Time on an Analog Clock – a Chunked Approach

Telling time on an analog clock is challenging for many students, especially some with special needs. I worked with a middle school student with a disability one summer and after a few lessons he scored 100% over two days on telling time. Below shows the progression I used with him. I used a task analysis approach of breaking the task into smaller steps and chunking the steps to introduce an additional task demand incrementally.

I use math-aids.com worksheets for time and for many topics because it provides dynamic worksheets in which users can choose features. This helps to enable implementation of a task analysis and chunking approach.

The first chunk is whole hour time, which is an option on math-aids. The clocks produced by have color coded hands, with green for hours and red for minutes. I use use additional color coding through highlighters because the handouts are likely printed in B&W and because it engages students kinesthetically.

The second chunk is time with minutes under 5 minutes. Math-aids allows a user to choose specific times and will create clocks with those times. To provide a visual aid, students can write out the numbers on the handout or they can be printed or handwritten on the master copy. You can snip out the clocks shown, paste into a WORD document and then add the numbers. Note: I do not jump to half hours and quarter hours until last. I want students to focus on hours and minutes. This is analogous to counting money. I don’t introduce cents after talking about half a dollar.

The next chunk is time with minutes between 6 and 10 minutes. This is how I introduce the 5 minute mark and have them count on from 5 (see the 5 in the middle bottom). This leads to all the tic marks for 5s.

The 5s are the entry point to navigating the entire clock. I introduce the tic marks for 5s without the numbers for the hours. Students can be prompted to draw in red minute hands for a given numbers of minutes in 5s. If you want to make a handout for this, save the image below and crop.

The students are then given the minute hands and are prompted to identify the minutes as a multiple of 5s (you don’t say “multiples” but can say “in 5s”). An option is to have them highlight the minute hands at first then fade the highlighting. They do this first with no numbers for hours then with numbers for hours – an option on math-aids.

Then students are asked to tell time by identifying the fives and then counting on (as they did with time with minutes under 10). Here are some options.

  • You can have them highlight.
  • They can focus on just the 5s and write the multiple of 5 preceding the minute hand.
  • They can count on from the 5s multiple they wrote, e.g., “15, 16, 17”

Focus first on minutes below 15 as the hour hand is close to the hour (top row in image below). Then address time with minutes between 16 and 30 because the hour hand has moved further away from the hour and it starts to get tricky for students to determine the hour. To address this, you can shade in the tic marks between the hours. Notice that I do not shade the subsequent hour. This also sets the stage for time when the hour hand is close to the subsequent hour (next chunk).

Time with the minute hand on the left side is tricky because the hour hand is close to the subsequent hour. The aforementioned shading can help. I also find it useful to have the student notice that the hour hand is not at the 12 yet, but almost. You can have students draw the marking and word as I did below.

Finally, there is a need to generalize. You can print images of clocks from a Google Images search into a handout and use the same strategies from above. This would be followed by actual clocks.

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