Telling time can be a little bit tricky for English learners. First of all, there are digital as well as analog clocks, and there’s also the 24-hour time clock which can be tricky for native English speakers.
Then, your students will have to memorize things like “at night” and “in the morning.” There is no rule for why one of them uses at, but the other ones uses in.
Add into the mix things like quarter after, quarter to and half past, and it’s clear that telling time is a unit worth teach, and then reviewing, and then reviewing again!
Top 12 ESL Telling Time Activities
Are you ready for some of my favourite telling time ESL games and activities that you can use in your classes today? Keep on reading for my top picks!
#1: Daily Schedule Speaking Activity
Telling time and daily schedules or routines are often combined in a unit for good reason. They’re a natural fit! If you want to spice things up a little bit and break free from the normal stuff you see in most ESL/EFL textbooks, then you’ll want to consider this daily routines speaking activity to use with daily schedules.
Sounds intriguing? It’s interactive, engaging, fun and students really seem to enjoy it! Find out more about it here: ESL Daily Schedule Activity.
#2: Telling Time Videos
I’m ALL about using videos in my classes for a variety of purposes. I find that they make a nice warm-up and can help students activate their prior knowledge. Or, they’re ideal for the end of a lesson when you want to do a quick review. You could even base an entire lesson plan around one as well.
Finally, maybe your students are tired of hearing you talk? I know that mine often are! You could consider showing them an instructional video that explains how to tell time, instead of you telling them. Simple, effective, and it’s a nice way to mix things up a little bit in your classes.
For more ideas about how use videos in your classes, be sure to check out: How to Use ESL Videos. Or, check out just one example that you can find on YouTube:
#3 ESL Telling Time: Daily Schedule Survey
Surveys are one of the most useful ESL activities that I can think of. They lend themselves to just about any topic, vocabulary set or grammar point. In this case, you’d want to make up questions related to daily schedules and time. For example:
- Do you get up before 6am on school days?
- Do you ever go to bed way too late?
- Have you ever skipped breakfast because you slept in?
Learn more about this interactive ESL activity here: ESL Surveys.
#4 Telling Time Activity for Kindergarten or Preschool: What Time is It Mr. Wolf?
One of the best telling time activities for kindergarten or preschool kids is What Time is it Mr. Wolf? It’s ideal because it gets young kids up out of their seats and moving around the classroom. Choose one student to be the wolf and the rest of the students stand lining up against one wall.
The students on the wall ask, “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” If he says, “Four O’clock,” the students take 4 steps towards him. At any point in time he can say, “It’s lunchtime” and then try to catch one of the students who will take his place as the wolf.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 100 Pages - 11/12/2019 (Publication Date)
#5 Telling Time ESL: Flashcard Activities
In my opinion, one of the most under-utilized ESL teaching tools are flashcards. They can be used for a ton of activities, but in the case of telling time, here are a few ideas.
- Use flashcards with times on them. Students have to say what they usually do at that time. For example, “At 7:00, I’m usually waking up.”
- Use flashcards with common daily activities. Students have to say when they do it. For example, “I wake up at 7:30.”
More ideas, tips and tricks here: ESL Flashcard Activities and Games.
#6 Telling Time ESL Adults: Dictogloss Speaking and Listening Activity
If you’re looking for some 4-skills ESL teaching awesome, then Dictogloss should be at the top of your list. It’s ideal for helping students notice, and take note of the big ideas of something they’re listening to.
The way it works is that you prepare a reading passage in advance. In this case, you’d want to includes lots of times in it. Then, you read it slowly to the students who take notes. After that, they try to recreate what they’re heard either by writing or speaking. You can read it again if necessary, but this depends on the level of the students.
Do you want to try it out? Learn more about it here: Dictogloss ESL Activity.
#7: Information Gap Activities
An information gap is where one person has one set of information and the other person has another set. They have to work together to build the complete picture. In terms of telling time, it works well if one student has some information related to a person’s daily schedule, while the other student has other details.
