Telling the Time on an Analogue Clock

boy and clockThe main problem parents have when trying to help their children learn to tell the time is understanding the steps involved. Telling the time is taught in a specific order in school, and if a child misses out on one of the steps they will find it difficult to understand subsequent steps. Before attempting to teach your child to tell the time, establish where he/she is on the stepping stones below, then start teaching at the correct step. Always make sure your child is confident with the previous stepping stone before moving onto the next.telling the time stepping stonesYou can view and print this diagram HERE.

This process may need to be taught over a period of days or weeks, depending on the age and ability of the child. I would not recommend completing more than two steps of the process in one session, as there is a lot of new information for your child to take in. However, if your child is eager to learn the whole process in one sitting, then there is no harm in trying. Just ensure that he/she has really absorbed the learning by testing them again later on.

You can print the stepping stone diagram HERE, so your child can colour each step as he/she completes it.

If you are not sure where your child is up to on the stepping stones, then please follow THIS GUIDE.

Please note that this explanation is only about telling the time on a traditional clock – an explanation on how to tell the time on a digital clock can be found HERE.

If you don’t have a clock with moving hands, you can use this online teaching clock.

Click below to go directly to the step you want.

STEP ONE: TEACHING THE O’CLOCK TIMES
STEP TWO: TEACHING HALF PAST
STEP THREE: TEACHING QUARTER PAST
STEP FOUR: TEACHING QUARTER TO
STEP FIVE: TEACHING 5 PAST, 10 PAST, 20 PAST AND 25 PAST
STEP SIX: TEACHING 5 TO, 10 TO, 20 TO AND 25 TO

STEP ONE: TEACHING THE O’CLOCK TIMES

Learning how to read o’clock times is the starting point for telling the time, which your child will learn in Reception and Year One.

Start by showing your child a clock, either a real one or one you have drawn on a piece of paper (or you can print THIS ONE). Or you can use this online teaching clock. If it is a real clock, make sure it does not have Roman numerals as this may confuse your child.

Ask your child to notice that there is a BIG hand and a SMALL hand on every clock.

big hand small hand

Explain that the SMALL hand points to the hour and the BIG hand points to the minutes.

Explain that when the BIG hand is on 12, that it is O’CLOCK, which means the START OF THE HOUR.

Keeping the big hand on the 12, move the small hand around the clock, resting on each number in turn whilst chanting “one o’clock“, “two o’clock“, “three o’clock“, etc. Encourage your child to join in the chanting until you reach twelve o’clock. You may need to repeat this step a few times until your child can chant the whole clock by themselves.

Now move the hour hand so that it is pointing to one of the numbers. Make sure that the big hand is still pointing to the twelve. Ask your child to read the time – e.g. “4 o’clock“. Repeat this for different o’clock times. You can reinforce the learning by saying an o’clock time and asking your child to show you this time on the clock. Make sure your child is confident with this step before moving on to step two.

If you have printed the stepping stone chart, allow your child to colour STEP ONE and congratulate him/her on learning something new.

STEP TWO: TEACHING HALF PAST

Once your child is very confident with reading any o’clock time, they are ready to move on to reading half past times. They will learn to tell the time to the hour and half hour whilst they are in Year One (age 5-6).

Start by showing your child that when the big hand points to the 6, that it is HALF PAST THE HOUR.

Note that when the minute hand points to 6 (half past) that the hour hand is always half way between two numbers. It is important to make your child aware that it is the number that the hand has just gone past that shows you what the hour is.

half past 2

Place the hour hand half way between the 1 and the 2, and the minute hand at the 6 and say “half past one“. Move the hour hand to half way between the 2 and the 3 and say “half past 2“. Ask your child where the hour hand is when it’s half past 2. Make sure they know that it is in between the 2 and the 3.

Go around the clock, showing and saying all the half past times from half past 1 to half past 12. Encourage your child to chant the times with you, then allow them to chant the times on their own as you move the hour hand around the clock. (Make sure you always place the hour hand halfway between two numbers.)

