It's May, the forsythia are blooming, and most of us are looking forward to the long, lazy days of summer. In keeping with the slower pace of days to come, this issue of Class Ideas is about time ... elapsed time, that is. In this month's article, math specialist Heather Jones asks the question, "Is there a way to teach elapsed time that actually works?" If you struggle with this perennially challenging problem, her answer should elicit a sigh of relief.
To help your elapsed time lessons really pop, we're also offering links to some fun elapsed time resources on the Web, downloadable elapsed time activity pages, and a fantastic special on Didax's full line of elapsed time products.
We hope you'll take a moment out of your busy end-of-school-year schedule to savor the delights of this special time-sensitive issue!
As a former fourth grade teacher, I can attest to the fact that the concept of elapsed time is one of the most difficult concepts to teach. I never felt like I did a good job (or even a satisfactory job) of helping my students truly understand elapsed time. When I took my current job as a Math Specialist for the State of Arkansas, the first phone calls I received were from teachers asking if I would come to their classrooms and teach model lessons on elapsed time. I remember feeling like such a fraud! Here I was, wearing a name tag that read "Heather Carter, Math Specialist," and yet I did not have an effective method to teach students elapsed time! So, I decided to find a strategy to teach elapsed time that would make sense to kids, or at the very least, say that I had exhausted all resources and there was not a more effective method out there.
My first move was to scour every catalog I had and order any and everything that even remotely related to elapsed time. I was surprised that there were not more resources readily available to help teach such a difficult concept. When my purchases arrived, I still was not any closer to solving this problem.
My second move was to do a problem analysis and determine exactly what kids must be able to do in order to solve elapsed time problems. I started with the three different types of elapsed time problems: start time unknown, end time unknown, and elapsed time unknown. I also began looking at the traditional methods for teaching elapsed time (geared clocks, adding and subtracting hours and minutes, etc.) and I had this incredible moment of clarity in which I understood that I had spent many, many years utterly and completely confusing my students! I don?t know why it took me so long to see it.
The passage of time is such an abstract concept, and research has told us time and time again that students must start at the concrete level and progress to the abstract. But when it comes to teaching elapsed time, we jump right to the abstract and then we are so frustrated when our students don?t understand. Even a clock that students can manipulate is not quite concrete enough when it comes to elapsed time. The clocks are an excellent resource to teach telling time, but kids need something they can manipulate that represents the passage of time. I had no luck finding a manipulative like that, so I made one myself!
What resulted was The Compact Time Board, a linear timeline that represents every block of time in a 24-hour period. One side of the timeline represents A.M. and the flip side represents P.M. My main concern was making proportional time pieces that could be placed on the timeline to solve any elapsed time problem type. I think it is important developmentally to make sure kids understand the concept of 1 hour. I usually start a lesson with just the magnetic time pieces and say, ?Let?s see how many ways you can make an hour.? The kids love discovering that 1-45 minute piece and 1-15 minute piece is equal to 4-15 minute pieces. This is when they finally understand the whole ?quarter of an hour? concept. It is huge when they get it.
Transitioning between A.M. and P.M. is also very clear with The Compact Time Board. If you have a movie that starts at 11:15 A.M. and lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes, you put 45 minutes on the A.M. side and the remaining hour goes on the P.M. side. It is so visual! Another student-friendly feature is that it works for all elapsed time problem types. If you have an elapsed time unknown problem, you simply mark the start time with the green arrow and the end time with the red arrow. Then you just fill in the empty space between the two arrows with time pieces. It is so easy! If you have an end time unknown problem, mark the start time with the green arrow, place the time pieces for the given amount on the board and where you end up is your end time.
Elapsed time is now one of the most fun concepts for me to teach to students. It really is amazing what a difference it makes when we start at the concrete level. After repeated exposure to the concrete manipulative, students will progress to the point where they can draw just the portion of the timeline needed to solve a particular problem. Eventually, they will be able to calculate elapsed time mentally. We just have to remember to start at the concrete level and not jump right in to the abstract!
These activity pages from Didax's It's About Time series are guaranteed to make learning about time fun. Whether it's reading a clock, learning about the calendar, or constructing a timeline from Roman times to the present, we've got the subject of time covered. Just copy and distribute!
If you need to lay your hands on elapsed time resources quickly, the Internet is a great place to find free worksheets, interactive games, and more. Here are just a few of the many resources available to teachers and parents for the price of a simple Web-surfing expedition.
Next month, we'll look at some seriously fun ways for kids to learn or reinforce their multiplication facts during summer vacation. These games are so engaging, they'll hardly know they're learning. So keep an eye on your inbox for the next idea-packed issue of Class Ideas!