5 Tips for Teaching Students to Tell Time

What time is it? Is it recess time? Is it lunch time?” These are the questions I’d often hear within the walls of my first-grade classroom. My primary learners had an interest in time but hadn’t quite learned to tell time themselves yet. When students show this curiosity, that’s your sign it’s time to get started! After all, it’s much easier to teach any topic when there’s an interest to learn, right? Teaching students to tell time doesn’t have to be scary, and in fact, it can be super fun! Come along to see my tried and true, top tips for teaching young kids to tell time!

This image says "5 Tips for Teaching Students to Tell Time" and includes an image of a student recording a telling time task card activity.

The Right Age to Learn to Tell Time

This image shows activities that can help students practice telling time to to the hour and half hour. It includes worksheets, clip cards and matching activities.

Telling time is a standard of learning in the primary grades. In kindergarten, students might get a brief introduction, but usually learning to tell time to the hour and half hour is covered in depth in first grade.

As a first-grade teacher for many years, this was always one of my favorite topics to tackle! I knew that my kids were interested in the concept of time and some of them even wore watches, without really knowing how to use them. I absolutely used this interest to my advantage!

By capitalizing on student interest and helping children understand that learning to tell time is a valuable skill, you can really generate quite a bit of excitement in the classroom! Plus, students are usually pretty eager to learn about anything that will allow more independence. Learning to tell time definitely falls into this category. Now, let’s dive into my tips to get started.

1. Introduce Telling Time in a Fun Way

Now, this might seem like a trivial piece of the puzzle, but I promise, it’s valuable too! Teaching students why time matters, what telling time means, and how it can benefit them will help you gear up for your lessons. Most primary teachers would agree that read-alouds are great for introducing new concepts. Once we were ready to dive into the topic of telling time, I liked to use some books to lay the groundwork.

This images shows the book "It's About Time" by Stuart J. Murphy. which is a great read aloud to use when teaching students in the primary classroom.

It’s About Time by Stuart J. Murphy is a great book to introduce the concept of clocks and telling time. This story discusses the number of hours in a day, A.M. vs. P.M., and learning to tell time to the hour. This book is a great option for the very first one you read with your students since it uses basic language and lots of repetition. After reading, I like to put this book in our class library, so students can revisit it if they’d like.

Another option is to use videos to introduce telling time to your students like this one from Jack Hartmann. We all know that kids LOVE to sing and dance, so using a video like this one after reading is a fun way to practice what they learned and build some excitement. I always encouraged kiddos to stand up and groove along to the music as they listened and watched. No matter how you choose to introduce telling time to students, make sure it’s FUN – this is key to success! Oh, and if you don’t have one of these bad boys, I highly recommend it! This is such a great tool to incorporate some hands-on learning as you begin to work on telling time.

2. Use Clock Labels to Tell Time

One of my best tips for helping young students learn to tell time is to set them up for success! I liked to use clock labels like these in my classroom.

This image shows an example of clock labels that can be used in the classroom. The labels includes important vocabulary like "o'clock", "quarter to" and "half past". You can also label the minutes in 5 minute increments using these labels.

To start, I’d use the hour and half-hour markers only along with the vocabulary cards for “o’clock” and “half-past”. As students progressed in understanding, I added additional labels for more time increments. If you use these in your room, I recommend putting them on all your clocks and pointing them out to students so they know how to use them. These labels also include editable options too, so you can change the wording to fit your needs!

I also snuck some clock labels into our calendar math time too! On our calendar display, I had a pretend clock that had the hour and minute hand labeled. We’d use it in the morning to mark the time, as well as a tool for students to practice with. As students are just learning to tell time to the hour, I’d have them update it occasionally throughout the day. If you don’t want to forget to update the clock periodically, set a timer. Then when it goes off ask for volunteers to “change the time” on the clock after they’ve identified the time. Squeezing this activity into your day when you know you will have a natural break is a great way to sneak in extra practice in a fun way!

