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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Telling the time    

Telling the time


Telling the time
Hello colleagues,
         After few days, I will  be teaching telling the time to complete beginners and  I d  like  you to  help  me find some easy ways to make students understand the difference between past & to in the British ways of saying the time (  ten past five / five to eleven/ a quarter past eight...etc) and also to make them participate in a speaking activity where they ask and answer their partners about the time. 
     Thank you a million for your suggestions.

11 Feb 2009      


I made a worksheet consisting of 4 parts (interesting is the fact that there are  exercises of different levels in one worksheet).
I think this is what you need.






11 Feb 2009     


Concerning the explanation, basically I tell my students that when the minutes hand of the clock is going round the clock, the hour hand is moving to the next number. So when we say "to", it means we re going TO, IN THE DIRECTION OF the next number for the hour hand. And we say "past" it s because we went PAST the previous number. I m not sure it s quite clear as I m writing it... What the students have to keep in mind, is that the reference is the position "12": they need to count the number of minutes from that point to the minutes hand. And then they decide between "to" and "past" depending on which half of the clock the minutes hand is located in. And the to/past choice is the condition for saying the next or the previous number when they have to talk about the hour hand. I hope my explanation is clear to you... I usually use a cardboard clock that I ve made myself. On the left, I wrote TO and on the right PAST and I coloured them in different colours. I also wrote the number of minutes outside the clock, using the colour of TO or PAST. First I move the hands myself, and when they re starting to be comfortable at telling the time, I pick a pupil and he/she tests the others by setting the time. That s a way to make them practice. They could also make a clock each and practice in pairs, but of course you cannot check all the answers.
I hope my answer will help you. It s easier to explain using a clock !!!

11 Feb 2009     


My adult learners -beginners- have a big preference for the reading option, which simply consists of reading what is indicated on the watch and which they never confuse (ex 10:27  Read ten twenty seven)
It is so simple like that...
Of course I first explain the other options with past and to

11 Feb 2009     


Don t confuse me now ... but ... isn t it VERY SIMPLE?
It s 11:01 / 11:02 / 11:03 ... ... 11:30 PAST and when it s 11:31 / 11:32 / 11:33 we say TO?!
So 11:30 = half PAST 11:00 ... But 11:31 = 29 minutes TO 12 ... 11:32 = 28 minutes TO 12:00 ... ... ?!
Half past is the border at which we have to change from PAST to TO.

11 Feb 2009     


It is in fact very simple and I think my students always understand the difference. The problem is that after a few days they forget about the meaning of PAST and TO, so they mix them.
So, there is no problem about understanding the way people tell time in English, the problem is that they don t study afterwards.

11 Feb 2009     


  Thanks alot for your replays.

11 Feb 2009     

United States

In German:
You say "nach" meaning "after" or "past" (same as English).
You say "vor" meaning "before"; we say "to" meaning "bis"( a little different)
Also, we only speak about before or after the hour--not the half hour, we don t say "five after half past..." ("funf nach halb"), we say "25 until".

12 Feb 2009