They’ll have to work together, by speaking and asking questions in order to get the full picture. If you want to see more details about how to use this style of activity in your class, check out the following: ESL Information Gap Activities.
#8 Activities for Teaching Time: Concentration
If you’re teaching beginners how to tell time, then you may want to consider using this concentration memory game. The way it works is that you make a set of cards for every 4-6 students. One card has the time (7:45) while the other has it written out in English (quarter to eight, or seven forty-five). You’ll want to make 8 pairs, or 16 cards in total.
Then, in groups of 4-6, students lay the cards face down in an organized fashion. The first student chooses two of them and reveals what’s on them. If it’s a match, they keep the cards and go again. If not, they place them back in the same spot and the next student goes. It’s essentially a memory matching game.
Do you want to learn more about how it works? Check it out right here: Concentration Memory Game.
#9: Whiteboard Games and Activities
I’m not sure why, but students LOVE to write or draw things on the whiteboard. Maybe it’s the novelty factor, maybe it’s something else but whatever the case, try out some of these white board activities and games in your classes and I’m sure you’ll see some great participation and happy students!
Telling time is one area that works particularly well for this style of activity. Find out more details here: ESL White Board Activities.
#10: Just a Minute
If you teach intermediate or advanced level students, you may want to consider using “Just a Minute” with them. The way it works is that students have to walk about something for a period of 1 minute without stopping. In this case, it’d probably be their morning routine, nighttime routine, or daily routine.
You can find out more about Just a Minute in this short video:
#11: Memory Circle Time Telling Activity
If you want to test your students’ memories while giving them some practice with telling time, then you’ll want to consider this activity. The way it works is that all the students stand up in a circle. The first student has to say something about their daily schedule with a time. For example:
“I usually go to bed at 10.”
The next student repeats that statement and adds their own:
“He usually goes to bed at 10 and I sometimes sleep in until 8.”
And so on it goes. If a student can’t remember, they are out of the game. Or, you can go around the class once, or play for a specified amount of time. This activity is quite flexible so adapt it to your own needs.
#12: Vocabulary Auction
If you want to have some serious fun in your class, then consider taking the time to prepare this vocabulary auction. In this case, you’d want to come up with a bunch of sentences related to daily activities with times. For example:
“I usually go to bed at 10pm.”
“I sometimes eat breakfast before 7am.”
The key here is to use am/pm. Cut up all the sentences into individual words and distribute a certain number to each group through an auction. They’ll try to make as many sentences as possible this way, and also have a chance to trade words with other groups.
Do you want to know more about this telling time ESL adults activity? Check it out here: ESL Vocabulary Auction.
ESL Telling Time Worksheets
Do you want to use some worksheets to help your students practice telling time? Here are some of our top picks and resources:
ESL Time Online Practice
If you want to direct your students to some online practice exercises for how to tell time, here are some of the best online resources:
Teaching Time Lesson Plans
Do you want a ready-made lesson plan for teaching students how to tell time? Here are some of the best options that you can just print and go. If that’s not a nice solution for a busy teacher, then we’re not sure what is!
Did you Like these Time ESL Games?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Smith, Jennifer Booker (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 132 Pages - 03/31/2016 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so! Then the book you’re going to love is this one, available on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities for Kids. The key to better English classes is a wide variety of interesting games and activities. This book will help you get there in style and you’ll be able to easily make it through an entire semester without having to repeat a thing.
The best part is that the book is well organized various sections: reading and writing, listening and speaking, review, and more. You’ll be able to find what you’re looking for in just a minute or two. If that’s not some ESL teaching awesome, then I’m not sure what is!
You can get the book in both digital and print formats. Take the digital copy with you to your favourite coffee shop for lesson planning on the go. Or, keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide. It really is that easy.
Does it sound like exactly what you need to level up your teaching game? You can find the book on Amazon:
Have your say about these Telling Time Activities
What are your thoughts about these ESL time games and activities? Do you have any tips for how to teach telling time? Leave a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself find this useful teaching resource.
Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API