Talking about time with small groups

Sara  "Becket was missing his Mommy so, so, so much, that he said he needed the biggest clock…  so Becket, what did you want to do with a big clock?"

Becket  ''um, um, do the time when Mommy comes.''
Anna "remember when we looked at the clock downstairs?
What about your kind of clock? Do you have a clock for when you’ll see your Mommy?"
Becket ''I have a idea. I sit, I want to sit by the tree.''
Anna How will you know when to go home?
John ''3 inclock"
A does a clock help you know?
John "yeah"
Teacher how?
John, looking at a clock “there’s a hole in the back”
Zoey "I do know when to go home. 10 o’clock."
Oh! do you have an alarm clock?
"I used to, but my alarm clock broke. One time, when I was trying to reach the very top when I was one. On my tall screen door dresser. I fell off, and my alarm just fell off and broke into teeny tiny pieces."
well then how do you know when to wake up if your alarm clock broke?
"I remember what time."
Teacher, (looking at Becket’s clock) Is one of those mommy time?
Yeah. Um, that one Mommy time.
Zoey "We have to make one. I will make some tape, and a little bit of tape. And some glue."
Anna What do children know about time?
Mary Claire "I just know about circles about time. Circles go tic toc tic toc."
What do you know about time, Zoey?
(Zoey clicks her toungue) "click clock click clock"
What does late mean to you?
Vivian  "Eating means late if you want more food and a lot. And your tummy’s full. That means late.''
Mary Claire  "Late means you have to stop for a long, long time."
Vivan "I made my Mom and my sister very, very late! I didn’t want to wear my shoes… I didn’t want to go to school. My Mom packed me my water, but I left my other water bottle here."

Zoey (looking at Anna’s metronome) ''The wind is coming from here. And the wind is the strength.''
Zoey (changes the dial on the metronome)  ''It needs to be like this, and then it ticks, very slowly.''
Anna What does your clock say, Becket?
Becket ''I will be this many (holds up three fingers) and then it will be Halloween and then I will go trick and treating!''
Zoey (looking at Mary Claire’s picture) ''She’s just... including the moon, so she knows when nighttime is.''
Mary Claire  (Referring to the idea that she is making a moon) ''That is the sun. Yeah, I’m gonna draw lines now.''
Anna- John, what’s happening in your picture?

John  (points to different marks on his picture)

"This is when you brush your teeth, this is when you go to bed, this is when it’s circle, and this is when it’s not circle, and this is when you eat snack."

These initial conversations about time helped the teachers see where the children (who are three) are in their understanding of time. Some interesting ideas came up. There is already the idea that time is something both externally controlled (when you are late you have to stop what you are doing), and internally focused (I know when its time to go home, because I remember it). Does this second type of awareness point to a sort of biological clock, that even at three, keeps us regulated?

This conversation also reveals the fact that the children have strategies around controlling time, like sitting by a tree until Mommy comes, or making the family late by forgetting things, because you didn’t want to go to school. And of course, these children are aware of the adult constructs around time, like numbers and tic toc sounds, even if they aren’t sure how these things actually work!


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