Look… No Hands!
Time is so important to every one of us… we all get the same amount of time every day, but how we use and manage our time can change the dynamics of our day. Understanding time and having good time keeping can reduce stress levels, improve work-life balance and be an essential skill in the modern world of work. So if telling the time is such an important, everyday skill, why are our children finding it harder and harder to tell the time, especially in an analogue format?
Is it because we live in a world where time is increasingly represented in a digital format, where children do not have to think about the meaning of time? Is it because our children’s chances to see and practise telling the time with a clock with moving hands is decreasing year upon year?
Make the most of Time at School
In the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) children learn:
“to measure short periods of time in simple ways, need to use everyday language related to time and be able to order and sequence familiar events.”
The Early Learning Goals state that:
“Children use everyday language to talk about time and to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They .. use mathematical language.”
To achieve these Early Learning Goals, children will be taught how to:
“enjoy daily routines, such as getting-up time, mealtimes, nappy time, and bedtime; to associate a sequence of actions with daily routines; begin to understand that things might happen ‘now’; understand some talk about immediate past and future, e.g. ‘before’, ‘later’ or ‘soon’ and anticipate specific time-based events such as mealtimes or home time.”
(Development Matters in the EYFS, 2012)
All these time management skills are easy to develop within the outdoor environment, naturally encompassing the characteristics of effective learning: Playing and exploring – engagement; Active learning – motivation and Creating and thinking critically.
Telling the time is also an important part of the maths National Curriculum and children learn to understand the concept of seasonal change in science, as well as telling the time and using time to measure duration. In KS1:
“children measure and begin to record the time (hours, minutes, seconds) and sequence events in chronological order using language [for example, before and after, next, first, today, yesterday, tomorrow, morning, afternoon and evening]. They learn to recognise and use language relating to dates, including days of the week, weeks, months and years as well as being able to tell the time to the hour and half past the hour and draw the hands on a clock face to show these times.”
(Primary National Curriculum – Mathematics, Sept 2013).
Offer Hands-on Time!
Here at Schoolscapes, we like to support both parents and educators in teaching new concepts in a fun and engaging way, whilst in the outdoor environment.
Here are some simple ideas to reinforce their understanding of the concept of time, so children can be confident timekeepers and effectively apply their knowledge and understanding in real life scenarios.
Our vibrant Today’s Date Is? – Activity Panel effectively takes learning maths through play into your outdoor play space. Children can practise recording the date, day of week and the month, reinforcing their understanding of the passing of time and the relationships between the months, weeks and days at the same time as teaching pupils how to read and spell the vocabulary.
A fun and simple way to demonstrate the passing of time outside is to harness the sun and its resultant shadows. Why not use a spade or a stick to make a sundial, placing a pebble at the end of the shadow every hour? Children will see how the shadow length changes and moves, as the sun crosses the sky, learning about the abstract concept of time being controlled by the spin of the Earth!
Children also enjoy making personalised clocks with moving hands using paper plates and split pins to create pivoting hands, combining DT skills with maths. Encouraging parents to buy analogue watches and clocks for home, will also naturally reinforce children’s ability to tell the time.
Another fun, engaging activity is to make a clock out of a hoop, using chalk to mark the hours and sticks to form the hands. They will physically experience the different lengths of the hands and be able to apply their knowledge of number formation and sequence for a purpose. A variation on this, perfect for those children who learn best through sensory stimulation, is to lay the hoop in a sand pit and draw the numbers and hands in the sand.
Our colourful ‘What Time Is It?’ – Activity Panel is great to support teaching children about the different stages of telling the time, introducing the second, minutes and hour hands, as appropriate to the level of the learner. Children of all ages love the traditional game ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf?’, and this can be easily differentiated to use o’clock times, half past or quarter past/to etc. Or practitioners can make this playground game even harder by children having to add on an hour, 1/2 an hour or ¾ hour etc to the given time.
The ‘Clockwork’ – Activity Panel teaches and reinforces the movement and interrelationship of the clock’s minute and hour hands, as the clockwork mechanism turns the hands in synchronisation. Children can explore and learn about time, through their active play, as they turn the cogs.
These activity panels can all be integrated into limitless role-play scenarios, providing a real-life context, encouraging children to use and apply maths in their play. This naturally supports their journey towards maths mastery by reinforcing their confidence using concrete resources, before they move on to pictorial and abstract levels of understanding.
Why not introduce an element of time into your bike and trike play? Children can use egg timers and clocks to control when they swap over and start to understand the concept of how long the duration of 1 minute, 5 minutes or 10 minutes physically lasts. They can learn to share and take turns independently and manage their own play, another very practical social skill.
Simply having an analogue clock at home and in school and referring to it at key times of day, like break times, story times, lunch times and home times, will help children to start to connect time with their daily routines, as well as modelling and reinforcing the actual telling of time on an analogue clock. Even better, why not have both a digital and analogue clock displayed side by side, so children naturally will experience the corresponding times by them simply being in their surrounding learning environment. Children will start to learn about the length of a day and the significance of am and pm. A 24-hour digital clock can also introduce 24-hour digital time and prepare children for living in the real world.
Tick tock! Time’s ticking… Let’s all get on board with making telling the time a fun and hands-on experience for children of today and the future, ensuring that the clever and beautiful analogue clock doesn’t become a thing of the past!