Teaching Telling Time to Special Education Students

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Telling time is an important skill for all children to learn. This lesson will provide you with a few ideas that you might want to use when teaching students in special education to tell time.

An Important Skill

As adults, we can tell time easily, but telling time is a tricky skill for children to learn. Telling time is an important skill we use several times a day in different settings throughout our life. The ability to read a clock impacts our life at home, at school, at work and in social settings.

Students with unique learning needs may have an especially hard time reading a clock to the nearest hour, half-hour or minute. They often need special, individualized instruction to master functional skills, and reading a clock takes a lot of extra practice.

This lesson provides several ideas for teaching telling time to students with special learning needs.

Preparing to Teach

Before you begin to teach telling time, you need to ensure that your students have a few prerequisite skills: counting from 1 to 12, recognizing the numerals 1 to 12, and understanding basic sequencing. Sequencing is identifying what comes first, next and last in a series of letters, numbers or events.

Once you know that your students have the prerequisite skills, you're ready to prepare your lessons. Here are a few good general teaching strategies to remember for teaching students with learning disabilities.

  • Keep lessons short and simple.
  • Provide many opportunities for practice.
  • Provide positive reinforcement by rewarding students for correct answers and good behavior.

Now let's look at some specific ideas for teaching students with special learning needs to tell time. Keep in mind that your students have unique interests, strengths and challenges, adapt these ideas to fit your individual learners.

Telling Time Ideas

Let's begin by establishing what we mean when we talk about telling time. While most people have access to devices such as phones, computers and watches with a digital clock, this lesson will focus on telling time using an analog clock. An analog clock has a circular clock face with the numerals 1 to 12 placed in order evenly spaced around the edge of the circle, with moving hands to indicate minutes and hours.

Analogue clock

Telling Time to the Nearest Hour

Following is a basic procedure for explaining how to read the hour hand on a clock. Make sure you model and practice each step several times before moving on.

Step 1

Draw a clock on the board and cut out two hands, one long and one short. One will be the hour hand; the other is the minute hand. Explain to students that an analog clock has two hands; one hand points to the hour and the other points to the minute. Tell them you will put the minute hand away for now, and you will focus on telling what hour it is.

Step 2

Put the short hand on the board, and have it point to several different numerals, and ask your students to tell you what hour it is. Give them several opportunities with several different numerals.

Step 3

Put the hand a little before a numeral, such as the numeral 1. Tell students that if the hand is pointing anywhere between 12 and 1, it is still in the 12 o' clock hour.

Step 4

Show the hour hand pointing a little after the numeral 3. Tell them that since the hand is pointing between 3 and 4, it's still in the 3 o'clock hour.

Telling Time to the Nearest Half-Hour

For the purpose of this example, use the same clock drawn on the white board, and the hands you've already prepared. Remember to provide several examples with each step.

Step 1

Show students the longer minute hand and tell them that this hand tells us what minute it is. When it's pointing to the 12, we say 'o'clock' and when it's pointing to the 6 we say 'thirty.'

Step 2

Practice by pointing the hand to the 12 and having students say 'o'clock' and then pointing it down to the 6 and having them say 'thirty.'

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