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Tips for Introducing Telling Time in the Primary Grades

In the primary classroom, we teach lots of skills and concepts that our students will use for the rest of their lives.  Learning to tell time is just one of them.  Some math concepts are fairly straightforward, but telling time is not one of them.  Here's a few tips for introducing the concept of telling time in the primary classroom.


1. Get to Know the Clock

Before you jump right into the concept of telling time, introduce your students to the clock.  I'm a believer in teaching kids related vocabulary right from the start.  When you teach about time here's some of the key vocabulary that students should know:
  • clock face
  • hour hand
  • minute hand
  • analog
  • digital
One of my favorite ways to do this is with hands-on activities.  Students can build their own clock using a paper plate or work with practice clocks like these:


As students interact with the clock have them identify different parts and naming them using the vocabulary.  

2. Introducing Time to the Hour

Telling time to the hour is the best place to start when students learn to tell time. This is important because being able to identify the hour is necessary in other telling time skills.  While the traditional approach is to teach that when the minute hands points to the 12 we say "o'clock" I'd urge you to broaden that.  When we teach our students a hard and fast rule like this, we are setting them up for misunderstandings. 

Add a little science in with math and teach about how an analog clock works.  Learn about gears and how they move the hands.  As students understand the gears they will learn that because of the gears, the clock hands can't just jump from one number to the next.  Using this we can teach students that the hour actually happens when the hour hand is on the number or in the space after the number.  

A great visual for teaching this concept is this amazing clock that uses color to show each hour zone.


Give students lots of hands-on practice with time to the hour.  Students should be able to look at the clock and tell the time, but they also need to be able to create the time on the clock. 

It's also important to introduce students to telling time to the our on a digital clock.  This way students are exposed to the different forms of time to the hour that they will see in real life.

3. Time to the Half Hour and Beyond

Once students have a good understanding of telling time to the hour, then it's time to move on to time to the half hour.  Students will be able to use their knowledge and understanding of the "hour zone" and apply it to telling time at all levels.  


The general order of teaching is:

  1. Telling Time to the Hour
  2. Telling Time to the Half Hour
  3. Telling Time to the Quarter Hour / 15 minutes
  4. Telling Time to the Minute

While you might not go through all of these in the primary classroom, you will be laying the foundation for the years to come.  What's most important is that students understand the concepts so that they can apply and build on their understanding as they move to subsequent levels.

No Prep Resources

In addition to all of the hands-on practice, it's important that students just have opportunities to practice telling time.  Here are some no prep resources that can be used as you teach time to the hour and the half hour.


You can find these telling time resources in print and digital format in this Telling Time and Counting Money pack.  Practice these two important life skills with this single resource.  You can also find out how I teach counting coins in the blog post.



Save these Tips for Telling Time

Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back for these tips and ideas on teaching time in the primary classroom.


Number of the Day Digital Fun

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, then you probably know I am a big fan of using Number of the Day in the classroom.  With the increase in the number of classrooms using 1 to 1 devices and the unexpected addition of distance learning, I decided to make a digital version of my favorite classroom number sense activity.

Number of the Day Builds Number Sense Skills

Number Sense.  The reason I love Number of the Day is because of number sense.  The foundation of math is the ability to fluently recognize, understand and use numbers in a variety of ways.  Starting at the youngest of ages we can help our students build a solid foundation for their math futures and it starts with number sense.

Number Sense Activities that Work

Over the years I have done many different number sense activities with my students.   I have pulled from my teacher toolbox the activities I feel have helped my students the most and put them into this fun, skills-based digital activity.

Digital Number of the Day activities helps students develop a strong number sense.  Ready to use on Google Slides your students can complete on any devide.  Share with Google Classroom or with a share link.

Here's a detailed look at the Digital Number of the Day activities.

Counting Sets

Each day starts out with counting out a set for the number of the day.  This is a great way to work on counting skills and one to one correspondence.  Learning and understanding 'how much' each number represents is an important part of building that number sense foundation.

Digital Number of the Day has students counting sets

As the numbers increase, it's not as time effective to count by ones, so higher numbers will include grouped counters which allows students to work on skip counting skills too!

Counting sets by ones or use skip counting

Using Tally Marks

Another important aspect to number sense is being able to use other forms, like tally marks, to represent the number.  Tally marks are great because 1) they are commonly used in real life which helps our students connect their learning to everyday life; and 2) they introduce the concept of skip counting by fives.

Use tally marks to represent a number with the digital number of the day activities

Each slide was intentionally set up to include a 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 set of tally marks.  This allows students to work at their skill level.  If a student needs to count by ones, they can.  But it also opens the door to the concepts of addition and subtraction by asking questions like "how many more?"

