How long now?


In these five activities the students compare the duration of events, learn the order of months and read the time to the hour and half-hour.

Achievement Objectives
GM1-1: Order and compare objects or events by length, area, volume and capacity, weight (mass), turn (angle), temperature, and time by direct comparison and/or counting whole numbers of units.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Directly compares the duration of two events.
  • Uses non-standard units to compare the duration of two or more events.
  • Tell time to the hour and half hour using analogue clocks.
Description of Mathematics

Students’ experiences with time throughout the learning sequence has two aspects:
duration and telling time.

Comparing the duration of two events is the second stage in developing an understanding of time passing. This can be done by directly comparing two activities that have common starting points, for example, a song on a tape or running around the building.

After the students have directly compared the duration of two events we use sand-timers and other non-standard measures to compare two or more events.

Telling time
In this unit we learn the skills to tell time to the hour and and half-hour. Telling time must enable them to:

  • develop an understanding of the size of the units of time. This includes being able to estimate and measure using units of time
  • read and tell the time using both analogue and digital displays.
Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to differentiate include:

  • Including images on the chart used in session 2 to support beginning readers.
  • Introducing 1/4 hour times to those students who are confident with telling time to the 1/2 hour in session 3.

The contexts for the duration activities are based on activities that are undertaken by students in your classroom so should be engaging to them.  Asking the students to identify which activities they could compare provides further opportunities for their engagement. 

Required Resource Materials
  • Chart paper
  • Multi-link cubes
  • 2 skipping ropes of different length
  • Large number cards (1-12)
  • A large space
  • Paper plates
  • Card board hands
  • Split pins
  • Analogue clocks
  • Pictures of clocks from home

Session 1: Who finishes first?

In this activity we directly compare two activities to see which takes the longest.

  • Chart paper
  1. Begin by asking the students which they think takes longer.
    Making a tower with 10 cubes or hopping 10 times on each foot?
  2. Write the 2 events on a chart
  3. Get 2 volunteers to complete the activity.
  4. Tell the students that today they are going to work with a partner comparing things they do to find out which takes longer. Ask the students for their ideas and add these to the chart.
  5. Get the students to work on the activities in pairs.
  6. Share findings.

Session 2: Clapping time

In this activity we indirectly compare "quick" events by clapping, stamping and linking cubes.

  • multi-link cubes
  • Chart paper
  1. Begin by asking the students which they think would take them longer, writing their name or walking to the board and back to their desk.
  2. Select a volunteer to complete the two events while the rest of the class time the events by clapping. Help the class keep a steady beat.
  3. Record the results:
    Writing my name 9 claps
    Walking to the board 11 claps
  4. Ask for other ideas for timing events, for example. clicking fingers, stamping, linking cubes.
  5. List events that could be timed. Ask the students to add their ideas.
  6. Ask each pair of students to select one of the timing methods and use it to time the events. Give each pair a sheet of paper to record the times on.
  7. Display and share the results.

Session 3 : A big clock

In this activity the students form a large clock which is then used to show hour times. As you need a large space for the "people clock" this may be best done outside.

  • 2 skipping ropes of different length
  • large number cards (1-12)
  • A large space
  1. Ask the students to tell you all they know about clocks. This will include both digital and analogue.
  2. Ask questions that focus their thinking on what an analogue clock looks like.
  3. Draw a large circle with chalk.
  4. Choose 12 students to hold the number cards.
  5. Get the rest of the students in the class to direct the number holders so that they form a large clock face.
  6. Give another student the two ropes to hold in the centre of the "clock".
  7. Move the ropes so that the clock shows 3 o’clock. Ask the students to tell you the time.
  8. Ask volunteers to move the hour hands of the clock to a time they know. Everyone else then reads the time. Draw their attention to the minute hand, and that it always points to the 12. Make sure they understand that at this time there are 0 minutes.
  9. Depending on the success with hour times this activity can be easily extended to 1/2 hours.  If you move onto 1/2 hours, support students to see the connection between 1/2 of a circle and the 1/2 past position on the clock.  

Session 4: Making Clocks

In this activity the students create their own clocks using paper plates and then use the clock to show times during the school day.

  • Paper plates
  • Card board hands
  • Split pins
  • Analogue clocks
  1. Look at the clocks and discuss their features:
    - A large and a small hand fixed at the centre.
    - Digits 1 to 12.
  2. Discuss ideas for positioning the numbers evenly around the clock.
  3. Construct clocks fixing the hands in place with a split pin.
  4. Now use the clocks to show hour and then half-hour times. Display both the analogue and digital written forms.
  5. Throughout the day ask the students to change their clocks to show the "real" time. Do this several times on the hour and half-hour. Each time look at tell the time using both digital and analogue forms.

Session 5: The best times of the day.

In this activity we look at different kinds of clocks and talk about telling the time. We draw a picture of our favourite time of the day.

  • Pictures of clocks from home
  • Paper plate clocks (previously constructed from Station 4)
  1. Let the students share the pictures that they have drawn of clocks found at home.
  2. Discuss the different types of clocks, for example, watches, clock radios, clocks on appliances, Grandfather clocks, novelty clocks.
  3. Discuss why most of us have so many clocks and when it is important to know the time.
    – so we won’t be late to school
    – so we won’t miss our favourite TV programme
    – so that we get to our sports practice on time
    – so we know when our food is cooked
  4. Ask the students to show their favourite time of the day on their paper clocks.
  5. Get the students to draw a picture of their favourite time. The pictures should include a clocks showing the time.
  6. Share and display pictures.
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Level One