Telling Time: Lessons and Worksheets

Portrait of a little girl sitting and staring at an old clock

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Children usually learn to tell time by first or second grade. The concept is abstract and takes some fundamental instruction before children begin to master this important skill. These free printable worksheets use a methodical approach to help children learn how to represent time on a clock and even to decipher the time on analog and digital clocks. 

The first thing that will help young students learn about time is if you explain to them that there are 24 hours in a day. Explain that the clock divides the day into two halves of 12 hours each. And, within each hour, there are 60 minutes. 

For example, explain how there is an 8 o'clock in the morning, like when children are getting ready for school, and an 8 o'clock at night, usually associated with bedtime. Show the students what a clock looks like when it is 8 o'clock with a plastic clock or another teaching aid. Ask the children what the clock looks like. Ask them what they notice about the clock.  More »

Explain to children that a clock has a face and two main hands. Demonstrate that the smaller hand represents the hour of the day while the larger hand represents the minutes within that hour. Some students may have already grasped the concept of skip counting by fives, which should make it easier for children to understand the concept of each number on the clock representing five-minute increments.

Explain how 12 at the top of the clock is both the beginning and end of the hour and how it represents ":00." Then, have the class count out the subsequent numbers on the clock, by skip counting by fives, from one through 11. Explain how the smaller hash marks between numbers on the clock are minutes. 

Go back to the example of 8 o'clock. Explain how "o'clock" means zero minutes or :00. Usually, the best progression for teaching children to tell time is to start in larger increments, such as identifying the hour, then move to the half-hour, quarter hour, and ​five-minute intervalsMore »

Once students understand that the small hour hand represents the 12-hour cycle and the minute hand points to 60 unique minutes around the clock face, they can begin practicing these skills by attempting to tell the time on a variety of clock worksheets, particularly those that help them practice telling time to 10 minutes, five minutes and one minute.

Before you have students start on these worksheets, they'll need to draw minute and hour hands correctly on the printables. Remind students that the hour hand is shorter than the minute hand, and explain that they need to be careful about drawing the length of the minute and hour hands. More »

In addition to worksheets, engaging multiple senses in learning can help foster student understanding. Providing manipulatives and hands-on experiences is a good way to accomplish this task.

For telling time, there are many manipulatives available, such as plastic-type clocks to help children learn time concepts. If you can't find mini plastic clocks, have your students make paper clocks. Simply poke a small hole in the center of a blank square piece of paper. Draw a circle around the hole. Have students draw in the clock numbers from one to 12, then cut out an hour and minute hand and fasten the hands to the center hole with a fastener. If the children are very young, prepare ahead of time by drawing in the numbers yourself.

When your children or students each have a clock to manipulate, ask them to show you various times. Show them the digital time and ask them to show you what the time would look like on an analog clock.

Incorporate word problems into the exercises, such as: 

It is now 2 o'clock; what time will it be in a half an hour?

If students struggle to answer, review telling time to the half hour with the worksheets provided in section 2, or review printables in previous sections as needed. More »