About Time – Beat the clock

white clock
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Learning to tell analogue time is a persistent difficulty for dyslexic learners. Why is it so tricky?

For one, it is hard to differentiate between the two hands. In addition, counting is typically done on number lines or tape measures – straight lines – yet this number line is circular and NEVER STOPS! Moreover, time does not easily link to other topics of measurement.

Most common misconceptions are that the minute hand will be used to read from the hour markers, a confusion between ‘past’ and ‘to’ and understanding that 0 clock follows 59 minutes (or 55), thinking that time is based around 100 like other standards of measurement.

Sally Harris explains that ‘One of the difficulties with the labelling system (in analogue time) is that there is no zero o’clock, just as there is no 60-minute position on a clock-dial or on a digital display‘. Read more here Difficulties in developing time concepts

There are 3 aspects relating to time: point of time (leading to the ability to tell a specific time), time intervals (understanding units of time, and being able to apply this) and time span (a sense of time passing). Dyslexic students struggle with all aspects of time.

Organisation tends to be challenging for a dyslexic person because their concept of time passing is not developed. They will typically be confused around adverbs of time as well e.g., before, after, tomorrow, yesterday. Days of the week and months of the year will not stick as readily as they do for their peers. These are abstract concepts that do not carry concrete meaning. Linking this information to something e.g., days of the week to their etymology (word history), using the names of Gods will help. Moreover, discussing what happens in their life (accessing autobiographical memory) on each day will further cement this information.

There is a teaching misconception that digital time is easier to teach (and learn) but Harris suggests this is not the case: ‘It could be argued that for reading o’clock times an analogue clock is obviously easier because all the o’clock numbers (and only the o’clock numbers!) are (usually) displayed.’ I frame o’clock as ‘zero’ clock as this is ‘zero minutes’.

With my own children, I developed a narrative for telling analogue time which I used with other learners and found that it worked! I called it Clockwise – see video demonstration below.

It involves imagining the clock face as a running track, I had this idea as a track is circular and encompasses the concept of ‘past‘ the start and running ‘to‘ the finish line. The minute hand is ‘Mr Minutes’ and the hour hand is ‘lap guy’. Lap guy counts the laps made by Mr Minutes. I have also taught this to Reception classes in groups in the sports hall. In this situation, I establish a huge clockface, with children stood at each number 1-12 around the clock. Someone moves as ‘Mr Minutes’ and someone else moves as ‘Lap Guy’. This activity helps children to establish the roles of the different hands and how they move at different rates, in relation to each other.

This is in line with the way dyslexics learn best, using *DREAM principles *Dynamic, Real Life, Explicit, Achievable, Mind’s Eye see previous post Dare to DREAM : teaching dyslexic learners.

Time as a concept is I’m currently reading ‘`The Order of Time’ by Carlo Rovelli. ‘Time, as Aristotle suggested, is the measure of change…If by ‘time’ we mean nothing more than happening, then everything is time. There is only that which exists in time.’

Dyslexics typically cannot process that something ‘is’ simply because you tell them it is so, they must experience it or link it to something concrete to know it. This is part of their difficulty with processing analogue time and everything related to time – they see the complexity of it and are overwhelmed. The narrative/story element of Clockwise helps them to separate the information on an analogue clock and to use their imagination/mind’s eye to engage with it.

In this way, the dyslexic students are some of the most interesting minds in your classroom. This may not be your experience – yet – because formal education is primarily built around disseminating information and not exploring thinking. There is no time for time.

Clockwise demonstrated with my youngest many years ago!

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