How to Teach Kids to Read Time

Written by erin schreiner Google
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How to Teach Kids to Read Time
Help your kiddo decode the clock. (CLOCK image by SKYDIVECOP from

The ability to read time is an important skill that many children struggle to acquire. Reading an analogue clock requires simple math and basic problem-solving skills. By moving slowly through the process of telling time, you can demystify the task and turn your student into a pro time-teller. While reading time is not a skill that will likely be acquired in one sitting, careful preparation and frequent return to the skill will ensure effective teaching and learning.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Explain the difference between a.m. and p.m. Before the student is ready to read the numbers associated with telling time, he must understand the difference between a.m. and p.m. Tell the student that "a.m." represents time in the morning and "p.m." stands for time in the afternoon and early night. To ensure his understanding, write "a.m." as a column heading on one side of a chalkboard or piece of paper and "p.m." as a column heading on the other side. Ask the student to tell you things that he does in the morning and things he does in the afternoon and early night. Write each activity under the appropriate column heading. After the student has a general understanding, explain that time switches from p.m. to a.m. late at night, so he sleeps in both the p.m. and the a.m.

  2. 2

    Begin with a digital clock, explaining how to read the hours and minutes displayed on the screen. Show the current time on the clock and ask the student to read the display and tell you the time in proper hour-and-minute form.

  3. 3

    Practice counting in increments of five with the student. To read time on an analogue clock correctly, the learner must be able to skip-count by five. Challenge the student to count as high as she can by fives to allow for this requisite skill practice.

  4. 4

    Discuss determining the hour when reading time on an analogue clock. Point out that as the minute hand moves around the clock, the hour hand advances, too, meaning that the hand does not stay resting squarely on an hour numeral. Tell the student that the hour is the numeral found before the hour hand, as this hand may look closer to 10 than 9 at 9:50, for example.

  5. 5

    Count with the student to determine how many minutes past the hour it is. Point out that each space on the clock face represents 5 minutes. Set an analogue clock to a time in which the minutes are an exact multiple of 5, such as 3:15. Instruct the student to start at 12 and skip-count around the face to determine how many minutes past the hour the clock displays.

  6. 6

    Give the student more practice with reading the time. Take the batteries out of an old clock and use the dials to set random times, challenging the student to tell what time it is after each change. Make the activity more engaging by offering the student a prize for each time he reads the time correctly.

  7. 7

    Give the student a watch and ask her to tell you the time throughout the day. Present the watch as a gift or prize, but also use it to recheck her learning. Instead of checking your own watch or clock, frequently ask the student "What time is it?"

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