Time, such an abstract concept, and such a commodity that we don’t get to recreate.  There never seems to be enough time, and yet whatever time we do have, is a gift.

School children as young as age 6 are expected to be able to tell time and read time on clocks, both digital and analog. This is a pretty common standard for most states. Then in 2nd grade they’re expected to tell time to the nearest minute, and then by 4th grade they are expected to calculate elapsed time.

Image result for free images of clocks

While I do believe telling time is an important life skill that children need to learn so that they can be on time, end on time, and use their time wisely, I’m just not certain that teaching them how to read and write time at such a young age is as important as teaching them HOW to use their time. Let me give an analogy, with reading, they learn to say the alphabet, write the letters, then they learn how to use the letters to make words, write sentences, compositions, etc. With math, well, that one’s all over the place right now, but typically they are shown how to count, write the numbers, then they get to learn how to put the numbers together and take them apart, or they are just told how to use them in a problem, rather than letting students figure out how to use them and make sense of them. 

We use a timer A LOT in our house. We do have Alexa, and we use the timer feature when we are downstairs. I also use the timer on the stove, and the timer on my phone. This holds all of us accountable for the time limits, while also providing an opportunity for my daughter to get a sense of what 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, feels like.  I’m wondering if we set a timer for let’s say 5 minutes, and tell students, “You have 5 minutes to ….” would they get a sense of how long 5 minutes is? Would they begin to make sense of what can be done in 1 minute, 5 minutes, 1 hour? Would they begin to see how to use their time with intention? Here’s the important part, rather than using countdowns, use a timer and be quiet! These are just things I’m pondering. What do you think?

Here’s an example of students being trusted to learn HOW to use their time. Recess. Students are given an average of 15-20 minutes for recess. They certainly figure out what to do during that time, and it ends all too soon for their liking. We trust them to figure out how to use their “playtime” and when asked, “What’s your favorite part of the school day?” most children say recess or “free centers/stations”. Hmmmm…

In our world of multi-tasking, I’ve been reflecting on what my child sees me doing with my time. Am I modeling how to use the time I’ve been given? This has also made me think about what our students see in school. Do we model the use of time in our schools with purpose and intention? Do we slow down when we need to? Do we speed up when we need to? Do we adjust our time according to a specific need of a student? Or are we zipping through our days to cover things without our students understanding or feeling just what a gift time is? I have a hypothesis that if we are planned well and know our target/intention, what we expect, and clearly communicate that to students/children, they would be able to make sense of time in a way that is meaningful and sticks. With that being said, we also need to communicate what happens if things are not done within that time limit, we don’t need to create any undo anxiety for kids, they’ve got enough! For example, if students have 30 minutes to work on  writing, imagine that, 30 minutes to work on their writing how would they structure that 30 minutes? I imagine some students might just spend 5 minutes thinking about what to write, others might spend 5 minutes brainstorming with a pencil in hand, others might just start writing, and I bet some might even need to spend 5-10 minutes drawing a picture to help them find the “story” they want to write.

Final thoughts, we learn by what we feel. We learn by experience. In order for students/ children to learn about time, we need to let them feel time, we need to provide opportunities for them to gain experience in structuring their time given. Then, in my opinion, they would make sense of reading clocks, telling time, and writing time. I’m curious what others think about teaching TIME.


Author: Kristen Hahn

Creative and passionate realist. Daughter, Sister, Wife, and Mom. I believe in the power of our mindsets, education, and being the change we wish to see in the world. We do better and find more joy when we embrace our imperfections and speak up about what we want to change.

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