lockdown learning to tell the time

What was the most useful thing your kids have learned during lockdown?

A blog by Ruth Eagle, parent and former teacher.

If your experience has been anything like ours, home schooling our seven-year-old daughter during lockdown has consisted of snatched bursts of time in which to run quickly through the work that’s been set by school. And nowhere close to all the work that’s been set. Just a tiny scratch of the surface.

lockdown learning to tell the time

It hasn’t quite been the structured, focussed-yet-fun and harmonious ideal most of us hoped for when schools closed on 20th March.

But there are a few things I’m really pleased to say she’s mastered without being directed to by her class teacher. 

She’s now a blur on two wheels since she graduated to a bigger bike when all this began.  

By following an online program, she’s almost as quick as me at touch typing. 

But most useful of all, is that she’s now able to tell the time.

learning to tell the time in lockdown

As an ex-primary teacher, I know how difficult it is for kids to learn to tell the time.  It’s a process that starts in year one and continues well into key stage two.  At the start of lockdown, I put it at the top of my list of things we could try tackling together.

Trawling the internet for suitable resources, I found the printable teaching clock from EasyRead Time Teacher.  After printing and cutting out the clock face and moveable hands, then sticking them on card, we were ready to go.  

What I like about this clock is the extra information it gives.  As well as the hour numbers, it shows the minute numbers around the edge, the past and to sides, as well as o’clock, half past, quarter past and to.

learning during lockdown

Most clocks, like the ones used in schools, show the hour numbers and divisions every five minutes. It’s complicated for children to count in fives, then ones, to work out how many minutes past or to it is. They get the two sides of the clock muddled up. They get the hands muddled up. Then they’re just getting it before it’s time to move on and start a new maths unit. So it’s back to square one months later, when time’s back on the timetable again.

I was intrigued by ERTT’s ‘3 steps to telling the time’, which was printed on the same sheet as the clock.  The company claim that children can learn to tell the time in one lesson by following the steps. I was sceptical, but tried them out on my daughter nevertheless.  They go like this:

  1. Read the number at the end of the minute hand
  2. See which side the minute hand is on: past or to
  3. Read the number at the end of the short hand and put them altogether.

To our mutual amazement, she read the time straight away.  

We tried another one and it was just as easy. There was a moment of silence as I tried to work out whether it should be that easy while she looked shocked that she’d found such a simple short cut.

We moved the hands to a few more positions and repeated the three steps, sure to find a glitch at some point. But a glitch was not forthcoming. It’s a fool-proof method and I still can’t work out why more schools haven’t adopted it yet.  

My daughter was fizzing with a sense of achievement as she ran off, brandishing her clock, to show her Dad.   

We’ve stuck the clock on the fridge and refer to it all the time.  I make times on the clock for her to read or shout out times that she has to make by moving the hands. She likes copying the time from our kitchen clock and making it on her printed one. 

Talking about quarters and halves came up naturally and I could see that she was gradually building up her understanding of how clocks work. 

There were a few joyful light bulb moments. One of which was working out on her own that once the minute hand reaches 30, the minutes start counting backwards as the hand moves towards o’clock again.

I know that self-initiated discoveries like this lead to much ‘deeper’ learning than those prompted by a teacher.  I’m glad she’s got to grips with time in her own way and at her own pace. 

Our daughter is now the proud owner of a real ERTT clock, prominently displayed on her bedroom wall. She knows what time she’s going to bed and what time she wakes up.  She and her little brother do timed 1-minute challenges – possible only because, unlike many kids’ clocks, this one has a hand that shows the seconds.

But I’m sure most parents would agree there are downsides to children knowing how to tell the time.  Parents hold more cards when their little ones are oblivious to the time. Fancy getting the kids to bed earlier than usual? Forget about it.  Saying you’ll play schools in five minutes, but it’ll actually be 20? That won’t wash either.

But on balance, the confidence and sense of control that comes from understanding time is worth losing a little downtime for.  And if I really need it? Well the hands can be adjusted…




Home schooling teaching time

Home Schooling? Try Tackling Time Teaching

Helping children master telling the time is a brilliant thing parents can do during the long days at home.

Home schooling teaching time

If you’re not a teacher, knowing what to teach your children during home schooling can be baffling. There’s no better time to focus on an important life skill: telling the time.

With schools closed worldwide, parents find themselves thrust into the role of teacher—a role most feel poorly-equipped to inhabit. Most primary schools are advising parents to have fun with their children, try some of the ideas they suggest, but without expecting them to stick to a rigid schedule, make learning fun for everyone.  At a time when we’re all struggling to get used to our new normal, parents need learning activities they can understand and feel confident sharing with their children.

Knowing how to tell the time is an important skill that not all children master by the time they leave primary school. In fact, one fifth of young adults struggle to tell the time on an analogue clock, relying on digital devices instead.  But it’s no wonder. Teaching time to a class of thirty children with varying needs, strengths and attention spans is complex, and inevitably, curriculum pressures mean it’s time to move on before all children are secure. Most teachers would agree that if they could sit one to one with each child and teach at a pace that suits them, the journey to understanding analogue time would be easier, quicker and far more enjoyable for both student and teacher. Now seems like the perfect opportunity for parents to smooth their children’s time-telling journey.

Here at EasyRead time teacher (ERTT) we have developed a range of clock faces that make telling the time easier for children than using traditional clock faces.  Alongside easy-to-read hour numbers, our clocks feature numbers for minutes past and to, as well as clearly-marked halves and quarters.  This extra information means children have fewer hurdles to overcome to be successful time-readers. For parents, who may not have taught time before, having a clock that makes explaining analogue time easier is welcome.

ERTT’s three-step method makes things even easier: read the number at the end of the long hand, check whether it falls on the minutes past or to side, read the number at the end of the short hand. Job done. It’s not how time is traditionally taught but removing some of the obstacles means children get to the good bit faster and can build up their concepts from a position of accomplishment.

home schooling colouring clock

We are sharing some free resources for parents and children to use while schools are closed. Our clock face pdf can be printed out, stuck on card and sticky-tacked to a wall. Referring to the clock little and often will give children a regular learning experience that will help build competence and confidence. We are also sharing ideas on our social media channels for how parents can use their clock to boost their children’s time-telling skills. Every little helps and we hope this will be just what parents need with all this ‘time on their hands’!