Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Get the Picture with Graphs

Sharla Shults
Bay District Schools


Pictures say a thousand words, so let's just picture it with graphs! Students examine line, bar and circle graphs in the newspaper and on the Web. Sketches of graphs are completed with emphasis on selecting the best model to depict data collected.


The student selects and uses prereading strategies that are appropriate to the text (such as discussion, making predictions, brainstorming, generating questions, and previewing) to anticipate content, purpose, and organization of a reading selection.

Describes, analyzes and generalizes relationships, patterns, and functions using words, symbols, variables, tables and graphs.


-Folders containing all data sheets completed by students reflecting formative assessment with effective feedback
-Computers with Internet access
-Computer paper
-Newspapers for the class
-Magazines and/or flyers
-Glue or glue stick
-Colored pencils/pens or crayons
-CD player with CD of appropriate music
-Overhead projector (optional)
-Transparencies (optional)
-Computer station with data display panel (optional, if computers are not available)
-What’s in the Graph? Work Sheets (see Associated File)
-Formative Assessment – Rubric (see Associated File)
-Formative Assessment – Graphs (see Associated File)


1. Mark each individual group member’s What’s in the Graph? Work Sheets and graphs (sketches).
2. Include marked documents in team folders. Place individual folders in respective groups’ expanding folders.
3. Set up tables, or group stations, as arranged in The Math Poet activity.
4. Set up CD player with appropriate CD.
5. Download and duplicate copies of What’s in the Graph? Work Sheet, one per student (see Associated File).
6. Download and duplicate copies of Formative Assessment – Rubric and Formative Assessment – Graphs, one per student (see Associated File).
7. Reproduce samples of different types of graphs. (See Web links for Internet sites that have excellent graphing samples that can be reproduced.) Make transparencies as desired.
8. Optional: Download, change the data and copy as a transparency the Sample Graphs of Data Collected (see Associated File).
9. Have newspapers delivered to the class on the day of the activity or acquire enough old newspapers for one per student/group or one section per student.
10. Collect business flyers or brochures that depict charts and graphs to show as examples and use in discussions.


Day 5 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically

1. Provide students with a newspaper, or section, and instruct them as they enter the room to report to their same groups. Allow students to peruse the newspapers until the class begins.

2. Once students are seated in groups, distribute expanding folders according to group numbers. Tell them to assign new roles and complete the Challenging Math Poetically Role Assignments sheets for today’s activity. Each member assumes a new role of the four designated in The Math Poet activity: 1) Team Manager, 2) Calculator, 3) Recorder, and 4) Signaler (flag waver). The Signaler waves the flag any time a group has questions of the teacher.

3. Return team folders. Instruct students to refer to their Data Collection Work Sheets, Ratios of Data Collected Questionnaires, Statistics Work Sheets, and Statistically Lyrical Summaries. Review concepts from the lesson Statistically Lyrical, discuss any common error occurrences and answer students’ questions as they arise.

4. Present objectives to students. Review the standards and Goal 3 Standard(s) that are addressed. Inform students that tables are not the only way to organize and display data. Another way is to use a picture known as a “graph.” Distribute Formative Assessment – Web Search & Sketches Rubric, one per student. Go over criteria, have students print their names and return documents to the team folders.

5. One of the easiest ways to relate students to their present knowledge of graphs is to have them read the newspaper. Guide students in finding examples in the newspapers, or sections, where graphs are used in everyday life. Give students food for thought as to why different types of graphs exist and what makes the best fit for graph vs. data. Inform students that a) describing a graph is telling what type it is, line, bar, etc.; b) analyzing a graph involves recognizing all of its parts; and c) generalizing a graph focuses on the relationship between the horizontal and vertical axes with emphasis on the main focus of the graph. Encourage open discussions with the class as they locate various examples. Share any additional magazines or business flyers with the class that display examples of graphing. OPTIONAL: Use the overhead to display samples of different types of graphs. (See Weblinks for sites for samples.)

6. Distribute “What’s in the Graph?” worksheets, scissors, and glue. Instruct students to first work independently and then discuss their findings within their cooperative learning groups.

7. Inform students to return, “What’s in the Graph?” worksheets to their individual folders for formative assessment (see Assessment section). These will be returned to students the next day with effective feedback.

NOTE: Collect newspapers or allow students to take them home.

8. As a pre-reading strategy before students explore the Web, distribute the Anticipation Guide, Problem Solving – Choosing an Appropriate Graph (see Associated File). Instruct students to work with a partner in their groups to complete the anticipation guide. Explain that this activity is designed to activate prior knowledge about choosing an appropriate graph before exploring the Web. Emphasize that the objective is the understanding of how to determine which type of graph is the best fit for the information given. After completion of the guide, lead a discussion to help students make connections between “prior” knowledge and “new” knowledge. (For more information on reading strategies, visit the Website, Just Read Now! See Weblinks below.)

