9 Essential Steps for Teaching Telling Time

Teaching how to tell time can be a welcome break from computation. But, depending on students’ background knowledge, navigating an analog clock can prove tricky for some. Here’s 9 essential steps for teaching telling time.


The most successful math units begin with pre-assessing. I find this especially helpful with skills like time, money, shapes because math performance in skills like addition and subtraction don’t align with these concepts.

I love using a short pre-assessment so I can get a feel for where everyone is currently in terms of clock skills. Using Google Form is so effective and organizes all the data for me! You can grab this one free here. 

I often have students who struggle with math facts or two digit subtraction but are strong with time and shapes. Or I have students who have mastered three digit addition but struggle with money. So, some form of pre-assessment is crucial to plan teaching how to tell time to your students.

Clock Exploration

If you have a class set of student clocks, I always begin with an informal exploration of the parts of a clock. Since students are typically anxious to get their hands on them, I make sure to review how to take care of the clocks but then I let them have some free time.

Allowing time for exploration is a great way to informally assess background knowledge

I post a few questions for them to think about: What do the hands mean? How do we measure time? Show me: 1:00. Then, I walk around and observe their thinking while I jot down notes.

Whole Group Lesson

When I’m introducing a new skill, I typically start the first day with a whole group lesson. This helps me set a foundation for my whole class including vocabulary and the basics. During this day 1 whole group lesson, we will discuss analog/digital time. We will show different times on analog clocks and convert them to digital form. I will scaffold each step until I see that some students are needed more guidance. Then, they will review what we did as a whole group with an independent activity.


I’ve pre-assessed and observed what they already know. We had a whole group lesson. Since I have a strong idea of what students know, at this point, I break out into smaller groups. They might look like this:

Group 1: Students work on labeling the clock as we review the hands, minutes/hours ect. and showing times to the nearest hour.

Group 2: Practice showing different times (starting with to the hour and working up from there) on an analog clock. Read an analog clock and write the time in digital form.

Group 3: Same as group 1 but move more quickly to half hour and quarter hour

Group 4: Telling time to the nearest 5 minutes and elapsed time

AM and PM

After we have the basics of telling time down, I spend a day discussing AM and PM. I love making these huge clocks to represent how the day is divided. We label the clock together then I have students write or draw an activity they do during that time in the day.

Play Games

As always, my favorite method for practicing any skill is playing a game. These time bingo boards are a perfect low prep game. There are 30 different premade boards so you can just print and play! I use them whole group and as a center.

Independent and Partner Activities

While I’m meeting with small groups, I want to make sure all of my other students are engaged in meaningful activities. You can grab this digital classroom with telling time books, games and videos for free!

Elapsed Time

I often have students who pick up on telling time quickly. They are ready for something more challenging. Elapsed time and time word problems are always a great enrichment. If your students are in need of practice with this skill, I’ve got you covered! I have a complete unit of resources for teaching elapsed time.

Post Assessment

You did it! You taught your students how to read time on an analog clock. Your final assessment should perfectly align with all of your lessons. The problem is that so many curriculum provided assessments fall short. I always felt like the format wasn’t student-friendly or the questions seemed to come out of left field.

So, what’s a teacher to do? I designed all of my own summative assessments for 2nd grade math skills. They are student-friendly and easy for teachers to grade. You can check them out on TpT here. 

Telling time can be a really fun skill to teach! Students love that it’s hands on. I love that it’s something different from adding and subtracting (ha!). With these 9 essential steps for teaching telling time, your students will all be successful. Check out more math blog posts here.

Share it:

You might also like...