Clock Work

Kinney Brothers Publishing Clock WorkYuki had a green paper watch wrapped around his wrist with the hands of the clock permanently drawn to 3:00.  I asked him what time it was.  “Oyatsu no jikan!” (Snack time!) he replied.  “Oh!” I said.  “That’s something to look forward to!”

Yuki couldn’t read a clock yet, but at four years old, his teachers were introducing the concept of analog clocks in a fun way and anchored in a daily event that was important to him.

Those little paper watches are super easy to make and kids really like them.  Download a free set of templates by clicking on the image below.  Teachers also use these watches for sight word and CVC word practice!

Watch Templates Kinney Brothers Publishing

How and when to begin…

I begin teaching my kids clocks when they start learning in their own language.  Because my classes are only once a week for 50 minutes, I regularly teach a little bit about clocks over a very long period of time.  Starting with paper watches, I plan ahead by planting seeds for future practice.

For young English language learners, reading, writing, and speaking the time is a convergence of several different concepts and skill sets.  Numbers alone can be used to teach most of the language skills necessary for reading digital clocks and speaking the time.  Once kids have learned CVC words like six and tensight words like onetwo and it’s, and CVCe, or long ‘e’ words, like five and nine, reading time as text can begin. As for the concept of reading an analog clock, you can give that up to the culture at large and simply ride closely on its coattails.  As your kids learn to tell time at home and at school, be there to support their efforts and begin introducing easy, parallel English lessons.

FYI – In Japan, being able to hear the spoken hourly time and read digital time is part of the first (Bronze) level of the aural  Jidou Eiken tests for young English language students.  Click the link to learn more and download sample tests.  It’s worth investigating, if only to learn about the vocabulary required to pass the three-level tests.

Getting ready…

Practicing time can begin very early on.  I prefer flash cards to plastic clocks with hands that can be manipulated, simply because they don’t break and they aren’t perceived as a toy that older kids may object to.  With a good set of clock flash cards, there are numerous games you can play that will make repetition more enjoyable.

Here are a few fun ideas to try in class:

  • Make sure that clock is part of your primary classroom vocabulary flashcards.
  • Place a clock image of the time your class will end on a classroom board.  Kids will become super clock-watchers.
  • Set a time for a simple event to happen – like dropping your pencil or clapping your hands.  Be sure you’re distracted when the time comes and be surprised when it happens.
  • Hand out hour flash cards and have students play a simple I Have/Who Has activity.  “I have 1:00.  Who has 2:00?”
  • Hand out hour flash cards and have students line up in order of the hours.
  • Tack hour cards around the room (add half hours, quarter hours, etc. as your lessons progress) and have students individually go to the time directed.
  • Hand students a stack of clock flash cards and have them sort the cards into time order.
  • Write digital times on the board and have students match the time with analog flash cards.
  • Once kids start learning to read time as text, write times on the board and have students match the times with analog cards.  Setting this up as a relay brings a competitive and fast-paced edge to an otherwise simple exercise.

Remember, clock exercises are another opportunity to review the challenging numbers eleven and twelve, and later on 20, 30, 40, and 50If you need a good set of number flash cards, you can download them here for free.  If you’re in need of a refresh on your flash card activities, download 41 Flash Card Activities for ideas to get you going.

Diving in…

Once students are comfortable with reading simple hours, it’s time to begin doing worksheets.  Tack completed worksheets into interactive notebooks so they can be reviewed later.  Over time, these worksheets will become an invaluable and easy-to-access reference for future lessons where time is practiced.

If you’re looking for worksheets, here are the first ‘hour’ exercises from my textbook, Clock Work.  Download and try them out in class.  They’re free and I think you’ll like how the worksheets are differentiated.  Click on the image above to visit my web site and learn more about the textbook.

After lots of hour practice, adding half hours is the easy next lesson.  From this point, understanding and retention should begin to happen faster.  Then, it’s step by step, reviewing and practicing numbers in quarters, tens, and fives for times like 9:30, 3:15, 10:40, and 8:55.  To repeat, if you see your kids only once a week, plan on teaching a little over a long period of time and don’t forget to review.  It will add up!

Clock games…

I’d love to hear the approach and activities you use when teaching time to younger students.  I have a lineup of games I like to use, like Clock Bingo, Clock I Have Who Has, 4 in a Row, and clock game boards.  Clock flash cards, and differentiated worksheets provide repetitive practice and handy visuals for explaining time concepts.

Over the years I’ve learned that teaching students how to tell time in English is not a one-off lesson.  From the early skill of reading an analog clock, then reading and expressing time in text, to understanding the language variances of telling time in English, a little at a time goes a long way.  Make sure students are solid in the early lessons and you’ll have fewer problems building their language skills later on.

If you’d like to download a free Clock Bingo game and be kept up to date with Kinney Brothers Publishing, click on the image below and you’ll be playing in a jiffy!  Options for playing include draw cards for simple digital reading of the clocks, cards for using ‘to’ and ‘past,’ plus cards for ‘quarter.’


As always, best of luck in your classes!

Donald Kinney

Kinney Brothers Publishing

Top 10 Education TED Talks

I hope that, like me, you’ve been watching TED presentations for a lot of years.  In case you missed any one of the gems in this awesome lineup of videos, I’m recommending these as my top ten in the field of education – in no particular order.

I’ll provide TED’s brief overview and the length in minutes for each video.  If you aren’t familiar with TED videos, follow this link and start binging!  Enjoy!

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.  Running time: 19:22

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?  Running time:  20:48

Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a roller coaster!  Running time: 4:02

Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.  Running time:  19:37

Educating the poor is more than just a numbers game, says Shukla Bose. She tells the story of her groundbreaking Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which brings hope to India’s slums by looking past the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.  Running time:  16:17

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.  Running time: 10:21

Gutsy girls skateboard, climb trees, clamber around, fall down, scrape their knees, get right back up — and grow up to be brave women. Learn how to spark a little productive risk-taking and raise confident girls with stories and advice from firefighter, paraglider and all-around adventurer Caroline Paul.  Running time:  12:42

Comic books and graphic novels belong in every teacher’s toolkit, says cartoonist and educator Gene Luen Yang. Set against the backdrop of his own witty, colorful drawings, Yang explores the history of comics in American education — and reveals some unexpected insights about their potential for helping kids learn.  Running time:  10:37

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.  Running time: 17:07

In this short talk from TED U, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification — and how it can predict future success. With priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow.  Running time: 5:55