9. Tell students to report to computers, or escort them to a computer lab. Reinforce the process of graphing by directing students to use an efficient search method to locate Tables & Graphs.* (Hint: Select a search engine and use keyword “graphs.” Select Tables & Graphs or Tables & Graphs Main Page. You want the one located at (See Weblinks below.) The quickest search is found on Google. Discuss with students the different searches they used and have them discover which is the best and why.)
*If this Website does not have informational text on Line Graphs, have students complete a second search to locate Line Graphs – A major family of graphs. (Hint: Use Google and the keyword phrase “a major family of graphs” to locate the following Website:

10. Use the original site to first make the connection of displaying the collection of data in a table to a graph. Explain that the site offers explanation why tables and graphs are important as well as how to create them. Tell students to view the links to Tables, Bar Graphs, Column Graphs, Line Graphs, and Circle/Pie Graphs. [As an added note, this site not only has examples and explanations of each type of graph, but also has a link to a quiz after each one! Outstanding!]

NOTE: If computers are not available, set up a display panel connected to a computer and demonstrate using the site identified above. Eliminate Steps #7 – 8, and proceed to Step #9.

11. Distribute colored pencils/pens or crayons.

12. Next, inform students that their goal is to determine the type of graph that best represents selected data collected during the challenge. Discuss briefly the column (bar), line and circle graphs focusing on the information provided on the Web, differences in the three and when one is preferred over another. Refer to the anticipation guides completed in Step #8 and open a discussion about how and why their ideas changed after reading the information on the designated Website. Encourage students to add “new” knowledge gained to their guides.

13. Instruct students to refer to their Data Collection Work Sheets placing the center of attention on the number of boys and number of girls in each group. Students now sketch graphs (a bar and a line graph) displaying the data collected for number of boys and number of girls in each group. Distribute Sketches of Bar & Line Graphs handout (see Associated File) for sketching, describing, analyzing, and generalizing the graphs (see Assessment section). This provides representations of two different types of graphs for illustrations and comparisons. NOTE: The circle graph will be examined in the next lesson, EXCEL It!

NOTE: Remember, students are sketching their graphs at this point. Be sure they understand to include the following elements for analysis in the graph:
a) Title
b) Label for the x-axis
c) Label for the y-axis
d) Equally spaced intervals along both axes
e) Legend
Review various terms used with graphing (axes, vertical, horizontal, first quadrant, plotting, etc.) as deemed necessary. Also review plotting data points and graphing if needed.

14. Emphasize this is not a task for quick decision, but one that must involve a lot of thought. Inform students to include a statement generalizing the relationship between the x- and y-axes and indicate in words the main focus of the graph.

15. Inform students to place their graphs in their individual folders. Assessed papers go to the back of each folder and new documents are added in the front. Any group papers go in the team folder from The Math Poet activity. Team Managers are responsible for organization of the folders within the groups’ expanding folders. Collect expanding folders containing all individual folders and team folder. (See Flow Chart in Challenging Math Poetically Mini-Unit Plan Overview.)

16. Formatively assess (see Assessment section) and provide individual written feedback as deemed necessary to ensure students’ understanding of graphs. Keep documents in individual folders within the groups’ expanding folders to be returned the next day for producing the spreadsheets and graphs in the lesson EXCEL It! (See Extensions.)


Formatively assess understanding of when to use different kinds of graphs through teacher observation while students are completing the anticipation guides. Provide feedback, as deemed necessary to ensure students understand which type of graph is the best depending upon the data collected.

Formatively assess students’ ability to use efficient search methods to locate desired information and to sketch bar and line graphs that depict selected data collected from The Math Poet. Use the rubric located in the Associated File.

Formatively assess sketches for students’ ability to a) describe each graph telling what type it is, line, bar, etc.; b) analyze each graph recognizing all of its parts; and c) generalize each graph focusing on the relationship between the horizontal and vertical axes with emphasis on the main focus of the graph. Use the answer key located in the Associated File.


Day 6 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically is EXCEL It! at

The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Web Links

Line graphs are referenced in this information text as a family of graphs.
Line Graphs

Step-by-step details on construction of the bar graph and the line graph guide the graphing

Sample graphs and charts are available by selecting the chart name to view a sample.
Sample Graphs and Charts

Day 6 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically

Complete 8-day mini-unit with which this lesson is associated
Challenging Math Poetically

Attached Files

Activity sheets, assessments, and scoring tools.     File Extension: pdf

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