Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about telling time to the hour. It is designed to complement the Telling Time to the Hour topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Time is how we divide the day into units. Learning to tell time will help your child schedule his or her day and gain greater control of his or her surroundings. Although many clocks that your child will see are digital, learning to tell time from an analog clock is a necessary skill.

Telling time is often revisited every year in elementary-school classrooms, so what your children have learned will vary. For a quick and fun review, watch the “Parts of a Clock” movie with your children. This movie covers the basics of the clock—its parts, how the hands move, and how we use time to plan our day. You may wish to do some of the activities or assign the quizzes to ensure that your children have a firm grasp on the parts of a clock. Then they will be ready to tell time to the hour.

On a clock, the hour hand, or short little hand, points to the hours while the minute hand, or big long hand, points to the minutes. When we say the time, we tell the hours first, followed by the minutes. For example, when the hour hand is on the 10 and the minute hand is on the 12, we say the time is ten o’clock. The term “o’clock” means “of the clock” or “according to the clock.” This phrase is used only with times that are exactly on the hour. Ten o’clock can be written in two other ways: 10 o’clock and 10:00. When we write the time using only numbers, we use a colon to separate the hours from the minutes. Furthermore, we always write the minutes to two places (10:00, 10:01, 10:02, and so on).

Explain to your children that as time passes, the hands move. When the minute hand moves all the way around the clock, the hour hand moves from one number to the next. This is an hour. Prompt your children to observe that the minute hand moves faster than the hour hand. Since there are twenty-four hours in a day, but only twelve numbers on a clock, the hour hand must go around the entire clock twice. This is why we have a six o’clock in the morning and a six o’clock in the evening. Twelve o’clock during the day, when the sun is high in the sky, is commonly known as noon . Twelve o’clock when the moon is high in the sky is known as midnight because it is the middle of the night.

The hands on a clock only move in one direction—toward the right, or clockwise. The opposite direction is called counterclockwise. Though the hands never move that way, the term is important to learn.

The best way to learn how to tell time is to practice. Use a demonstration clock or any analog clock and present different times on the hour for your child to read. This will help them prepare to learn time to the quarter-hour, half-hour, and minute in the future.