each of those numerals. Define the 12 as "o'clock." Share the fact that 6 is half past the hour; point out how this is half of the clock face. Do the same with the 9 and the 3 indicating the names quarter past and quarter till (to, of) the hour.
  • Introduce the hands on the clock. One at a time, have several students experience the o'clock position by laying with their heels on the center of the clock face and pointing with their arms over their heads to the numeral 12. (You might put a large dot on an index card and place it in the center to designate that position.)
  • Next place the remaining index cards in place between the 12, 3, 6, and 9. Discuss how the hour hand uses the numerals 1 through 12 and that 12 is the largest numeral used to name an hour. Walk around the clock stepping on the numerals and name each hour.
  • Demonstrate that, when written, the word minute is longer that the word hour. Use this as an extra reminder of which hand is the long hand and which is the short hand.
  • Talk about how the minute hand moves more quickly around the clock and that there are 60 minutes in an hour. Take very small steps between numerals, ending up on the 1 (five minutes), 2 (ten minutes), and so on, as the children count out loud. Remind the children that when they get to 60 it is called o'clock; the largest number of minutes is 59.
  • Next choose two students, one taller than the other. Ask students to determine, by height, which student should be the minute hand and which should be the hour hand. Then have those two students lay with their heels on the center dot and their arms pointing directly to numerals you specify on the clock. Help students to first name the hour and then the minutes that are being indicated by the students.
  • Continue in this same manner choosing one student and letting that student choose another student to be the clock hands. (Have the rest of the children decide, based on the height of the students, which student in each pair should be the hour hand and which should be the minute hand.) This exercise can be repeated using only half hours, quarter hours, and time to the minute, by having the children place themselves in the correct positions.
  • At the end of the lesson, have students review orally the information learned about the numeral placement, the hands, and telling time on an analog clock.


Provide students with a work sheet that has on it a clock face without numerals. Have them write the numerals in the correct place on the clock, beginning with the 12, 6, 3, and 9, then filling in the numerals in between. Another follow-up to this activity might include a work sheet with clock faces but no hands. Students would place the hands in the proper position for each time read aloud by the teacher.

Submitted By

Peggy Goodwin, Sandusky Elementary, Lynchburg, Virginia

Originally published 03/01/2002
Updated 06/16/2008

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