Monday, May 9, 2016

Math Tip Monday: Teaching Time in First and Second Grade

Welcome to the May edition of Math Tip Monday!  K's Classroom Kreations and I have enjoyed bringing you some great tips this year. I hope you've found some excellent ideas and resources to use in your classroom.

This month, we are focusing on tips for teaching time and money. I'd like to share some of the strategies that I've found effective when teaching first and second graders to tell time.

First, I'm going to recommend that you run, not walk, to find the nearest copy of Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics by Van de Walle, et al. and read the unit on teaching measurement. Trust me. This book is going to transform your teaching of mathematics, especially telling time. You will never again teach students to tell time by saying, "The little hand is on the one and the big hand is on the six."

Van de Walle opened my eyes to the fact that the reason so many kids had difficulty learning to tell time on the analog clock was that the two hands measured two completely different things. By simply telling kids to look at which numbers the different hands were pointing to, we neglected to teach them the function of those hands. The hour hand's function is to tell us which hour of the day we are currently in.  The minute hand measures how many minutes have gone by within that hour or how many minutes that are left before the next hour begins. 

To clear up that confusion, I teach students that each clock has two different number lines. Here's a poem that I wrote to teach students the difference between the two number lines and the job of each of the hands on the analog clock. It's included in my Math Poems for Fun and Understanding K-2.

With first graders (and as a review with second grade), we focus on the hour hand first. First, I remind students that we have been working with number lines in a lot of ways this year. Now, we will work with a number line that is shaped like a circle. With first graders, I use a ribbon or string that is numbered from 1 to 12. We begin with the number line arranged in a line as we count from 1 to 12. Then, I rearrange the ribbon into a circle with the number 12 at the top. I ask students to tell me if they've seen a number line like this before. Usually, at least a few of them connect it to a clock. After affirming their connection, I have them count from 1 to 12 again and tell them that when we read a clock, we are counting the hours in the day. Each day, the hour hand goes around the clock two times. There are 24 hours in one day.

As Van de Walle recommends, I try to start teaching students to tell time with a one-handed clock. You can easily make one using a paper plate. In the clocks below, I used Ashley Hughes' Build-a-Clock Clipart. I also use a hula hoop or a sorting circle with number cards 1 - 12 spaced around the circle.
We use only the hour hand at this point. We talk about how many numbers are on the number line. As I move the hour hand around the clock, we use a lot of language of approximation. It's "about 1:00" or it's "a little after 1:00" or it's "almost 2:00". One thing I want to make sure my students realize is that the hour hand is always moving and that it won't always point directly at a number. This understanding will help them later on when it's time to read 11:45 or 1:55.

After I'm sure that my students have a thorough understanding of the hour hand and it's function, it's time to introduce the second number line on an analog clock. First, I want students to understand that there are sixty minutes in an hour. We start again with a straight number line, counting from 1 to 60. Then, I introduce the 60 minutes that go around an analog clock. We count each minute individually at first. After that, we count how many minutes are counted by each darker line. We label the clock with index cards to show that you can figure out the minutes by counting by fives. I remind students that there are sixty minutes in each hour and the minute hand keeps track of how many minutes have gone by. We spend several days practicing with only the minute hand. I ask, "How many minutes have gone by?" "How many minutes until the next hour?"

Finally, we are ready to put the two number lines together and use what we've learned to read an analog clock. Whenever we practice, I always begin by reminding students of the two different jobs of the hour hand and the minute hand. We review the two number lines found on the clock. Most importantly, whenever a student identifies a time (whether correctly or not) I ask, "How do you know?" or "Why do you think that's the time?"

Once my students understand the different functions of the hour hand and the minute hand, they are easily able to read an analog clock. Many of my students in the second part of the year do not even need to use the resource on my classroom wall.

Needless to say, this is not taught in just a one or two-week unit. Teaching time this way requires an investment of... well, time. After introducing each clock, I usually work this into our warm-up time at least two to three times weekly. Students are also given opportunities to practice at math workstations throughout the year.

I hope you find this helpful. Make sure you check out all the other great tips from bloggers participating in our linky.

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