Number one for English language teachers

Vocabulary: Telling the time

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary Type: Teaching notes

Some ideas from Jim Scrivener for practising telling the time using clocks and students' own watches.

Thousands of times

Ask every student to (temporarily) set their watches to a completely different time. Tell students to stand up and mingle, asking each other the time, noting down all the varied answers they hear (and checking the actual watches themselves if they are not certain they have understood correctly). An enjoyable but easy-to-run quick practice activity. 


Secret times

Prepare a number of simple photocopied clock faces (without hands).  Get the class to stand up in lines of about 6 or 7 students. Distribute one “clock” to each student.  Ask all the students at the front of their line to come to you. Whisper a time to them (e.g. 7.45) which they draw by adding hands on their clock to show that time. They can now go back and (without showing their own clock) whisper the same time to the next person in line – who draws it and then whispers it to the next, who also draws it, and so on. At the end, everyone holds up their clocks. Are all of them showing the same time? The winning team is the fastest one that got all times correct.


Oh my goodness!

Model the following short dialogue for students a few times, then get them to repeat it, making sure that they also mime the actions and that the intonation at the end is dramatic and a little exaggerated:

A (holding his watch and shaking it):  Excuse me, do you have the time?

B (looking at her watch): Yes, of course. It’s ten to three.

A (stuffing his broken watch into his pocket): Oh my goodness! I’m late for a meeting.

When you are sure students know it by heart and can say it with convincing actions and pronunciation, ask them to stand up and move around the room having the dialogue with different partners. After that, elicit some different times (e.g. quarter past nine etc) and elicit two or three different explanations to follow Oh my goodness (e.g. my girlfriend is waiting). Ask students to mingle again, but this time practising a variety of exchanges. The use of the watch props adds a simple touch of realism and humour to the exchange; doing the actions helps to make the whole dialogue more kinaesthetic, visual and memorable.


Story time

Handout a photocopied page of blank clock faces. Prepare a simple short story suitable for the class’s level including lots of times (e.g. at 1.30 I eat my lunch). Ask students to listen while you tell the story (repeating it once or twice as necessary) and whenever they hear a time to draw hands on a clock face. At the end, group students in 3’s or 4’s to first check if they all got the same times and then to see if they can recall what happened at each time. Retell the story at the end for students to check answers.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for the feedback. Lovely to hear that your learners enjoyed these ideas so much. Keep up the good work!

    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • I used these ideas with a group of elementary level learnes, mostly adults, and they enjoyed it so much; they were able to remember the vocabulary afterwards and they had a lot of fun while doing it.
    Thank you for the ideas!!!

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