Thingamajig Thursday. Sense of Time

So many of our students have little to no sense of time.  I have worked with many students that just don’t feel 10 seconds, 5 minutes, an hour. They are missing an internal clock. The only way I could communicate about time with one student was to use his favorite 30 minute TV shows as reference.

How long before we go to the gym?

About 2 episodes of Ed, Edd n Eddy.

With commercials?

Yep, with commercials.

My middle son lacks this internal clock and it is crazy-making for his father and me. Every morning is hell. He is always late. He cannot estimate how long it takes to do anything.

I think it is very important to help kids feel time at a base or primal level.  It’s a critical sense to develop as our daily lives run by the clock, by the passage of time. It alarms me when kids have not even developed a sense of general time based on where the sun is in the sky. It means they are not receiving and processing a very basic sensory stimulation, that they are disconnected from this sort of environmental clue. Yikes. No wonder they appear out of sync.

Now, I am not talking about time as in giving kids transition warnings. This is much more basic. I am talking about helping kids develop a sense of the passage of time so they can better plan and navigate through a day, in and out of school.

Following are two ways that have effectively helped students develop this sense of time. Unfortunately, my own kid has not been responsive. Don’t you hate that? I mean I claim to be an expert of sorts on such matters, but under my own roof, not so much.

Like sand through an hour glass, these are the days of our lives,,,,  


No bells, no whistles. Small and familiar to most kids as these timers are often part of board games.  This is good for quiet visual reminders when you need a timer of short duration. I have started with these hourglass timers with many students. We play a game where I flip the timer behind a standing pocket folder and have the students raise their hands when they think the time has run out. If using a 1 minute timer, we talk a lot about what can be done in a minute, how long it takes to do certain daily tasks as compared to the passage of 1 minute.  We actually do simple daily tasks and time how long they take to complete. When this activity is repeated often enough and in a variety of environments, students begin to internalize what 1 minute feels like. I have been known to take a timer to the cafeteria and play this game while the students eat. They love it.

If your student is responsive to a one minute sand timer I recommend progressing to a timer that lasts longer and keep increasing as each time increment is mastered.

Giant Sand timers-1

Stop watch


The variety is overwhelming. I prefer the traditional version because it closely resembles the face of a clock. They often tic, are very easy to read. I like the ones that move one second at a time rather than ones in which the hand sweeps around in a continuous movement.  The more sensory input, the better. It’s very effective when the student controls it. You can simply have them start the clock and when it gets to 60 seconds they stop it. Doing this over and over again allows students to commit it to motor memory and we know how powerful that can be.


I stay away from the digital and electronic versions. I just don’t get the same results with those.


Developing an internal sense of time takes repetition, opportunities to practice in many environments during a variety of activities. Be systematic. Start small and be consistent. Keep it very simple at first. When internalized in just one set of circumstances, change just one variable to progress. Start in the same location at the same time of day. Continue without changing anything until you feel your student has mastered it. Then change just one variable. Don’t change time of day and location at the same time. Pick one and stick with it.

It is important to know your students, how they process sensory input, what stimuli they most positively respond to. Observe closely and use that feedback as your guide. If one minute is too long, back up and start where the student is able to start.  Developing internal sense of time requires patience and persistence.

It takes time……


Tonight's the Night ifunny mobi



3 thoughts on “Thingamajig Thursday. Sense of Time

  1. Love the visuals! What in the world would anyone use a 30-second timer for?! I’m getting anxious thinking about what task I have to accomplish in 30 seconds!! Also, don’t forget the awesome “time timer” – I love that thing and now they have it in digital watch form!


    1. Love the time timer. I used that mostly for transition prep. For helping kids develop a sense of time, though it didn’t help. Let’s see, 30 seconds- get your pencil, some paper and your book out. Or, hang your backpack up, sign in and sit at your desk. Or, put your socks on. Or, put your coat and mittens on.
      About that watch!? WOWZERS. I know a 17 year old who is getting one of those real soon!


  2. I swear to all that is good and kind there are days I think the last picture is the only hope I have of James acknowledging t(hy)ime DESPITE that he carries his watch with multiple timers (yes, carries it, not on his wrist) everywhere he goes.

    While completely unsuitable for a school setting, at home we’ve found music to be effective in helping James to slow down and focus on the task at hand. From brushing teeth to various chores, playlists created (and labelled) specifically for those tasks ensure that an appropriate amount of time has been spent (I can’t speak to the effort put in, that’s a post in and of itself).

    I’d love to take credit for it but it was James himself who had the idea. I simply gave him time totals and labels and he made the playlists.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s