Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Putting Together Pictographs

Terri Eichbauer


Understanding pictographs can be easy when students learn to make their own. In this lesson, students learn about pictographs by seeing examples of different types, creating one together with the teacher and then creating one on their own.


The student creates a pictograph or bar graph to present data from a given survey.


-A stack of books from the Mystery, Fantasy and Nonfiction genres, at least 5-10 different books of each (see examples below)
-Mystery books:
Warner, Gertrude Chandler. [Box Car Children Series]. New York: Scholastic.
-Fantasy books:
Wallace, Bill. [Watchdog and the Coyotes]. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Smith, Robert Kimmel. [Chocolate Fever]. New York: Dell, 1990.
-Nonfiction books:
Kallen, Stuart A. and Boekhoff, P.M. [Alligators]. San Diego, CA: Kidhaven Press, 2001.
Ernst, Carl H. and Barbour, Roger. [Snakes of Eastern North America]. George Mason University Press, 1989.
-3 Folded pieces of tagboard each labeled with a different title (Mystery, Fantasy, Nonfiction)
-Overhead projector
-Transparency of Sample Pictograph (See Associated File)
-Vis-à-vis marker
-Transparency of Pictograph Template (See Associated File)
-Pictograph Template, one copy per student (See Associated File)
-Dry erase marker for white board
-Pencils, one per student
-Survey results for types of books read (See Preparations)


1. Gather materials for this activity: books, dry erase markers, Vis-à-vis marker and overhead projector.
2. If possible, gather data from the librarian on the types of books checked out by students (i.e., third graders) during the previous year.
3. If data is available, adjust information presented on the Sample Pictograph to represent your school. (See Associated File)
4. Make overhead transparencies of the Sample Pictograph and the Pictograph Template. (See Associated File)
5. Make student copies of the Pictograph Template. (See Associated File)
6. Make tagboard labels for each stack of books--Mystery, Fantasy, Nonfiction.


NOTE: This lesson instructs and assesses students on pictographs only.

1. Tell students that today we will be learning how to read, understand, and make our own pictographs.

2. Tell students the definition of a pictograph. Definition: A pictograph is a graph that uses pictures to represent data from a survey.

3. Ask, “How do you think our school librarian decides which types of books to order for our school?”

4. Allow students time to offer their answers. Validate answers as appropriate. Guide students to the understanding that the students might be asked (surveyed) as to which types of books are their favorites. Tell students that when we ask for or gather information on a subject it is called a survey. Write the word “survey” on the board.

5. Ask students if they think it would be easy to ask all the students in third grade what their favorite types of books are? Ask students for ideas of other ways we might find out that information.

6. Tell students that we gathered information from the library computer (survey) about which types of books were checked out by third graders last year. We are going to use this information to help our librarian.

7. Tell students that when we write down information from a survey it is called data. Write the word “data” on the board.

8. Write the following data on the board: Mystery Books 50, Fantasy Books 40, Nonfiction Books 30. (If possible, use data specific to your school.)

9. Ask students which type of books was checked out the most? Which type was checked out the least?

10. Tell students that there is another way that we can show this information. We can show this information in pictures rather than in numbers. Tell them that we use pictographs and other types of graphs to show information in another way. This makes it easier to compare some information.

11. Sort the stack of books into each genre type. Label each stack with the appropriate piece of tagboard.

12. Direct students' attention to the stacks and ask “Can you tell, without counting these books, of which type of book we have the most?”

13. Help students to understand that it is easy to see this information and that this is why and how we use graphs.

14. Put the transparency of the Sample Pictograph (See Associated File) on the overhead. Turn on the overhead to show transparency.

15. Discuss the transparency with the students. Point out the various parts of the pictograph. Highlight and discuss each part as follows: title, heading, subheadings, key.

16. Discuss the key with students. Point out that it would be difficult to draw as many books as we have checked out. Tell students we can use one picture to show more than one book. Ask, “How many books does our key show us that one picture represents?”

17. Discuss each genre with students. Ask students how many books the pictures actually represent for each genre.

18. Tell students that we are now going to create a pictograph together. Tell them that we will be creating a pictograph to show what type of transportation our class uses to get home from school.

19. Tell them we have to take a survey first in order to gather the data. Survey the class and find out how many students walk home, ride the bus home, or are picked up by their parents. Write this information on the board.

20. Take the Sample Pictograph transparency off of the overhead and put on the Pictograph Template transparency. (See Associated File)

21. Ask a student to give our pictograph a title. Use the Vis-à-vis to write the title in the blank space at the top where it says title. Do the same with each subsequent part - heading, subheadings.

22. When you are making the key, discuss and decide with students what would be a good picture to use and what an appropriate size representation for that picture would be. Draw the key in the appropriate space on the overhead.

23. With the students, draw the picture(s) needed to represent the data gathered for each type of transportation.

24. Congratulate and celebrate with students for making the class pictograph.

25. Ask students if they have any questions about pictographs.

26. Tell students that they are now going to create their own pictograph. Tell them that the cafeteria manager needs our help. She needs to know what food to order. She wants us to tell her what our favorite lunches are.

27. Tell students that we are going to take a survey in order to gather the data. Ask, “What is your favorite school lunch?” Take 3 or 4 suggestions from students. Write them on the board. Then, take a vote from students as to which is their favorite lunch. Write this information on the board.

28. Tell students that this is the data that they will use to create their own pictograph.

29. Pass out student copies of the Pictograph Template. (See Associated File)

30. Allow students time to work on their pictographs.

31. Circulate around the room and help students as needed.

32. As students finish, have them raise their hand to conference with teacher.

33. Check students' pictographs for criteria (See Assessments) and give appropriate feedback.

34. Students who have completed pictographs correctly may move on to another assignment.


Evidence: Student-created pictograph representing data from a class survey about favorite school lunches.

Criteria: Student-created pictograph includes the following:
-title appropriately reflects the main idea of the graph;
-heading accurately describes the subheadings;
-subheadings accurately represent the data from the survey;
-pictures accurately represent the data from the survey;
-key appropriately reflects the data from the survey and accurately represents the information in the pictograph.


1. The last activity of creating a pictograph can be done in groups or pairs.
2. Extra practice can be given as needed using a new survey and the Pictograph Template.
3. This activity can be extended by having students conduct their own survey on a topic of their choice and then using the template to complete a pictograph.

Attached Files

Pictograph Template and Sample Pictograph.     File Extension: pdf

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