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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

May 15, 2003

Time in the Classroom

Kids Sometimes we get so caught up in teaching English that we lose sight of some of the basics. Since I am constantly trying to pack a lot of activities into one class lesson, I am always glancing at the clock. This habit reminds me that time is one of the basics we should introduce and build upon in the EFL classroom. Thus, I think every classroom should have a clock within sight of all the students.

Since learning to tell time is easy, it should be one of the first things on the agenda for beginners. Being able to tell time in English is an empowering skill for young learners. Constantly kindling this concept, through questions and references, keeps the fire burning. This article is about the system that works best for me. Interestingly enough, the teacher only has to introduce time once because the students always, without fail, "get it" the first time.

Take a prop clock and move the hands to 1 o'clock. Then ask, "What time is it?" Guide the students in replying, "It's 1 o'clock." Then proceed with the same pattern from 2 o'clock all the way to 12 o'clock. The next week review that scenario and ask, "What time is it?" Move the hands on the clock to 1:30, 2:30, etc., all the way to 12:30. They will naturally accept that one only uses "o'clock" when the time is on the hour. The next week you can introduce 1:15 or 1:32, whatever. By now the students know how to tell time and are confident with this skill. Now the teacher can randomly ask students during the lesson to inform the class what time it is. For example, after taking attendance, the teacher can say, "Taro, what time is it?" To which Taro would reply and the other students would look at the clock to see if he is correct. The teacher can ask the class, "Is Taro right?" And the students would say yes or no. Sometimes a student will correct another student by a minute. Taro might say it is 5:14 and another student might say it is 5:15. The teacher can have the final word, but how great that students can correct each other or have different opinions in simple English!

The teacher can also use a prop clock for hands-on activities for the students. For example, as a warm-up activity, the teacher can ask a student to come up to the desk. That student can then adjust the hands of the mock clock and can ask his/her classmates, "What time is it?" The student can do that three times. Each week a different student can have this chance.

Other possible scenarios are asking the students the following questions:

  • What time do you wake up every day? At 7:30.
  • What time do you eat breakfast? At 7:45.
  • What time do you go to sleep? At 10:30.
  • What time do you come to English class? At 5 o'clock.

Another approach is to ask the students what time it is at the end of class. When they all reply, "It's 6 o'clock," you can say, "Yes, it's time to go home." Finding ways to bring time into the class reinforces the students' understanding of time in English and empowers them as it is a useful skill.

There are countless ways of using a mock clock, a regular clock and the concept of time in the EFL classroom, but I think the main point is that telling time is a valuable hands-on activity; the more the clocks are touched, adjusted, rearranged, and time is referred to, the more the students enjoy it. This theme is also an example of how students can experience English in a real and meaningful way.

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