Key Stage One
Year 1 and 2
Telling the Time
Telling the time for children is something they find particularly difficult. For the most part this arises from the need to concentrate on two sets of different ideas at the same time. Put simply, when you’re a child, learning to tell the time puts a real strain on your working memory.
This page will advise you how to teach telling the time to your child.
N.B. This focuses on teaching telling the time using analogue clocks. Reading digital time is part of the National Curriculum but is introduced later on in Key Stage 2 (Year 4). Digital clocks have also become considerably more commonplace in recent years, so children will likely already have had some exposure to them whereas analogue clocks will be unfamiliar.
Teaching the Time in Year 1 - National Curriculum teaching points
Teaching the Time in Year 2 - National Curriculum teaching points
If children get stuck, back track and consolidate the previous step. Some children may find the minutes to the hour a step too far for now. In which case, leave it and let them become really proficient in telling the time in terms of minutes past the hour. Come back to that later on.
In the interim, practise telling the time every day (using minutes to the hour) so that this becomes something children can do easily and automatically.
As you teach this, you will see that having broken it down into tiny steps shows just how complex telling the time actually is. It is a topic where we expect children to coordinate lots of different things simultaneously, which quickly overwhelms the working memory.
However, if we give children plenty of time to practise each component aspect separately, this step will become stored in the long term memory as a ‘chunk’.
In the same way we no longer consciously sound out every letter when we read but can just ‘see’ what a word says, given sufficient practice, children will be able to just’ read’ a clock or watch.
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