How To Tell Time

Written by Sierra Rein
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One of the biggest responsibilities given to teachers and parents is to teach children how to tell time. After all, the modern social ramifications of keeping time are immense when you consider how often things are referred to by their relationship to the clock. In the past, time was more of a general concept rather than an exact science; today, growing children must be able to recognize the many functions, movements and mathematic aspects of a clock.

The first lesson a child must learn is how to instantly recognize and name the parts of the clock, from the hands (second, minute and hour) to the distinct markers on the clock face (second/minute spaces and the 12 large hour numbers). It is easier to start with the minute hand and teach the young child how an hour is reached when this hand moves around the face one time. The next lesson should tackle how the hour hand moves to the next number whenever a full rotation of the minute hand takes place. Because it functions as a more detailed concept, an understanding of the second hand can come in last.

Future lessons can include the concepts behind quarter, half and three-quarter hour marks, and how a 24-hour day is divided into two 12-hour sections called "a.m." and "p.m." Teaching the child how to count the minutes in groups of five can also be particularly effective. Older children should know how to translate any time expressed in a 12-hour mode (for example, 4:45 p.m.) to military or 24-hour mode (which would be 16:45 in this case) and learn how to add and subtract hours and minutes from example times using the fact that units of time are expressed using the 60 minute/second mathematical base of counting.

Tools to Help Children Learn How to Tell Time

Parents and teachers often employ visual aids and activities to enhance the time-telling learning process. Students who are in pre-school or first and second grades are usually given toy clocks or functional wristwatches with colorful hands and numbers to train them on what a clock looks like and to offer them a hands-on approach on how to tell time. Children in higher grades can be given workbooks with fill-in-the-blank questions, or can create flash cards in class (under the teacher's supervision) to take home and be used to quiz themselves for future tests. Of course, the most effective teaching tools are the ones that make time-telling lessons a fun and adventurous journey through the hours and minutes of the day.

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