Now move the hour hand so that it is pointing in between two numbers on the clock. Make sure that the minute hand is pointing to the 6. Ask your child to read the time – e.g. “half past four“. Your child will probably need some help remembering that it is the number that the hour hand has just gone past that is the hour. Repeat this for different half past times. You can reinforce the learning by saying a half past time and asking your child to show you this time on the clock. Again, make sure the hour hand is between two numbers, as this is something children often forget about.

Make sure your child is confident with this step before moving on to step three.

If you have printed the stepping stones chart – let your child colour STEP TWO and remember to praise him/her for learning something new.

STEP THREE: TEACHING QUARTER PAST

Children are taught how to read the time to the quarter hour whilst they are in Year Two (age 6-7). They should know about simple fractions by now, so this is a good place to start when teaching quarter past and quarter to.

Draw a circle on a piece of paper – or print out THIS SHEET. Divide the circle into quarters and ask your child to say what the portions are called (ensure they know the term ‘quarter’). Ask your child to colour each quarter of the circle in a different colour.

clock quartersTell your child to pretend the circle is a clock. Say that we are going to write the numbers where the lines are on the clock. Encourage your child to write 12, 3, 6 and 9 in the correct places on the clock.

Remind your child that 12 is the start of a new hour. Ask them where they think the minute hand will be pointing when it is QUARTER PAST.

Show them on a clock (real or drawn), where the minute hand is when it is quarter past (at the 3).

quarter past

Remind them that, when it is half past, the hour hand is half way between two numbers. Where do they think it will be when it is quarter past? (Make sure they realise that the hour hand will be slightly past the hour.)

Go around the clock, showing and saying all the quarter past times from quarter past 1 to quarter past 12. Encourage your child to chant the times with you, then allow them to chant the times on their own as you move the hour hand around the clock. (Make sure you always place it slightly after the hour number.)

Now move the hour hand so that it is pointing slightly past one of the numbers on the clock. Make sure that the minute hand is pointing to the 3. Ask your child to read the time – e.g. “quarter past four“. Repeat this for different quarter past times. You can reinforce the learning by saying a quarter past time and asking your child to show you this time on the clock. Again, make sure your child places the hour hand slightly after the hour number.

Make sure your child is confident with this step before moving on to step four.

If you have printed the stepping stones chart – let your child colour STEP THREE and remember to praise him/her for learning something new.

STEP FOUR: TEACHING QUARTER TO

This is the part of telling the time that many children find difficult. In all the steps so far, we have taught them to say the hour that we are in… with quarter to, we are asking them to say the hour that is coming next. This concept can be very difficult for children to grasp and it is important to bear this in mind whilst teaching this step.

clock quarters

Look at the quarter-clock diagram again that your child coloured in Step Three.

On the diagram, ask them to write ‘o’clock‘ above the 12, ‘quarter past‘ next to the 3 and ‘half past‘ under the 6.

Tell them that when the big hand points to the 9 that it is ‘quarter to‘. Ask them to add this to the diagram.

Explain that quarter to is different to the other times they have learnt so far, because we need to say what hour is coming next. Demonstrate this by showing them quarter to 4 on the clock (remember to put the hour hand just before the 4), and telling them that this shows quarter to 4.

Repeat with other quarter to times, asking your child to tell you what time the clock is showing, reminding them that the minute hand pointing to the 9 means that it is quarter to, and that we need to look at which number the hour hand is ‘nearly at’ to know what hour to say.

Repeat this process until your child is confident with quarter to times.

If you have printed the stepping stones chart – let your child colour STEP FOUR and remember to praise him/her for learning something new.

Before you move on to the next step, it is a good idea to reinforce what your child has learnt so far by testing them on o’clock, half past, quarter past and quarter to times. Test them both by showing them times on a clock and asking them to say the time, and by telling them a time and asking them to show you on the clock.

Make sure all these steps are secure before moving on to the next step.

STEP FIVE: TEACHING 5 PAST, 10 PAST, 20 PAST AND 25 PAST.

