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Models, Music, and More on the Concept of Time

By Shari Edwards on April 17, 2013
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

The concept of time is very abstract. Not sure that’s true? Try explaining what time means out loud to someone (without using the word time, of course!).

Dictionary.com says, Time is the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future; indefinite and continuous duration regarded as that in which events succeed one another.

Explain THAT to students! I'm sure you get my point, and if you have taught the subject to elementary students, you already know exactly what I'm talking about!


Rock Around the Clock


Because of my music and fluency focus, my students are usually expecting a song! I give them the lyrics to Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock," written by Jimmy De Knight and Max C. Freedman, and we use music to get us ready for learning about time! Have students read the lyrics and sing along during reading for fluency practice, then pull the song out again as a math focus! Students can also use their student clocks to "walk" around the clock with their fingers as they sing.

The music file can be downloaded on iTunes or a number of other sites for less than one dollar.


Clock Time Line

A laminated and assembled clock time line is an important part of my "teaching time tool kit." I have used clock time lines for years to help students understand that a clock is just a time line in the shape of a circle. The time line has two parts. The cards in the first strip represent the hours and those in the second represent the minutes. These time lines can be placed next to each other to show their relationships. My time lines have magnets on the back so I can use them on my whiteboard.

hour timeline cardsminute cards for timeline


To prepare:

Download the files by clicking the images above

Print on two different colors of cardstock


Cut cards apart

Hook together with small paper fasteners

Attach magnets to the back, if desired.

two clockstimelines


Clock Graphic RepresentationClock graphic

I happened upon an idea while showing my students elapsed time on the whiteboard. It is this graphic representation that my students keep in their desk binder, in a sheet protector. I use my clock time lines on the board, and my students can follow what I'm teclock timelineaching them with their own clock graphic at their desk. It also helps them understand what is occurring as they look forward or backward a specific number of hours. And it helps them keep track of where they are on the clock.

This graphic is especially nice when helping students understand elapsed time. We mark the time on the graphic with two mini erasers (or magnets on my whiteboard) and then jump ahead any number of hours. For some reason, they grasp the concept more easily when we begin in linear mode and then transfer to an analog clock. Once they understand how to count hours and minutes on the time line, they are ready to do the same while going around the clock.

Broken Clockbroken clock activity

The Broken Clock game is a great way to get students to focus on the location of the hour hand in relation to the minutes in an hour. In order to approximate the time, I tore the minute hand off an inexpensive, pressboard clock from a dollar store so we are forced to look at the hour hand only. In this activity, the teacher, or a group leader, sets the hour hand on the broken clock. Another student finds the place on the hour time line, replicating the placement of the hand on the clock. Students decide on the approximate time and fill in the blank, which the leader then checks.

After my students get used to the broken clock, they demonstrate their knowledge by drawing the hands accurately.


Books and Resources

How Do You Know What Time It Is?Telling TimeWhat Time Is It?Math Games to Master Basic Skills - Time and Money

The concept of time will always take extra thought to teach, but with a little help, you and your students will be ticking along to becoming "clockwise."

What Do You Think?


How do you help your students understand abstract concepts?


Do you have tools that have helped your students with the concept of time?






Comments (2)

The link for the hour cards doesn't work. Thank you for such great ideas!

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