Learning to tell time for bilingual learners

Learning to tell time is a valuable skill for any young learner, especially for bilingual learners. Of course, knowing the time is essential to get to places on time like school.

Also, learning how to tell time encourages young learners about differences in the day and night. As young children become more aware of time, seasons, and progression of a day, they are more apt to relate time with changes.

That is why learning about the seasons and time are great lessons to begin talking about the changes in a young child’s life. 

Learning to Tell Time for Bilingual Learners

Although bilingual learners might know the time by looking at a digital clock, how to tell the time using an analog presents more opportunities to learn. For instance, the analog clock is a simple system that can be represented by fractions or sections.

Of course, you don’t have to go in-depth about fractions. However, take a moment to discuss the sections of a circular clock.

For example, you can easily use round objects like a cookie, pizza, or a donut. Next, you can start discussing the pieces that you can divide, such as half and quarters.

In the same way, you can show that four sections divide a clock. Then, you can add the hands of a clock for more clarity.

Once your students understand that there are sections in a clock, you can begin discussing the big and small hands. These movable parts indicate the hour and minutes on a clock.  

learning to tell time

How to Tell Time

Create a sense of perspective about hours and minutes when you show different situations.

  • For example, you can use the events of a daily school day.
  • At first, most students will begin school, play with their friends, go to class, do activities, and sleep.
  • These daily life activities usually occur at specific times.
  • So, you can use those times to indicate the hour that it takes place.

If you use the task cards, there are several situations that you can show.

  • These telling time exercises address learning about the hour.
  • Next, you can combine other lessons to introduce minutes or even half-time and quarter-time.
  • Consequently, learning how to tell the hour is the simplest way to learn about clocks.
  • For instance, you can use a wall clock to model the hands and the hour.

Similarly, you can also use the matching cards to identify different times. 

Telling Time Activities

In telling time activities, you can use task cards, model time with a wall clock, or read a passage about time.

  • For example, use the time cards to practice identifying different hours.
  • For multiple students in a class, you can print the cards and laminate them.
  • Then, use dry erase pens or markers to circle the answer.
  • In that way, you can reuse the how-to-tell time cards repeatedly.
  • Also, use a wall clock to show the difference in clock hands.
  • You can paint the hands a different color.
  • Similarly, you can use color paper to make arrows and paste them onto each hand clock.
  • Then, you can show moving the hands in different time situations.
  • Lastly, you can read a brief bilingual passage.
  • The text consists of various situations during a typical class day.
  • Begin by talking about the morning arriving at school.
  • Next, you can talk about playing with friends or class time.
  • As the day progresses, point out lunchtime in the afternoon and returning home.
  • After that, you might want to talk about dinner in the evening and sleep at night.

By activating these different scenarios with previous experiences, your students will relate their daily activities. Learning how to tell time may not be covered in one lesson.

You might have to consistently talk about time, changes in the day and night, and calendars. 

Common Bilingual Phrases in Telling Time

Bilingual learners may need extra support when telling time. Expressing time in English is sometimes different from Spanish.

In each situation, how to tell time uses various forms of grammar that might not be evident in English. 


  • I start school at 7:00 in the morning.
    • (Yo comienzo la escuela a las 7:00 de la mañana.)
  • What time is it? It is 10:00.
    • (¿Qué hora es? Son las 10:00.)
  • She eats her lunch at noon.
    • (Ella come su almuerzo al mediodía.) 
  • They go to the park during the afternoon.
    • (Ellos van al parque durante la tarde.)
  • What time does the art class begin? The art class begins at 4:00 in the afternoon.
    • (¿A qué hora comienza la clase de arte? La clase de arte comienza a las 4:00 de la tarde.) 

Learning to tell time does take time. Young learners begin to encounter a time when seasons change. They also associate time with changes in the day and night as they experience daylight and nighttime.

These specific learning experiences are what encourages them to continue to interact with their surroundings and learn. 

These telling time activities and lessons align with the CK standards: Orientation in Time. These printables also support the Goal: Establish Reference Points in Time, I-OT2.1, I-OT2.2a, and II.OT2.2b standards, and Head Start programs. 

Watch the How To Tell Time Bilingual Activities YouTube video here.