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What Hour is the Hour Hand REALLY showing?

When students learn about time on an analog clock, I can predict what they will confuse every year–I can predict it better than the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold winter.

Problem Number 1.  They will mix up the hour and minute hand.

Problem Number 1 Solution:  Once a child told me how he thought about the hands on a clock .  What he told me is better than anything I have told kids.  He said that the long hand is long because it is trying to reach the marks on the edge of the clock–therefore it tells the minutes.  The short hand is shorter because it is only trying to reach the numbers and they are much closer.  Now that I learned this from a 3rd grader I tell students this every year.–If what a kid said ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What this 3rd grader said made better sense than any little ditty rhyme I have told kids, such as the “Short hand has all the power.  That is why it tells the hour.”  This little rhyme is great fun to say, however because short doesn’t rhyme with anything, I could just as easily confuse the long hand in this rhyme.

Problem Number 2.  They will think the hour hand goes to the next hour when it gets close to the next number.

Problem Number 2 Solution:  After much frustration with students thinking 7:50 was 8:50 and so on, I came up with this idea.  I had them color their paper plate clocks in sections and color the number before the same color.  Then I explained how all of the same color belongs to the same hour number.  Below is a student clock sample of this. (I wrote over the child’s numbers with a sharpie so that you could see them in the photo.)paperplateclock

I further explained that as long as the tip of the hour hand is in a section, it belongs to that color and the matching colored number before that section.  The numbers have property and their property is behind the number with the matching color.  In the example above, the hour hand is closer to the 8 but belongs to the 7 because its tip is still in the yellow and the number 7 is also yellow–so the time is 7:55 and not 8:55.

Side note:  I prefer that kids color their clocks with more than two colors because I think it causes less confusion to the eyes.  I believe 3 -4 colors are best.  (This teacher chose to just use 2 crayons with her class.)

More lessons on how to effectively teach time with as few misconceptions as possible (including instructions on how to make this clock above) are included here in Telling Clock Time Lesson Plans and Activities on TPT.


Come back soon for more about teaching time!

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