3. Use Fun Center Activities to Practice Telling Time

Center time is everyone’s favorite time in the primary classroom! Centers present a fun opportunity to incorporate hands-on learning, games, and partner activities to practice important skills. When learning to tell time is on our agenda, I loved using the engaging activities in this resource. There are lots of different options included, so you can use these throughout the year as your students build up their time-telling knowledge.

This image features a center activity that students can use to practice telling time. It includes puzzle pieces with clocks on them and the time written in a digital format on other pieces. Using this center game, students will have to tell time on the analog clocks and then match them to the digital version.

Inside you’ll find two different kinds of puzzles, clip cards, write and wipe the time cards, and skills check worksheets. These activities come in both color and black and white options as well, so you can decide what works best for you. The black and white center games would be perfect for printing on colored cardstock!

I will say though, laminate these centers if you can. Trust me, you’ll want to use them over and over again for a fun way to practice telling time! Teacher tip: after laminating, store sets of these activities in plastic photo boxes and use dry-erase pockets for the worksheets. This way you’ll be able to grab them anytime you need a quick center option or partner game for students.

4. No-Prep Practice Pages for the Win!

In my opinion, no-prep printables are a classroom MVP. Why you ask? They just come in SO handy time and time again. Of course, we don’t only want to rely on worksheets, but when used thoughtfully and sprinkled throughout your other lessons, no-prep printables can be a valuable asset in learning to tell time. The key however is to choose printables that are appealing and fun for your students, while also targeting the skills you’re hoping to emphasize. Sound impossible? Think again!

The telling time worksheets featured in this image are so much fun for students! Using the worksheet, students will cut out the digital time and match it with an analog clock that says the same time.

These no-prep printables will be your new go-to. They cover telling time to hour and half hour and each page has a fun activity that young students will love. Some of the pages ask students to cut and paste the correct time to clocks, while others have students draw hands on the clock to show the time.

There are options for digital and analog clocks as well so you can choose the pages that will work best for your group. And there are even color-by-code pages too – everyone’s favorite! Use these worksheets for fast finishers, morning work, or as an addition to your sub tub! No matter what you decide to use them for, I know you’ll be happy to have some no-prep activities at the ready to practice telling time.

5. Use Digital Activities to Keep Engagement High

Last on my list is a tip that will come in especially handy if you notice your students losing interest in learning to tell time. Digital activities are fun and engaging for students. Choosing to incorporate some in your lesson plan is a great way to keep those kids interested and help them get the practice they need.

In this image, a student is completing printable digital cards that focus on telling time to the hour and half hour and recording their answers on a paper attached to a clipboard.

These digital task cards are perfect for center time, fast finishers, or independent practice. To use, students will first listen to the audio directions by clicking on the speaker. Then, they will flip to the first slide and begin. Students will read the clock, type the hour and half hour, and finally drag and drop the words that say the time. This is such a fun activity to practice reading and typing, as well as dragging and dropping. They would also be great for whole-class teaching or review. Simply pop the cards up on the screen and work through as many as you would like.

This resource also comes in an option with both digital and printable task cards. I love having both versions so that we can use the printables to play “Scoot!” as a class. Everyone loves moving from one task card to the next while they fill out their recording sheets. Plus, it offers just one more fun way to practice telling time!

Dive into Telling Time with Your Students

Teaching young kids to tell time is such a rewarding classroom lesson. I know that once you begin, you’ll be thrilled to watch your students grow in their ability and confidence with the clock! Plus, by the end of the year, you can ask your students those same questions we spoke about at the beginning of this post and get an answer! If you want to take a closer look at any of these resources, be sure to swing by my TPT shop. You’ll find them all along with many more fun activities for the primary classroom!

Save These Tips for Teaching Kids to Tell Time

This post is packed with all my best tips for teaching kids to tell time. Pin it on Pinterest so you don’t lose track of it!

Looking for fun ways to help your primary learners learn to tell time? This post is packed with 5 tips to teach students to tell time! From books and videos to engage learners in the topic to hands-on activities for centers you will find everything you need in this blog post.


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