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Keeping time

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By Peter Riley — author

Play the two online sequencing games to build your grandfather clock then read the information text about four famous clocks

This resource contains examples of different types of non-fiction text: an illustrated explanation entitled The Grandfather Clock, two sets of game instructions – which involve sequencing instructions for building a grandfather clock, and dragging and dropping the parts to assemble an illustrated clock – and an information text about four famous clocks.

Previous learning

Children would benefit from previous experience of: explanations and instructional texts; note-taking; sentence types and tense.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To make notes on/use evidence from a text;
  • To appraise a text, deciding on its usefulness;
  • To compare different information texts and how they are structured;
  • To write non-narratives, constructing sentences in varied ways;
  • To use punctuation in complex sentences;
  • To use ICT programs to present texts.

Shared learning and teaching

Before using the resource

  • Have the children heard of, or seen a grandfather clock? What do they associate with them?
  • Using whiteboard tools, or sticky notes, label the grandfather clock picture with questions, or write them down and put them into a hat to be drawn out later.
  • Can they think of any famous clocks?
  • Why is timekeeping important? What might life have been like before people could keep time? What might life be like without clocks?

Sharing the resource

  • Go to the explanation text. Note the title and skim read paragraph 1. What kind of writing is it? How can they tell? What is its purpose?
  • Encourage children to take notes during the reading, then to ask a partner questions to see what they have learned, or draw questions from the hat. As they answer, the children should show where they have got the answer from in the text.
  • Read Famous Clocks and identify the text type (information text). How does this differ from the explanation?


  • Let the children take on the role of the different parts of the clock and create the action of the moving parts.
  • Highlight the technical vocabulary. Discuss how words such as teeth have a different meaning in this text.
  • How does the writer add interest? (Eg, use of appealing, informal phrases such as ‘the chances are’, speaking to the reader, extra facts in the introduction.)

Group and guided activities

  • Why is the text written in the present tense? What if it were changed?
  • What effect does the word ‘you’ have? Why did the writer use ‘you’?
  • Draw attention to the different sentence types, particularly the complex sentences. What happens if the main clause is removed? Does the sentence still make sense? What if you remove the subordinate clause? Why add one? How many ways can subordinate clauses be added? Discuss the commas and dashes.
  • Rewrite the sentences on the activity sheet (enlarge the sheet if necessary).
  • Look at the organisation of the explanation. What is each paragraph about? Why does the writer start a new paragraph each time?
  • Play the instructions games in small groups. Discuss choices before rearranging the instructions.

Ideas for writing

  • Write a set of instructions on screen or on paper. Shuffle them then ask a partner to rearrrange them.
  • After reading Famous Clocks, research how time has been measured in the past and make a class book about time and time pieces.

Independent activities

  • Design a clock or new/unusual way of measuring time.
  • Write a story involving a grandfather clock or one of the four famous clocks.
  • Write an explanation for an imaginary or real piece of equipment. Using ICT, create diagrams and pictures to enhance it. Beforehand, set success criteria as a class.


  • Use your criteria to assess some of the children’s own explanations.
  • Review different sentence types and how sentences are manipulated. Look at the different punctuation used for subordinate clauses.
  • Review children’ understanding of tense and its effect on the writing.