The switch of the clock for daylight saving time is a great opportunity to think about time. Time is a difficult concept for anyone to understand. Einstein showed us that time is relative, and while that may be true in the big picture, time is absolute in today’s world and your child’s classroom. There is nothing relative about the due date of the English paper, the class period you take Math or the date of spring break. As such, the ability to feel, tell, calculate, estimate and manage time is an essential skill to function in the world. These skills aren’t intuitive and must be taught. Here are a few tips for home and classrooms.
With the onset of digital clocks, few students can tell time on an analogue clock-one with a face and hands. Unlike watching the hands move around an analogue clock, with digital clocks, numbers appear and disappear with little ability to judge the time in-between. You can foster the ability to feel time by having analogue clocks available and even sand timers that allow one to “see” time.
As more and more of us utilize our phones as calendars, similar to time, days pop up with little visual reference to the days before or after. It is helpful to have a variety of calendars available for students to see and reference. They should be able to see the entire year on one page, the entire month on one page, the entire week on one page and the entire day, hour by hour, on one page. When discussing tasks and events, talk about them as being before, during or after others and demonstrate these dates and time periods on a calendar to your child.
Teach your child to tell time on an analogue clock. Help them understand that 10:20 on both digital and analogue clocks means that 20 minutes have elapsed since it was 10:00 and that there are 40 more minutes until it is 11:00. With analogue clocks, help them to see that whenever a full circle of the “big hand” has occurred, an hour has occurred; when the “little hand” makes it all the way around, it’s been 12 hours or ½ day. Teach that whenever you can draw a straight line between numbers, it will be 6 hours (because six is half of 12) or 30 minutes (because 30 is half of 60). Help your child understand that a pie shape, regardless of where it occurs on the clock face, will be 3 hours (because it is ¼ of the whole clock face) or 15 minutes (because it is ¼ of 1 hour/60minutes). This ability to tell time, not just read numbers off a screen is essential before one can calculate, estimate or manage time.