A boy wearing a plaid shirt looking at the round clock he is holding up next to his face
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Should You Be Able to Tell Time on a Clock Like This?

More and more people use phones to tell time. Are we losing an important skill?

By Alessandra Potenza
From the March/April 2022 Issue
Lexiles: 600-700L
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After months of waiting, your birthday is here! You tear open a present. Wait. It’s not the new video game you wanted. It’s an analog watch. It has moving lines that point to numbers . . . and a weird ticking noise? Uh-oh. You can’t tell time on a clock like this!

Analog clocks have been around since the 1200s. They have lines, called hands, that point at numbers from 1 to 12. One hand is for the hours, and one is for the minutes. Many clocks have a third hand for the seconds. It’s your job to “read” the time—to see where the hands are pointing and figure out what time it is.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the first digital clocks appeared. You don’t have to read the time on a digital clock—it’s clearly displayed on a screen. But analog clocks are still around today. And now you own one! Should you learn how to use it?

After months of waiting, it’s finally here: your birthday! You excitedly tear open a present.

Wait. It’s not the Nintendo Switch you’ve been begging for. It’s a watch. And not a smartwatch. It’s an analog watch, with moving hands and . . . a weird ticking noise?

Uh-oh. Maybe your parents didn’t know: You can’t tell time on a watch like this!

Don’t worry—you’re not alone. One small study even found that as many as 75 percent of 6- to 12-year-olds can’t read old-timey clocks.

The question is, does it matter?

A Waste of Time  

A Long History

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Some say that learning how to use an analog clock is a waste of, well, time. Learning this skill won’t help you write an essay or score a goal. Plus, digital clocks are easier to use. Why learn to read an analog clock when you can just glance at a phone or computer and see the time digitally displayed? 

Besides, most kids today can’t use other old devices, like typewriters or rotary phones. The analog clock is just another piece of technology that’s being replaced by something else.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the first digital clocks appeared. You don’t have to read the time on a digital clock—it’s clearly displayed on a screen. But analog clocks are still around today. And now you own one! Should you learn how to use it?

Unlike digital clocks, analog clocks don’t spell out the time. They  have hands that point at numbers from 1 to 12. You “read” the time by looking at the position of the hands.

Analog clocks have been around since the 1200s. Back then, you couldn’t find them in people’s homes or on their wrists. They were on towers or other buildings, marking time by sounding a bell. (The word clock comes from the Latin word for bell, clocca.)

It wasn’t until the 1800s that clocks became more common. First, there were pocket watches, which fit inside pockets. Then women began wearing them as bracelets. This was fancy and convenient. Soon, the trend caught on.

If you ask your grandparents, they’ll most likely tell you that their home had a clock in their kitchen or living room. And strapped around their wrists? A watch ticking away at time.

Still Important  

A Thing of the Past?

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But others argue that knowing how to tell time is still important. Some places, like train stations (and maybe even your school!),
continue to use analog clocks. If your phone runs out of battery, you could get stuck not knowing what time it is! 

Plus, phones can be distracting. You might check your phone for the time and get sucked in by interesting apps and websites. Twenty minutes later, you still haven’t checked the time.

Besides, learning to tell time on an analog clock can be a helpful way to learn fractions. Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s a quarter past four”? That means it’s 4:15. On an analog clock, you can see how the minute hand points to one-quarter of the way through the circle.

It’s time to decide: Should you be able to read time on an analog clock?

The first digital clocks appeared in the 1950s. But the technology that’s threatening to wipe out analog clocks didn’t become popular until the 1990s: cell phones!

Today, almost every American adult owns one. And a study found that almost 60 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds rely on their phone to know what time it is.

Some say that learning how to read an analog clock is a waste of, well, time. Students already have a lot to learn in school. Long division, reading nonfiction, opinion writing. Why teach a skill that won’t help you do well on tests or in college?

Besides, most kids can’t use old devices like typewriters and rotary phones. (No idea what those are? That’s because they’re no longer needed!) The analog clock is just the latest piece of tech that’s being replaced by something else.

But some argue that knowing how to tell time is important. For younger kids, it’s a helpful way to apply math skills, like fractions, that they’re just learning.

And what if your phone’s battery dies? Many places, like schools and train stations, still use analog clocks.

Plus, phones are distracting. You might check your phone for the time and get sucked in by a million texts and TikTok notifications. Twenty minutes later, what time is it again? 

Maybe old-timey clocks will one day disappear. But not yet. Only time will tell.

What does your class think?

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What do you think?

Go back to the article and write down reasons to support each side of the argument. Then study the points on both sides. State your opinion in one sentence, which can be the introduction to an opinion paragraph.

What do you think?

Go back to the article and write down reasons to support each side of the argument. Then study the points on both sides. State your opinion in one sentence, which can be the introduction to an opinion paragraph.

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Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Practice Telling Time

In case any of your students need some practice reading an analog clock, they can practice with this online time generator. Instruct students to click the blue “Random” button to see a new time. The yellow “Show” button reveals the time. 

 

From the Storyworks 3 Archives

For another debate about whether or not it’s time to ditch an old habit, share “Should We Get Rid of the Penny?” from the March/April 2021 issue with your students. Ask: Is it time to dump the penny?

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. PREPARING TO READ

Have students preview the text features. Ask:

    What is the topic of the debate? (Prompt students to use the debate title and the     heading on the chart as clues.) 

    What are the two opinions people might have about this topic?

2. READING THE DEBATE

Depending on the reading level of your students, read the debate as a class or break the class into groups.

Have students read the debate a second time. Prompt them to highlight evidence supporting each side as they come across it. Using two different colors of highlighters would be useful here.

3. DISCUSSING

As a class or in groups, have students discuss:

Which opinion has the best evidence to support it?

Is one side stronger than the other? Why?

What is your opinion? What evidence helped you form your opinion?

For more advanced readers: Do you think the author has an opinion on this issue? What is your evidence?

4. WRITING

Have students complete the chart in the magazine or our full-page printable chart.

Guide students to write an essay on the debate topic, using the chart they filled out.

5. CHECK COMPREHENSION

Have students complete our comprehension quiz.

Text-to-Speech