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July 1, 2024 k-2-math-practices, k-2-measurement-and-data, 3-5-measurement-and-data, k-2-operations-and-algebraic-thinking, 3-5-math-practices

8 Fun Ways to Teach Time in Elementary School

Time is one of the most used daily math skills by people in all age groups, do your students know how to tell time? Math is an avenue to helping students understand their world and as we know, time is a huge part of that. Try these activities across the grades for teaching time!


Teaching Time Across the Grades

Time is a very expansive topic, especially in elementary school. Students need to learn about the concept of time, what passing of time feels like, how to tell time, and solve problems involving time. Time is one of the most used daily math skills by people in all age groups, so it is an important and timely topic year-round and in each grade of elementary school!

Learning standards for time begin as early as Kindergarten with students identifying parts of a clock. Throughout Kindergarten and first grade students should become familiar with the concepts of hours and minutes. In second grade, students will develop the ability to tell time by focusing on intervals of 5 minutes. They will also be introduced to the difference between AM and PM and their connections to the 24 hours in a day. Third graders should be able to tell time to the nearest minute. Fourth graders begin solving problems involving intervals of time using subtraction. Finally, fifth graders elaborate on their time telling problem solving skills to convert back and forth between time units such as seconds and minutes.


Time is one of the most used daily math skills by people in all age groups, so it is an important and timely topic year-round and in each grade of elementary school!

8 Ideas for Teaching Time in Grades K–5

No matter the age of the students you are working with, the list below will offer you eight activities teaching the concepts of time that can be adapted to meet your needs. To adjust for your students’ grade level, adapt the intervals of counting: for older students, make the intervals more intricate such as down to the minute or including seconds. For example, first graders only need to be able to differentiate by the half hour while second graders should be able to tell time to the nearest five-minute interval. Some of these activities naturally lend themselves to larger groups of students in a school setting, but any of them can work in the classroom with organization and ample preparation.

#1 Make a Clock

Give students a hands-on experience with the parts of the clock by building their own. How is the minute hand different than the hour hand? By allowing students an experience in cutting out different length arrows and physically manipulating them on a student-made clock, they will have a greater chance of remembering the difference.

Download the Make a Clock Activity to get the step-by-step procedure for grades K–2.

Teaching Time Making a Clock Activity

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#2 Outside Clock

Turn outdoor play time into a mini lesson by using chalk and a hula hoop to make a clock or draw your own.

#3 “Feeling” Time Contest

Many students love the chance to compete, and “feeling” time is an easy-to-implement game that requires no additional supplies. There are two ways to conduct the contest:

  1. Winner’s prediction is closest to reality: Have students make a prediction about how long a task will take and then see how long the task or activity really takes. For example, how long does it take for you to get to school? Have an adult help you record the time you leave and the time you arrive. Depending on the age of the students, this is also an opportunity to solve for the duration of time that passed. This activity could also be adjusted for in-the-moment instruction by incorporating videos of tasks and time clocks.
  2. Winner is closest to the predetermined duration of time: Have students stand up. Share with them that they should sit down when they think a minute has passed. The student who sits closest to the minute mark wins! This activity can easily be repeated multiple times in a row and can be adjusted by the interval of time.

#4 Clothespin Line

A craft and time practice all in one! Have your student help you label clothes pins with different times. Then hang a line across a room and allow students to work as a team to hang the clothes pins on the line in order. Consider these adaptations to meet the needs of your students:

  1. Place benchmark times along the line to help students get started.
  2. Add a competitive aspect. Which group of students can do it the fastest?
  3. Add an extra challenge by having students work together silently. They will have to find other ways of communicating and helping each other.

#5 Daily Timeline

Help students adjust to a new routine by developing a daily schedule. This could be for their at-home routine, their class schedule during the day, or a combination of both! Depending on the length of time you devote to this task, it could become a project by including a creativity/visual requirement, and/or requiring students to draw a clock with the time the activity begins on their schedule.

#6 Give the Teacher Homework

Swap responsibilities and have students ask the questions. This can be an in-class or homework task. Have students use a scenario in their real life to create a story problem involving time. It is always helpful to share an example with students such as: Sofia went to a softball game at 1:30 PM. The game was 2 hours long. Will she be home in time to watch her favorite cartoon at 3:00 PM? How do you know?

#7 Time Bingo

In an increasingly technological world filled with digital clocks, do your students know how to read an analog clock? Create bingo boards with a combination of digital clocks, analog clocks, and times spelled out as words. Help students practice going between the three by playing a game of bingo.

#8 Time Dominoes

If you are looking to purchase a new manipulative or use one to teach time, try time dominoes. Students can play to practice matching times and learn the game of dominoes which can be turned into math practice with many other topics.

In Summary

Practicing time-telling skills can be as fun and engaging as they are important. Try one or all of eight ideas for teaching time in your elementary classroom or shared with families to try at home to help develop students' ability to tell and reason about time.