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Unit 4 – TIME WHAT Telling the time

Clip 0.5: The concepts


Time concepts

Here's a simple tip for you.

When you want to talk about the concepts of time, New Zealand Sign Language uses space to do this.

This means when you are talking about the future, use the space far in front of you. For example, "later", "tomorrow", "next".

When you are talking about the present, use the space close in front of you. For example, "now", "today". When you are talking about the past, use the space behind you – "last", "yesterday".

Let's view some other examples.

Expressing the time

The students will learn to recognise and tell the time.

Play clip 4.1a, which shows some ways of telling the time. Tell the students to observe how the handshape movement expresses ‘o’clock’. There isn’t a separate sign for ‘o’clock’.

Ask your students how they usually say the time when they talk among themselves. For example, do they say "a quarter past three" or "4.15"? The change in technology from analog to digital recording has also changed the way that people express time. Because most young Deaf people sign 3.15 as THREE FIFTEEN instead of signing QUARTER-past or QUARTER-to, we use this pattern in this resource. An alternative way of signing the time appears in the NZSL guidelines (NZSLiNZC). It is THREE ‘point’ FIFTEEN. The students will meet this variation at a later stage in their learning.

Pair task: The students take turns to ask about the time and to respond using these sentence patterns:

What’s the time?


It’s four o’clock.


Class or group task: Make, or obtain, a clock-face with movable hands. One student shows some different times on the clock and the remaining students express these times in NZSL.

Replay clip 4.1a so that the students can check the accuracy of their signing.

Hand out worksheet 4.1 to the students for their reference. Challenge them to access clip 4.1b and practise the numbers 21–31 for their next NZSL class.

Play scene D where Max is making plans to ensure Ben has a good time. Challenge your students to pick out the times that are used in the scene. Use a copy of the scene D transcript to help you check their responses.

The numbers up to 31

The students will learn how to sign and use the numbers 21– 31.

As a warm-up, select some number activities from earlier units and revise the numbers from one to 20 with your students. Find out from your students how many of them have practised signing the numbers 21–31 in their own time.

Ask them to guess how the number sequence continues beyond 20. Play clip 4.1b for them to check whether they guessed correctly.

Replay clip 4.1b and ask the students to sign the numbers from 21 to 31 along with the presenters. Repeat the viewing several times so that the students model their handshapes on those the presenters use as they build their fluency in signing. Remind the students that there is more than one way to sign the number nine (see worksheet 1.2). Both are correct.

Group work: Put the students into groups, each with the same number of students. The leader of each group signs number one, the next student signs number two, and so on round the group up to 31. Then repeat the task in a timed sequence and see which group can finish first. But remind them of the importance of taking care with their handshapes so that they communicate well even when signing as fast as they can. Repeat the activity, varying the number combinations, for example, backwards, in multiples of two, or odd numbers only.

The months of the year

The students will learn to sign and recognise the months of the year.

Play clip 4.1c. Have the students view the months of the year in NZSL. Ask them to notice which months are signed and which are fingerspelled. Play clip 4.1c again. Discuss with them that most of the months that are fingerspelled use abbreviations. June and July are both fingerspelled using the letter J, but they are identified by a different mouth movement.








(sign: AUGUST)


(sign: MARCH)




(sign: APRIL)


(sign: OCTOBER)








(sign: BEARD+)

Ask the students for comparisons and connections to the names of the months of the year in their own culture(s). For example, in NZSL, NOVEMBER is the sign for FIREWORKS because Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in November. DECEMBER is BEARD+ because of its association with Father Christmas. Have the students research the names of the months in their own culture(s). Follow up the results.

Doing research into language and cultural practices will enable your students to explore and reflect on their own culture(s) and discover ways that language and culture are intertwined.

Group task: Hand out a set of cards to each group. The set includes the numbers from one to 31 written as numerals, the names of the days of the week in English, and the names of the months in English. The group places the cards face up on a table. The leader of the group signs a day and a date using this sentence pattern:

Today is Monday the 23rd of March.


The other students select the cards that make up the correct day, date, and month. Then they replace the cards, and the turn to sign passes to another student.

Integrate number activities into your lessons as often as you can so that your students develop fluency in their signing and number recognition.

It’s just as important to develop numeracy skills in the language that the students are learning as it is for them to develop number fluency in their home language(s) and the language of instruction.

For example, during any lesson, ask the students what the time is, or what the date is, using NZSL.

Responding to these questions to exchange genuine information will aid their vocabulary recall and build their day-to-day fluency in NZSL using number patterns.

Communicating the date

The students will communicate with each other using dates.

Give each pair of students a copy of worksheet 4.3. Play clip 4.2 and hand out copies of the Unit 4 sentence patterns. Using these resources, each pair is to complete a survey of class birthdays. The students go around the room finding out when their classmates have their birthdays and marking the dates on the calendar on the worksheet. Ask them to use these sentence patterns:

My birthday is on the 23rd of May.


When is your birthday?


Clip 0.5 will remind you of how to use space to express concepts of time in NZSL.

Discuss the cultural behaviours they can use when communicating with each other in NZSL. Show the Unit 10 assessment criteria, this time highlighting the achievement objective that states:

  • Show social awareness when interacting with others.

As they engage with this task, challenge the students to respond appropriately in NZSL. In English, we may say "hmm" or "oh" to indicate that we are listening. In Deaf culture, people use non-manual signals. For example, they may nod, look surprised, or look interested as they communicate in NZSL. Encourage the students to use these behaviours when they interact with each other instead of simply responding at the end of a question.

Play scene D and scene E so that the students can observe some of these behaviours being used in a natural way. Focus on particular sections within a scene that interest you and your students. Give your students some time to observe and practise at least one of these behaviours so that they can use them as they interact with others. Tell them that you will be walking around the room observing as they interact with each other.

When they have completed the task, the students not only compare the results across calendars but also talk about the cultural behaviours they used when communicating with each other in NZSL. Talk to them about what you noticed as they engaged with the task.

If needed, replay scene D and scene E and discuss these further with the students, with a focus on the kinds of behaviours that show social awareness when communicating with others. The scene D transcript and scene E transcript will help you to follow the storyline.

Increase the level of difficulty by varying the task. Have the students work in small groups and extend the number of questions they ask and respond to. This will enable them to continue their exploration and use of behaviours that show social awareness as they communicate in NZSL. For example, they could add questions about other members of their families:

When is your father’s birthday?


When is your mother’s birthday?


Tell them to use worksheet 4.3 and plot the responses using a different colour for each student’s replies. Afterwards, facilitate a discussion about the kinds of behaviours they used during their interaction in NZSL that showed social awareness.

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