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5 Ideas For Teaching Elapsed Time

telling time

I thought I’d share with you some ideas to help your students develop the basic ideas and skills associated with measuring elapsed time.

1. Races

A fun way for your students to compare durations of time is to be involved in different types of races. Different races can be compared to find out how long they take. The races will require the same starting point and same ending point. Races could include: egg and spoon race, three legged race, skipping race and hopping race. Ask your students:

  • Do you all have to start at the same time?
  • What about the timer, what can be used?
  • When students compare the races get them to use comparison language, such as: less time, more time, the same amount of time, took a shorter amount of time, took a longer amount of time.

2. Heads on desk

This is a good way to get your students to think about how long one minute is. Have your students place their head on the desk with their eyes closed. Get them to count to one minute in their head. When they think they have reached 1 minute get them to place their hand in the air. After most students have their hands up, get them to sit up and discuss. Some questions you could ask your students:

  • How many seconds in one minute?
  • Is there a way that you can count that will help you get exactly one minute?
  • Let your students know how many students were close or if anyone counted exactly one minute.
  • What will you do differently next time to be more accurate?

This is also a great little wind down activity to do if you’ve just been out for sport, or come in from recess or lunch.

3. Measuring activities

I also like to incidentally ask my students time related questions during other activities. For example, you could ask your students:

  • It’s 5 minutes to recess, do you think we have enough time for 5 more questions? How many questions could we do in that time?
  • Or we have 10 minutes can we finish the class book? If not, how many pages do you think we could get through?
  • Choose a student to keep track of the time with a clock.

4. Measuring time in different ways

Have your students find out how long it takes to do certain things, for example taking their shoes off, getting a drink, walking to the other side of the classroom and back. Get them to use different units to measure the time. You could get them to clap their hands, count or make tally marks. Ask them: which methods were best for short time intervals? What about for long time intervals? What other ways could we have measured the time it took?

5. Egg timer

Making egg timers is also a fun way to help your students understand elapsed time. You will need two small empty plastic bottles. Have one with a lid that has a small hole made. Add dry sand in one of the bottles and then tape the other bottle on top. The sand will flow from one to the other. Get your students to test the duration of time it takes for the sand to flow from one of the bottles to the other. Some questions you can ask:

  • What is the greatest length of time your timer could be made to measure?
  • What about if you used a larger bottle?
  • What if you made the whole larger?
  • Why are some of the timers the same and some are different?

You could then use the timers to measure different activities throughout the day. For example, you have Joe’s timer to finish off that piece of work.

Click here to find more fun math games and activities

Graphic Credits: Graphics From the Pond and Lita Lita

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