Objective: Students will perform a reader's theater and then build a water clock.
Materials: These supplies are used to construct 1 water clock: ruler, timer (stop watch
or watch with a second hand), permanent marker, 2 yogurt carton or disposable coffee
cups, masking tape, a small nail or push pin, modeling clay, markers, crayons, paints
(optional). Other supplies: Copy of "The Timekeepers", "Time Flies" worksheet and
answer key, story props (optional).
Background: Webster's Dictionary defines a water clock as an instrument or machine
serving to measure time by the fall, or flow, of a certain quantity of water. Water clocks
were among the earliest timekeepers that didn't depend on the observation of celestial
bodies. One of the first water clocks was found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh
Amenhotep I who was buried around 1500 BCE.
Water clocks initially were made of two containers of water, one higher than the other,
allowing water to travel from the higher container to the lower container through a hole or
from sloping slides. The containers had marks showing the water levels, and the marks
told the time.
Water clocks worked better than sundials because they told the time at night as well as
during the day. They were also more accurate; however, since the rate of flow of water
is very difficult to control accurately, a clock based on that flow can never really achieve
Have students do the reader's theater presentation, "The Timekeepers". As an
additional activity, have students make props, costumes, etc. for the reader's theater
and present it to another grade. Hold a discussion about the different characters that
visited the watchmaker during his dreams. If you'd like, do a small geography lesson on
the places that each "dream visitor" comes from, expanding on cultures, time pieces,
Construct a water clock - students can be placed into small groups with each group
constructing its own clock.
Use the push pin/nail to make a small hold in the middle of the bottom of one of the
containers. If using disposable cups, students can decorate them as time permits.
Draw several lines inside one of the containers, 1/4 inch apart.
Fix the containers to the ruler using the masking tape. Put the container marked with the
lines at the bottom of the ruler. Put the other container with the hole near the top of the
Stand the ruler upright by fixing the end in modeling clay and sticking it to a table, or a
heavy piece of cardboard, etc.
Cover the hole in the top container with your finger and carefully add water to the
Take away your finger and time how long it takes for the water to reach each of the
levels in the bottom container. When all the water has dripped into the second container,
you'll be able to use this "clock" to keep track of time.
Finally, give the students the "Time Flies" student handout and have each practice their
time-telling (mathematics) skills.
Do a unit on ancient and current time pieces. Sundials, water clocks, and hour glasses,
are just a few that can be researched and discussed. When doing this unit, have
students explore the "art" of ancient map making and discuss the correlation between
the two subjects.
Hold a spelling bee with the vocabulary words from the reader's theater. Add more
spelling words from the geography lesson you've taught as an extension.
Have students construct a simple sundial. Go to:
http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2005/images/Sun_Dial_pdf for instructions and pattern.
Artifice: A clever, skillfully made resource to meet a particular need
Chastise: To scold
Disdain: To look down upon; to treat as unworthy
Dubious: Feeling doubt
Etch: To make a design by pressing sharply into a surface
Feat: A remarkable accomplishment or deed
Intricate: Full of great amounts of detail
Sophisticated: Very complex
Reading, Math, Science, Visual Arts
SD Standards for 4th grade:
4.R.1.1; 4.R.1.2; 4.R.2.1; 4.R.5.1
4.M.1.1; 4.A.3.1; 4.A.1.3
Nature of Science Indicator 2; 4.P.2.1;
Standard 1; Standard 2; Standard 3
Observation, Analyzing, Interpreting
Prior Preparation: Collect all the
supplies you'll need to make the clock.
If you're going to do this as a small
group activity, ask students to bring in
some of the supplies they'll need.
Make copies of the reader's theater.
artifice, chastise, desdain, dubious,
etch, feat, intricate, sophisticated