Lesson Ideas for Teaching Time to First Graders

Lesson Ideas for Teaching Time to First Graders
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Tick Tock Goes the Clock, But What Does it Say?

Depending on where you teach you may not have a choice of when to teach a time unit, but if you do, I’ve always found it’s easier to teach first graders in the spring. By this time of the year most of them are ready to learn to tell time and you’ll have fewer difficulties teaching them. Of course you can teach a telling time unit anytime during the year, it just may take longer for your students to catch on.

Telling time is a concept that can be introduced early in the year before you are ready to actually teach a telling time unit. An easy way to familiarize your first graders with telling time early in the year is to make a schedule of your day. Use a pocket chart and write the time on index cards and the events of the day on sentence strips. Use a blank clock stamp to make the time on a clock next to the written time.

Look at the schedule each day during your calendar time and point out a few things that students will do that day. “Oh we have music today at 10:00 and then we have a special science program at 1:00.” You might tell them how to know when it’s time for an event. “So we’ll have to watch the clock and when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the ten, it will be 10:00 - time for music.” Throughout the day make a point of looking at the clock and saying the time.

This is a great way to get your students thinking about telling time.

Clock Surveys

A clock survey is another fun way to introduce the concept.

  1. When you begin to teach telling time, have your class brainstorm a list of places where they might see a clock. Then show them the two kinds of clocks - analog and digital.
  2. Take a walk around the school looking for clocks and keep track of how many and what kind you find. Be sure to check computers, VCRs, DVD players and other appliances.
  3. For homework have students find all of the clocks in their houses and count how many are in each of three categories - analog, digital and clocks that are part of appliances, like the microwave, stove or computer.
  4. The following day let them share their results and talk about them. Who had the most clocks; the fewest? Which clocks did they have the most of in their houses? Then have each student make a bar graph to show how many of each type of clock he found in his house.
  5. After you have introduced clocks to your students you can also show them how to make their own clocks to use later on in the time unit (see the series at the end of this article for the rest of the lessons in the unit).

There are a number of great books to help you teach your students to tell time. Note - These books are generally available at any bookseller. The links provided are to Amazon.

Telling Time: How to Tell Time on Digital and Analog Clocks! by Jules Older, ISBN-13: 978-0881063974

This is a great book for students who are learning to tell. It explains to readers how to tell time on both digital and analog clocks giving encouragement and practice along the way.

Telling Time with Big Mama Cat by Dan Harper, ISBN-13: 978-0152017385

A cat who can tell time? First graders will enjoy this cute story about a cat who tells time to keep up with the things she needs to do each day, like napping, eating and stretching. It has a clock with movable hands so you can change the time as you read.

Clocks and More Clocks by Pat Hutchins, ISBN-13: 978-0689717697

This book is about a man who can’t figure out why all of the clocks in house have different times. Challenge your first graders to solve the problem before he does.

It’s About Time! (MathStart 1) By Stuart J. Murphy, ISBN-13: 978-0060557690

This is another great addition to the MathStart series of books. It focuses on time to the hour and a daily schedule of events. It is another good introduction to telling time.

These books and ideas will give your students a great start on learning to tell time.

More time lessons can be found below.


This post is part of the series: Time: First Grade Math Lessons and Activities

Find lesson plans, activities and games to help teach first graders how to tell time.

  1. Ideas for Teaching First Graders About Telling Time
  2. Telling Time Lesson Plans: Using Eric Carle’s “The Grouchy Ladybug”
  3. Telling Time: First Grade Math Activities