K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

How to tell time and understand how the hands of the clock operate.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


  • 12 hands cut out of construction paper
  • poster board
  • hand clock worksheet
  • individual clocks (optional)


  • be familiar with the clock in general
  • know how to count by fives
  • understanding of the movement of time
  • vocabulary of minute and hour


  1. The teacher will tell a story to the class about meeting a leprechaun on the way to school and how he offers to give her a hand at school. (My version of this story is included in the supplemental resources.)
  2. Distribute the 12 construction paper hands to various children or hide them in the classroom. Have the children bring them up to you one at a time. Glue the hands on a large sheet of poster board in the shape of a clock.
  3. Discuss that it looks like a clock and write the numbers 1 through 12 on the palms of the hands. Emphasize that this in the hours on the clock.
  4. Use a pointer to show how the hour hand must point exactly on the number for it to be 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock, etc. Review hours as needed.
  5. Ask children about the fingers on the hands… What could these be? They will be able to relate the fingers to the minutes on the clock. After they make this discovery, write the numbers on the fingers beginning at 1 and going to 60. Discuss the two meanings for each number on the clock. The 2 for example, means 2 hours when the hour hand is on it and 10 when the minute hand is on it.
  6. Children are then given their own hand clock sheet to write the hours and minutes just as it has been modeled on the large sheet. Children will add minute and hour hands to the clock so they can set it for different times.
  7. Practice setting the clock for different times following teacher directions. The teacher would call out times such as 8:30, 4:00, etc, (Children could use commercial clocks for this if preferred.) Second grade working only to the half hour although they will see how the entire clock operates. Third grade will need to continue to work on use of the clock, as this is an introductory lesson only.


Teachers will be able to evaluate the understanding of the child’s ability to begin to tell time. Whole group assessment can be recorded on a calendar grid or checklist as to whether the children are able to number the clock correctly and their ability to set the clock for different times following teacher directions.

Supplemental information

The story I use with my children is similar to this:

“On the way to school this morning, I saw a little green man on the side of the road. He was waving his hand at me and calling “Mrs. Williamson, I’ll give you a hand! I’ll give you a hand!” and he gave me these green hands. He told me what to do with them and I told him I would try it. I don’t know how he knew we would be learning how to tell time today. He said that his magic in these hands would help all of you to learn how to tell time. So, this is what he said to do. (Glue the hands up at this time. After gluing them up continue with the story.) What do you think this is supposed to be? A clock, how is this silly clock going to help us tell time? Oh I see! (Continue with the lesson by numbering the hands, etc.)”

I also would like to suggest the book One Hand at a Time by Patricia Smith as a wonderful resource for teaching time.


I learned to do the clock hands at a NCCTM Conference several years ago and have modified the idea to fit my second graders.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • Measurement & Data
          • 1.MD.3 Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks.
        • Grade 2

          • 2.MD.7 Tell and write time from analog and digital clocks to the nearest five minutes, using a.m. and p.m.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 2

  • Goal 2: Measurement - The learner will recognize and use standard units of metric and customary measurement.
    • Objective 2.02: Tell time at the five-minute intervals.

Grade 3

  • Goal 2: Measurement - The learner will recognize and use standard units of metric and customary measurement.
    • Objective 2.01: Solve problems using measurement concepts and procedures involving:
      • Elapsed time.
      • Equivalent measures within the same measurement system.