Analog Clocks Again

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SWBAT use an analog clock to tell time to the nearest minute and explain their strategy.

Big Idea

There is conceptual value to telling time on an analog clock even though we rely predominantly on digital versions.


2 minutes

Student's read posted goal of today's lesson:

I will tell time to the minute on an analog clock and explain my strategy.  I will use a model of a clock and I will use precise language to express my thinking.

Together we read the key vocabulary words:

hour, 1/2 hour, quarter hour, interval

Unlike the standard mathematical system in which we work with units of 10, what is our measure of a whole unit when we work with...

a minute? (60)

an hour (60)

a.m. (12)  

p.m. (12)  

a day (24 hours)  

a week (7 days)

a month (usually 30 or 31 days)

Time Intervals Picture

17 minutes

Rote counting fluency is essential for students to successfully tell tim. While this skill should be solidly in place by 3rd grade, a short and creative review can do no harm, and will provide extra support for students with gaps without calling attention to them.

I have students draw a picture of their choosing, (my example here riffs on a clock) in which the lines are created of counting patterns.  

For the minutes, students write a illustrative line with the numbers 1 - 60.

For 5 minute intervals, they draw a line from 0, 5, 10, 15, ...60 and then cycle around.

For 10 minutes, they draw a line with the number 0, 1 0, 20 - 60, and then cycle around.

They do the same for 15 minute intervals and half hours.  During the last 5 minutes of the activity, we count up together to 47 minutes, 32 minutes and 12 minutes and they write this as a repeating pattern.

Reading the Hour Hand

5 minutes

The hour hand takes some practice, especially since students are less accustomed to analog clocks than students in the past.  I remind students of several basic facts.  

  • First, on any given clock, the hour hand will be the shorter of the two hands. 
  • Secondly, the hour hand is the most important!  I tell them that if the minute hand was removed from the clock, we'd still know the time w/in an hour (less, really).  If the hour hand were removed from the clock, we'd have NO idea what time it is.  I demonstrate this for them with enlarged examples of two clocks. one with just a minute hand and one with just an hour hand.  Instead of telling them that the hour hand "goes to the left", I tell them that that hour hand is always read as the preceding hour.  This alleviates confusion over how to read 12 o'clock.


I project a series of clocks with just an hour hand and we read the times as...

"3 something, something.." and so on.  

If the small individual student clocks are available, students can also model the movement of the hour hand to represent these times.  

Time Intervals 1/2 to 5 minutes

11 minutes

I show the students images to review how to read time to the five minute interval.  I make sure to use the language half past30 and quarter past, quarter 'til, as well as 15, 45 interchangeably.  

In my experience it is more beneficial to review this skill as a group and have students record their answers on whiteboards or scrap paper than to provide independent work pages. In some cases it can be helpful to do both.  If you want pages that will help students practice the basic skill of reading time from a clock, there is a worksheet generator for this purpose on

Time Intervals - Minutes

9 minutes

In this section I emphasize counting to the closest 5 minutes, and THEN accurately adding on the additional minutes.  Sometimes students want to rush to prove their understanding, and then they end up continuing to be off the mark. This is an example of where a slower, methodical approach pays off.

Additional practice can be created by asking students to read the time off a large teacher demonstration clock, by having them show given times on small individual student clocks, or by having them fill in one page of practice clocks generated from a worksheet site such as or

 Time to the Minute


6 minutes

I conclude this lesson by connecting the skill of reading time to the closest minute to adding up to the closest hours.  I give the students a set of different times and ask them to think quietly for ten seconds, then say (no hand raising, they may just speak) how long it is until the next hour.  For example, if it's 1:17, students say "43 minutes".

Here are some times that can be used for this wrap-up activity:

1:17, 2:23, 4:52, 3:35, 5:41, 7:08, 9:14, 10:27

This is a great one minute filler for those times that you've lined up students too early or are waiting for an announcement or assembly to start.  Short, repeated practice with basic facts is helpful reinforcement for students who have not yet taken it upon themselves to fluently master the addition and subtraction facts they were supposed to be fluent with by the end of 2nd grade.