Elapsed Time Strategies

I don't know about you all, but teaching elapsed time is one of those things that tricks almost every single student in my class!  It's almost one of those things that just has to “click” and then the kids get it.  But until it clicks, I try to have several different strategies up my sleeve to help them figure out elapsed time. I have an Elapsed Time Pack on TpT, and a lot of what I show here you can find there!  However, you can still use several of the elapsed time strategies without the packet.  I have found the activities in the pack to be very helpful to my students, and best of all, they are differentiated for you!

Elapsed time strategies, games, and worksheets for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Also includes anchor charts and interactive notebook pages.

Teaching Time on a Number Line

I start out elapsed time by showing students how to find elapsed time on a number line.  We use number lines for so many different skills that it is a natural tool for students to work with (AND they can easily draw a number line on a state test if they need to).  I make an anchor chart and I have mini-posters that they can glue into they math journal or copy into their math journal depending on how much time we have.

I always have my students either copy this into their math journal and glue it in so that when they have questions, they have an easy reference tool.

Benchmark Numbers

I teach the students about benchmark numbers… see if you can add an hour first, then half an hour, then fifteen minutes, then ten, then five until you get to where you need to be.  Using these “benchmark numbers” (5, 10, 15, 30, 60) is easy for kids, then they are only left to deal with a few tricky numbers.  Most kids love the number line method for elapsed time.  There are a few who always want a different way, and that's where I pull out my T-Charts.

I don't know why, but these t-charts have been lifesavers for some of my students.  I personally love them because they are so easy to color-code (and you will quickly learn that anything that can be purposefully color coded WILL be color coded in my room.)  I start by showing the students how to use the t-charts if they know the time period that they are finding the elapsed time between.  We write the time period on the top, then underline the start time in green, and the end time in red.  The end time is so important because you have to know when to stop adding times on the t-chart.  Then, we make our t-chart and write the start time in green.  From there, we add benchmark times on the left and add the times up on the right.  For example, on the first one, we started at 8:15.  On the left side of the t-chart, we added an hour, so we were then at 9:15.  Then, we add 10 minutes, and we were at 9:25.  And so on until you get to the ending time.  We mark the end time in red, add up the times on the left side of our t-chart, and voila, there is our elapsed time!

You can also use the elapsed time t-chart to find a certain time period after (or before if you are daring) a given time.  Exact same concept, but you are looking at the left hand side to know when to stop.

Elapsed Time Anchor Charts

Here are two anchor charts that hang in my classroom. I hope one of these methods works for your students. There are so many ways to teach elapsed time!

elapsed time strategies anchor chart 3rd 4th 5th grade
elapsed time strategies anchor chart 3rd 4th 5th grade

Elapsed Time Interactive Notebook Pages

Before we move on to elapsed time activities and games, students take notes that go along with our anchor charts. You can find these foldables for our interactive notebooks in this elapsed time teaching bundle.

elapsed time interactive notebook pages
elapsed time interactive notebook pages
elapsed time interactive notebook pages

Elapsed Time Activities and Printables

Now, to practice our new skills, there are a few elapsed time worksheets I have my kids complete. They are differentiated–some have benchmark times only (times ending in 5, 10, 30, 45, etc.), and some have any increment of times (ending in 4, 36, 21, etc.) Guess what? I color code them! RED are easier, and BLUE are harder. Of course, when I print them out, I don't print them in color, and the kids can hardly tell a difference since the pages are exactly the same, but with slightly differentiated content. Another option is to use them for scaffolded instruction… Use the red ones first, then the blue ones. Here are some samples of the worksheets I use, which are now available in DIGITAL versions too.

elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade
elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade
elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

After the kids are fairly secure in their work, we play a fun elapsed time game.  I love this game because it is so easily differentiated.  There are four different game boards with different types of clocks.  Two boards just have times written on them for the spaces (one with benchmark times, one with more difficult times), and two boards have clocks for spaces (one board has a clock with numbers, and one board has a clock without numbers).  ALL of the kids use the same game cards, but their starting times are different.  An example of a game card… “Jenny Beth wakes up at the time listed on the game board.  She must be at basketball practice in 35 minutes.  What time must she be there?”  The kids love playing this game!  (There is also a recording sheet included so that you can check their accuracy).

Differentiated elapsed time Game Boards

Finally, I have my kids complete elapsed time task cards.  A lot of these task cards are similar to the game cards so that they already have some familiarity with them.  I often use their answers to the task cards as their assessment.

I have a fun little word problem for the kids who finish early, or for kids who need a little extra push.  I call it my dilemma, and the kids love it because they think they are really helping me solve a problem!

We also use this FREE elapsed time Topple Block game, which you can download here. Students absolutely love this game!  I had so many comments from kids saying that they didn't want math time to end.  Little do they realize, they end up completing 36 elapsed time problems during their games. 😉

This Amazing Race style elapsed time game is the perfect way to end your unit. Students solve problems to race throughout different continents.

Elapsed Time Project

This is another must-do that is so much fun! Your students will love playing elapsed time detective and solving crimes while working on elapsed time skills. Many of these problems include elapsed time word problems and critically thinking about the skill too.

elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade
elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade
elapsed time activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

I truly hope you can use some of these elapsed time strategies (especially the t-chart and number lines) to help your kids with that tough concept of elapsed time!  I know it's corny, but it's one of those concepts that just…takes time. 🙂

If you would like to purchase the resources features in this post, here is my TpT Elapsed Time Bundle Pack.

Have a wonderful week!

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