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Active Learning – our “Class Clock”
Jan 28th, 2010 by H-Blog

Some of the pupils in my class had been struggling with some of the finer details of telling the time. They were trying hard, but, let’s face it, the concepts can be quite tricky. They were becoming quite disillusioned, so last week I showed them a Youtube video of Dave Allen talking about learning to tell the time

Now, we had been doing work on this same target for a few weeks now, and they were still having bother. The video cheered them up a bit, and stopped them feeling that they were the only people in the world who had ever had these problems. I had been thinking about how I might help them ‘get it’ all week, but was still unsure.

And then I had a eureka moment.

We got the desks back against the wall of the class, so we just had a big gap in the middle of the class and 3 piles of chairs. I told them I wasn’t going to give them any instructions, but that when they knew what I was doing they could help me. I put a chair standing in the gap, and then wrote out a number 12 and stuck it on. As soon as I wrote 6, they had it sussed and were able to help me arrange the chairs in a circle with the numbers 1-12 stuck on them in the correct clockface positions. We used a ruler as ‘the hour hand’ and they were all able to demonstrate that they knew where the hour hand should be pointing for a particular “o’clock”. We put a swivel chair in the middle of the ‘clock’ to help us move smoothly like a clock, and also had a discussion about the way the hand would move (only clockwise!).

Next, I moved the marked hours down off the backs of the circled chairs so they were hanging on the seat part, and stuck a sign with “o’clock” onto the back of the 12 chair. Again, they were quick to realise what was happening and in turns (starting with half past, quarter past and quarter to) we soon had the minutes in the right places above the respective hours. I found that being able to actually turn round really helped them work out where the numbers were in relation to each other – for instance, if they were facing 9, I could ask what was behind them and they knew without looking that it was 3.

Our chairs have been formed into a circle to represent a clock face, with the hours 1-12 stuck on low down and the minutes from o'clock to five to stuck on higher up

Our chairs have been formed into a circle to represent a clock face, with the hours 1-12 stuck on low down and the minutes from o'clock to five to stuck on higher up

We then found ourselves a suitable hour hand, it having to be significantly longer than our hour hand, and thinner if possible. We then practised showing a particular minute to/from using the hour hand, before setting a question for the other pupils. Again, they were able to demonstrate good knowledge, and again the physical set up helped – for instance, with the hours being closer to the centre of the clock, I was able to point out that the minute hand was longer, and therefore should be looking at the further away numbers. It also helped I could direct gaze – ‘look up’ or ‘look down’ were a real help to the pupils. Also, being able to physically handle the hour and minute hands certainly seemed to help them distinguish between them.

Big hand pointing to 12, small hand pointing to 1. What time do you think it says on the clock?

Big hand pointing to 12, small hand pointing to 1. What time do you think it says on the clock?

WE then took some pictures of our clock, and Twitpicced them – an hour later they had had about 40 views each, and we also got a couple of comments from a parent. Finally, in turn I gave the pupils a single hand of the clock and got them to point to a specific chair. They had to read the chair’s time to me using which hand they had to tell which number they were to read. Again, this worked very well. At that point, we sorted the chairs and the desks out, put everything back where it should be and went to use one of the excellent Teaching Time resources on the SMART Board as a plenary activity. Just as we were about to start, I remembered that I had promised myself to use AudioBoo with the class, so out came Artoo (my trusty iPhone) and I had a chat with the boys about the lesson. The result was not quite as structured as I would have liked, but seemed positive. Judge for yourself by having a listen!

So, a successful lesson, and a useful technique that we can use again. I have already had another couple of ideas to develop the activity. The one downside was when I was asking my PSA if she thought the lesson had been any good: “Oh yes, I thought it was excellent. Was that one of Cassie’s ideas?”

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