Tally marks help with skip counting

Standard Form

One of the most basic levels of understanding numbers is knowing how to write the number in standard form.  Learning proper writing formation for the digits 0-9, and then knowing how to put those digits together to form different numbers is one of the first skills our students learn.  This is a precursor skill to learning about place value.

Learning to write numbers helps students with standard form

Since this is a digital activity, students will also develop some basic technology skills.  This activity introduces students to typing.

Digital Number of the Day also works on basic technology skills like typing

Place Value

Speaking of place value . . . Number of the Day would not be complete without using place value to break down the number.  Students will add each number into the place value chart and then build the number using place value blocks.

Place Value is a key part of developing a number sense

Building numbers with place value blocks is a great way to

This is a skill that continues to build on itself as students start working with larger numbers.  Understanding what each of the place value columns represents is a key part to building that number sense.  It is this that helps students know that the digit '4' does not always equal the same quantity.

Down the road, students will also be introduced to using place value to write expanded form.

Using expanded form as a way to represent the value of numbers as part of digital number of the day

Using Ten Frames

Building numbers in ten frames is another great way for students to learn about quantity.  Initially, students can use ten frames to count out sets, but as their knowledge of place value grows they can connect the sets of tens and ones to the number.  

Learning to represent a number on a tens frame helps students understand the quantity

While students start out filling the ten frame one at a time, essentially counting by ones to build the number, the complexity will increase as students work with larger numbers.  Later, students will be able to count by tens and fill a ten frame using skip counting.

ten frames is a great way to skip count by tens

Counting & Ordering Numbers

Counting might just be the first skill children learn with numbers.  Even before they can recognize a number, they can often count.  But being able to memorize some words in order does not mean that students understand the concept of counting.  It is important to give our students lots of practice counting in varied forms.  Students should be able to count forwards and backwards starting at 1 or another number.  Students should also be able to fill in missing numbers in a series of numbers that are provided.  Through this digital Number of the Day activity students will get lots of opportunities doing this.

finding missing numbers on a number line

digital number of the day and finding missing numbers

As students become more familiar with the processes and working with higher numbers, the activities change slightly so students stay challenged.  In the number line activity above, students are dragging in the correct number.  However, a couple of months later, they will be typing in the missing numbers without scaffolded supports.

using a number line to fill in missing numbers

filling in missing numbers is a key number sense skill

Students will continue to to be challenged with counting from any starting point and filling in missing numbers.

skill levels gradually increase as numbers increase on digital number of the day

Relating With Other Numbers

Once students have an understanding of what a number represents and numbers in order, learning how numbers relate to each other is a skill students will develop.  Using a hundreds chart is a great way for students to not only see numbers in order, but also how they relate to one another.  On these digital Number of the Day activities students will be challenged to think about numbers on a hundreds chart as they relate to the target number.

Students will fill in the parts of a hundred chart that touch the target number.  Students will start with the concepts of one less and one more. 

relating numbers to a hundred chart helps with number sense

 Then they will add in the concepts of ten less and ten more.

working with more and less on digital number of the day

As students skills continue to grow, so does the challenge they will see in the Number of the Day activities.  

harder more and less on digital number of the day

While keeping the activities consistent, they continue to gradually become more difficult as students are able.  This allows the students to have the benefit of a spiral review that also continues moving them forward in their learning too!

Basic Operations

As students start working with higher numbers, they will also use the target number to practice some basic addition and subtraction.  Using the number and images, students are able to use their counting skills to add or subtract.

using numbers in basic operations

using basic addition and subtraction to learn more about numbers

Solid Number Sense Skills

Using these activities on a daily basis students will build a solid number sense foundation.  This activity can be done as a whole group on a Smartboard or single device.  What is great about this option is the modeling that can be done with the thinking and the activities.  However, since it is digital it can also easily be shared with students to complete individually.  This could be done at the same time as the group to increase engagement or it could be done individually as morning work, a math warm-up or even a daily math center.   

This daily practice with a variety of skills is also a great informal assessment of what your students are learning and struggling with.  As you see class struggles you can use this information to reteach skills and concepts.  You can also add targeted skill practice in math centers.  For individual struggles you can do targeted reteaching through small group instruction.  

They key for our students to developing fluency with numbers is the repeated practice of number sense skills.  By adding Number of the Day to your daily math schedule your students will be well on their way.

Save These Number Sense Ideas

Just pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back and quickly find these number sense ideas.

Build solid number sense skills with Number of the Day.  This digital daily math helps students build important number sense skills so they they can work fluently with numbers.  Skills include recognizing and writing numbers, place value, missing numbers and basic addition and subtraction.















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