Telling time is one of those concepts that if you teach it too soon, your first graders will not respond well (cue the crickets). I had this happen years ago and after that experience, I done it since. To teach telling time to first graders is a lot of fun if you have activities and clocks for them to practice.
Children and Spatial Development
Teaching time cannot be done too early. Understanding spatial development in students will not only help you to determine when to teach time, but also other concepts of measurements. While in college/university, the research of Piaget was often mentioned in our lectures. His child development studies (4 Stages of Cognitive Theory) are some interesting points of conversation.
With out giving you a thesis paper, let me summarize by saying that somewhere around 7 years old children start thinking more concretely. Now there are many who say that children can think more concretely earlier than that, but I’ll leave that discussion alone. However, the challenge of teaching time is that it is something more abstract than concrete. Yes, we have 24 hours every day but we cannot stop time or even manage time. It is outside of our realm. That is what makes it difficult to teach. If you want to read some of Piaget’s theory, check out this website.
Teaching Time Without Clocks
If you were told to teach children time but were not allowed to use clocks to do it, how would you do it? Prior to the clocks on the walls or the watches on our wrists, the sundial was used. I still see some in the occasional garden.
I have always been fascinated by sundials. Spending a little time with sundials makes for a great mixing of science and math together! Create sundials outside or simple paper ones so that students can see how time moves. You can also add in shadows and how scientists learned that the Earth was round. Don’t get me started! I love combining subjects!
When Do You Teach Time To First Graders?
I teach time (and money) in January or February. As our school year starts in September, students are starting to observe the changing of seasons, and I will use the seasons as reference to time. We start to look at the changes of the sky (I am usually teaching weather and seasons in science at this time), and often students are settled into the class and routines by now. The environment is rich with conversation. So to teach a concept like time, that is both concrete and abstract, it is the perfect time.
This blog is ending but not the conversation. The next post will delve into teaching time to the hour. I will post some activities and manipulatives that I use, both online and in the classroom. I also use time in math rotations!
Hope you are staying safe and healthy.