Children will learn to tell the time to the nearest 5 minutes when they are in Year Two (age 6-7).

Remind them that the big hand and the small hand do different jobs on a clock. The small hand shows you the hour, and the big hand shows you the minutes. Explain that the numbers you see around the clock are the hours, to know the minutes, we have to multiply the number by five. Ask your child if he can count in 5s. Practise doing this together up to 30 (6×5).

Point around the clock from 1 to 6, chanting “5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30” with your child and explain that this is how many minutes have gone past the hour.

clock with 5 minute intervals - past onlyOn a diagram of a clock (you can print THIS ONE), ask your child to write 5, 10, 20 and 25 in the appropriate places around the edge of the clock. Explain that we don’t say ‘15 past‘ or ‘30 past‘, we say ‘quarter past‘ and ‘half past‘, and that we don’t need to learn those ones because your child already knows them.

Once your child has completed their clock diagram (right side of the clock only in this step), show them some 5 past, 10 past, 20 past or 25 past times on a clock. They can use their diagram to refer to at first, but once they have gained some confidence, try to encourage them to say the times without looking at the diagram. Ask them questions like “What number will the big hand be pointing to when it is 25 past 3?”

Repeat this process until your child is confident with telling 5 past, 10 past, 20 past and 25 past times.

If you have printed the stepping stones chart – let your child colour STEP FIVE and remember to praise him/her for learning something new.

STEP SIX: TEACHING 5 TO, 10 TO, 20 TO AND 25 TO

This is the final step in learning to tell the time in the real-world sense. In Year 3, pupils are taught to read the time to the nearest minute – this is so they can translate analogue clock times to digital times and vice versa, and we cover that topic HERE. However, in real life, we don’t say “It’s 17 minutes past 3,” when looking at an analogue clock – we tend to round to the nearest 5 minutes. So when your child has mastered this step, I think we can say he or she can tell the time! Good luck – you’re nearly there!

to and past

Explain to your child that everything on the right side of the clock is PAST and everything on the left side is TO. You can show them this picture if you like:

 

Explain that the clock is like a mirror – where it is 5 past on one side of the clock, it is 5 to on the opposite side. With this in mind, ask your child to complete the TO side of the clock (you can print the clock diagram again HERE). Make sure they have placed 25 to, 20 to, 10 to and 5 to in the correct places before moving on.clock with 5 minute intervals written around

Go around the clock your child has drawn, pointing to and saying “5 past, 10 past, quarter past, 20 past, 25 past, half past, 25 to, 20 to, quarter to, 10 to, 5 to, o’clock“.

Repeat this on a clock which has the numbers 1 to 12. Chant first with your child, then let them chant on their own.

Next, point to a number on the clock and ask the child to say “5 past”, “20 to”, etc. Make sure they know what every number stands for when the minute hand points to it, especially the ones they have just learnt (5 to, 10 to, 20 to and 25 to).

Remind them that when it is a ‘to‘ time, that we say the hour that is coming up, not the one the hour hand has just gone past. Practise saying some ‘to‘ times with your child whilst showing them on a clock. Remember to place the hour hand appropriately (near to the hour that is coming up).

Finally, ask your child to read the times on the clock alone. You can reinforce the learning by asking your child to arrange the hands for times that you say.

If you have printed the stepping stones chart – let your child colour STEP SIX.

That’s it! Your child should now be pretty confident in telling the time on an analogue clock. FANTASTIC!

great job image

To help them further, it might be worthwhile teaching your child how to read the time on a clock which has Roman numerals. This is now actually part of the Year 3 curriculum. You can learn how to teach this HERE.

To practise the skills learnt on this page, your child can play this online game: BANG ON TIME

Where next? Once your child can tell the time on an analogue clock, they are ready to start translating analogue time to digital time. They can learn how to do this HERE. They will also be expected to work out time intervals, such as what time a TV programme will finish if it is half an hour long and starts at a certain time. They can learn how to do this HERE.