Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Adventures in Teaching Time!

This past week I was excited to work with real kids again! I served as a math tutor for 3 days and worked with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students on measurement. I have to admit being apprehensive about teaching 3rd graders to tell time - I've never taught any grade below 4th grade and I've never had to introduce the basics of telling time. Even though these students should have learned to tell time long before 3rd grade, I knew that this topic had not been covered at all this year and it was going to prove to be an adventure!

Luckily I discovered a set of student clocks in the classroom, and they were a huge help with making my lessons both hands-on and interactive. I also discovered a simple yet exciting interactive game called Stop the Clock that the children LOVED playing on the Smartboard! The game involves matching digital clocks with analog clock faces, but the exciting part is that the game is timed. Students tap the "Stop the Clock" icon at the bottom of the board when they finish matching the clock faces. Their playing time is displayed if they are correct, and if they are not correct, they receive a prompt to try again. Since I was teaching a small group, each student had a chance to come to the Smartboard and try to beat the best time. One thing I love about Stop the Clock is that there are several variations of increasing difficulty, from telling time to the half hour to telling time to the minute. I have provided links to all those levels on my Time and Measurement page on Teaching Resources. If you haven't played the game, I suggest doing so before you read on because playing the game will help you to understand my variation described below.

Stop the Clock Variation to Increase Engagement
When played in the traditional way, Stop the Clock is fun, but it concerned me that most of the kids were watching while one student was at the board. I ended up adapting the game so that they could ALL be engaged each time a new set of clocks was displayed. What I did was to use the Smartboard pen to number the analog clocks from 1 to 5 as soon as the game started. Writing on the Smartboard immediately froze the time, and the clock stopped ticking. Students numbered their dry erase boards from 1 to 5 and recorded the digital times for each clock next to its corresponding number. Stopping the clock during the game took away the pressure of having to beat the clock, and it gave all students a chance to become engaged in the practice session. When everyone had a chance to write the times on their dry erase boards, I selected one student to come to the board and match the digital and analog clock faces. When we touched the board and cleared the ink layer, the clock started counting up again. It was great to be able to look at the student work on the individual dry erase boards, too. I could immediately tell which students needed more help.

Elapsed Time
My only regret for the week was that we were not able to use my newest game, Racing Through Elapsed Time. This game has word problems with elapsed time, and it's lots of fun and a great way to practice that skill. But I only had two 50-minute class periods to teach the students how to tell time, and these children were ones who had been struggling in their regular classrooms. Wisely, I decided to spend more time building a firm foundation with learning how to read an analog clock instead of moving on to something that would have confused them. Hopefully their teachers will work on this skill later in the year.

What was my biggest ah-ha moment about teaching time? It seems silly, but I remember the moment when I realized why my students were having trouble telling time to the nearest 5 minutes. In order to do that, you need to know your 5 times tables! If the minute hand is pointing to the 8, you need to know that 5 x 8 is 40 without having to count on your fingers. I expected that students at the end of 3rd grade would know their 5's fluently - my mistake! So we stopped and did some times table drills just on the 5's and they did much better. It's just one more example of how lack of fluency with times tables can negatively impact other areas in math - and why I wrote Mastering Math Facts! I know 3rd grade teachers are probably giggling about my ah-ha moment because they've been through this experience time and again, but I just had to share! :-)

So I survived my adventures teaching 3rd graders how to tell time! What are your best tips for teaching kids to tell time? Visit my Time and Measurement page on Teaching Resources for more freebies on this topic!

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