Teaching Telling the Time – Putting the two hands together

So, you’ve introduced the hour hand and then introduced the minute hand. What next?

Now it’s time to put the two hands together. I have blue for my hour hand, and red for my minute hand, and around the clock I have the numbers 1 to 12 in blue, and the words five to thirty, quarter and half in red to help the children remember which hand goes with which whole number.  This is more for their confidence than a necessity, because we have made sure they are confident with hours and minutes first.

We move both hands round the clock at the same time so that the children can see that in the time it took the hour hand to move from 1 to 2, the minute hand went all the way round the clock.

We looked at the fact that when the hour hand is pointing exactly at a number (o’clock) the minute hand is always pointing at o’clock. When the hour hand is pointing halfway between two numbers (half past), the minute hand is always pointing a half past.

When the hour hand is between o’clock and quarter past, so is the minute hand – and now they know how to count the minutes to find out exactly what time between o’clock and quarter past it is.  The children now begin to realise that they can tell the time to the nearest five minutes. They can look at the hour hand first to work out the time more or less, and then the minute hand to add in the detail.

I’ve taught a few year 6 children to tell the time in this way. They had been mystified by the hands, the fact that the numbers had two values and by the ‘to’ and the ‘past’. More conventional ways of learning to tell the time had not worked for them, and they were feeling stupid that they couldn’t grasp something that their classmates understood.

By splitting the hands up, it took away a lot of their confusion. Suddenly it all made sense to them. Their confidence grew, which then had an impact on their feelings about maths lessons in general. Their teachers noted that they were participating more in class, and this helped them to improve in other areas of maths. And that’s why I really love my job.

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