Watch this 5 minute video for teachers that covers dyslexia, its incidence, the intelligence of students, the discrepancy between fund of knowledge and ease of expression, why reading is hard for dyslexic students, the importance of multisensory learning, assistive technology, writing and spelling, memory and working memory, and math / dyscalculia.

BarbaraB| July 8 at 6:13 pmI think this is a great video. Occasionally teachers ask me what can they can do to teach a student suspected of having dyslexia. Our state does not recognize dyslexia yet and I find that most teachers and special educators know little about it. I started working at a school because I want to help dyslexic students. I would like to share a big picture approach to teaching students to tell time that I figured out with the help of my dyslexic son. I find that telling time is often a challenge for many students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I work in one of the few states that does not yet recognize dyslexia but I have a dyslexic son in his twenties and I read about dyslexia and am certain I recognize it in many students I work with. One of these students, a second grader for the second time, asked me to teach him how to tell time, he wanted to know and his grandfather was trying to teach him in addition to what he had gotten in school but he could not do it. I started in with the usual materials used at school and saw that he was indeed tangled. It is not uncommon to have the students mix up the hands as well as having a confused understanding oh how to read what the hand is pointing to. It is not uncommon for students to give answers such as 2:64 for 2:04 and 4:02 for 4:10, using the numerals for both hands.

I was talking to my dyslexic son about the difficulties many students were having and he said, “One of the problems is everyone says that the hour hand points to the hour, but that’s not true. The hour hand moves the whole hour. In fact, if you did not need to know exactly what minute after the hour it is, you could tell time with just the hour hand.”

I thought about what he said, and knowing that dyslexics benefit from the whole picture first and then the pieces or chunks, as Loir Div explained with his reading and many others have also expressed, I came up with this:

I explain that the clock is two number lines and that there are two steps to telling time. I talk about the number of hours in a day, why the 12 is at the top and how many minutes are in an hour.

Step one is the hour hand. I explain that the hour hand’s (the smaller hand, like the word hour is smaller than the word minute) number line is the numbers 1 – 12. I show this as a straight number line I have drawn on cardboard and cut a groove under. Along this groove I drag an hour hand cut from paper and taped to a paperclip. The students I work with are familiar with number lines. We talk about how number lines go on and on forever but if our clock number line did that we would have to run down the hallway to tell what time it was. The students like this humor. We then talk about how a hard working person developing clocks got the idea to make the number line into a circle since time keeps repeating twice every day and it matches the world turning which brings us time.

I show that the job of the hour hand is to move very slowly from one number to the next and that it takes 60 minutes. It moves so slowly that it is hard to see it moving. We then talk about how we can tell if it is just a few minutes after the hour, about have way — about 30 minutes (maybe 27 or 32…) or a lot of minutes after the hour, so many that it is getting really close to the next hour. We then practice this on a paper clock I printed that just has the numbers on it with an hour hand on a brad. i have made two of these. The first one I use I have colored the wedges so it is easier to see what hour we are in. The second one is with out the color. I put the hour hand in several positions and as the student what hour the clock is in. I also ask them if it is a few minutes after, about half or a lot of minutes after. After a little practice, not more than the child seems to need — typically a half a dozen or so. I move to the battery operated wall clock which I have removed the minute and second hands from. I turn the hand to several different spots and ask the same questions about the hour the clock is in and the approximation of the minutes (a lot, a few or about half). Now I give them a worksheet on which I have whited out the minute hand and ask them to write down the hour followed by the colon.

This is the end of step one and lesson one. Typically students have no trouble with this step. It is important to move at their pace and let them explore. I have some students who take the paper clock and move the hour hand around saying, 1,1,1,2,2,2,3,3,3,4,4,4…12,12,12 as they work through understanding what the hour is. After learning about the hour hand this way I have not seen students be confused about the hour after 6 when the hand is going “up” instead of” down”. This is often a source of confusion for many students.

Step 2 is the minute hand and shown the next day. This number line is little lines or dots. I show this in the straight line and on a paper clock from which I have removed the numbers. I show them the paper clock and ask what they notice. They see that there are no numbers and that some lines are darker than others. I explain that the minute hand’s job is to count the number of minutes after the new hour has started. It goes all the way around the clock in one hour and you can see it move. There are 60 minutes in an hour so how many little lines do you think there are? Some students will take the clock and count all 60 lines. The new hour starts when the minute hand is straight up. We call this o’clock and I show that it is written as :00. We then start counting the minutes :01, :02. I ask them to notice and figure out why there is a zero. I say one minute after, two minutes after… I write some but not all of them. I do make sure I write :10 and then they figure out that the zero was a place holder. After I get into the teens I typically have them count the number of minutes, being random with the minutes I select. When we get into bigger numbers I suggest they figure out why some lines are darker and how we can use that to make counting minutes easier. They can now skip count by 5’s until they need to change to ones. We then move to the wall clock which has the hour and second hand removed and practice with that and then end with a worksheet I have whited out the hour hand from so all they practice is the minutes.

Day three, step three is putting the two together. We joke about how we don’t want to have two watches or two clocks on the wall, one for the hour hand and one for the minute hand, so the clock designer figured out that the two number lines could be on the same clock. They just need to follow the two steps: Step 1 see what hour the clock is in, Step 2 see how many minutes after the hour started it is. Remind them which hand uses each number line, if necessary. They can now tell time and the rewards are great. No need to start with the o’clock and half hour followed by 15 and 45 minutes and then by 5’s and finally to the minute. By explaining how the clock works and how to use each number line, they are able to tell time to the minute straight off. Some students will benefit from practice with just the hour hand and then just the number hand right before putting it together some don’t need it . Just judge it from the individual you are working with. My second grader who started me on this journey with his burning desire to learn to tell time picked it up in two days as he insisted on putting it together the second day. He stated afterward that he didn’t think his grandpa knew about the two steps.

Since this uses a number line approach, it is easy to add figuring out how many minutes until (the next hour, class is done, recess…..)

Some students will recognize 30 minutes so start there when figuring out the number of minutes > 30 instead of starting at zero. Some students will be ready to visualize the landmarks of 15, 30 and 45 minutes. For this I use the approach of Chris Wooden as explained on the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity web site. He also shows using the clock to learn the multiples of 5.

I have made the mistake of moving too quickly and find that, especially with younger students, staying with the basics of the hour hand and the minute hand number lines and having them practice regularly is best. The short cuts will come to them or can be shown to them after they become proficient. Recognize that some days they might be foggier than others, I have read about this from adults with dyslexia as well as having a few students able to verbalize this. When they are having on off day, I just try to help them recognize that and know that it is ok. When they make mistakes I remind them that that is when the brain learns the most and that practicing will make the pathways more solid.

Fernette Eide| July 9 at 6:06 pmI love this, Barbara! Could you take a photo of your materials (the number lines) – I could share it in our next newsletter!

BarbaraB| July 16 at 1:12 pmyes, I will get pictures to you.