Writing Dates and Times: A short but necessary lesson

Here’s an interesting way to start a quick lesson on writing dates:

  1. Ask each student to write today’s date in large print on a piece of paper. (No peeking at others’ papers!)
  2. Ask students to hold up their papers at the same time and see how many people wrote the date in the same format.
  3. Have students form pairs or small groups with those who used a different format. Discuss which formats are standard for which countries or which contexts. If many used the same format, challenge them to think of an alternative way to write the date. Example:
  • December 5, 2013
  • 12-5-13
  • 12/5/13
  • 12/05/2013
  • the 5th of December

In my fifth lesson on English Writing Skills I focus on writing dates, times, and numbers in general. We often think of these topics as being very basic, but it’s also fairly common to see a range of formats used among more advanced students. A quick review of standard formats is beneficial. Knowing that Americans write the month before the day can help avoid confusion with a date like 4-8-12.

Time is also worth reviewing. How many in your class would understand what time of the day it is when the clock reads 14:20? Again, you could ask the class to share their ideas and preferences. Challenge them to write the current time in as many ways possible. Which formats are standard in which countries? Which are used in everyday writing and which are more typical of formal situations?

  • Two o’clock in the afternoon
  • 2:00 p.m.
  • 2:00 PM
  • 2 PM
  • 14:00

Suggested practice:

  1. Have students select and write down 3 famous and/or significant dates using different formats (i.e., numerals and dashes, numerals and slashes, words and numerals). They can challenge their peers to read the dates and identify the significance of each one.
  2. Detailed reports of historic events often have dates and times listed. For instance, you could have students scan for numbers as you ask questions about the Titanic. See the brief summary posted on EyeWitnesstoHistory.com. Possible questions: On what day did the ship set sail? On what day did it hit the iceberg? At what time did it hit the iceberg?

Click here for a related post on stating what year it is.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Arun Goyal says:

    Good format of email and You Tube posted together. Jumps up learning and recall. Am in Bali for the WTO ministerial meet of 160 countries. Its a babel of languages in the plenary hall. English is language of communication only between Americans, Australia and, of course, the English themselves! Across communities, everybody uses English!! Looking around after meet and getting a hang of Balinese. Remembering you lessons on sounds and grammar. If you know your English, you’ll get to know your Balinese!! Arun

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