Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Adventures in Teaching Time!

Technology + Active Engagement = Learning!

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 free 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.

Where to Find Stop the Clock
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. Click here to find all of the levels listed at the bottom of 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. However, 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.

Here's how I modified the activity:
  1. I gave each student a dry erase board and a marker so that they could all participate in the game.
  2. As soon as the game started, I picked up the Smartboard pen which stopped the clock and froze the game. I used the pen to to write a number from 1 to 5 next to each analog clock as shown in the illustration above.
  3. Students numbered their individual dry erase boards from 1 to 5 and recorded the digital time 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. 
  4. 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. Touching the Smartboard cleared the ink layer and the time started counting up again. 
  5. Finally, I checked all what all students had on their dry erase boards. I could immediately tell which students needed more help.
Math Games for Telling Time and Elapsed Time

My only regret for the week was that we were not able to use my two math games, Racing Through Elapsed Time and Monster Math Mix-up Telling Time. The games include clock task cards and word problems with elapsed time. They're lots of fun and a great way to practice telling time and elapsed time. 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.

I opted 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. These two games make great math centers to review the skills throughout 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!


  1. Hi Laura,
    This sounds like fun. I like your idea. Using little whiteboards would get everyone in the group involved. There's a couple of problems here though. You did not post a link to the website that has this Stop the Clock game. I've found 2 possibilities. One site has this game, but it's just for big kids. I wouldn't be able to use it with first grade. The other is a site selling a CD.
    If you've found a site that offers this game at various levels, could you please post the link.

    1. Hi! I actually did provide that information in the post because I wrote that there are many levels and they are listed on my Time and Measurement page. I don't have a link to a main page with all of the levels. However, that information was kind of buried in my post, so I edited it to make this information easier to find. Here's a link to where you will find all of those levels: Teaching Resources Time and Measurement Page.

  2. We use Stop the Clock as a great time filler. I only have 10 kids in my classes, so they make a line at the smartboard and then compete to see who can Stop the Clock the quickest. They are engaged, because they can't wait for their turn! When a child is slow or stuck, they help her so that she can be done and they get their turn faster! (BTW- I never have the site name; I just google Stop the Clock 4 for my 5th graders.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...