Discussion and Practice Activity
Before they can learn to interpret and use graphs, students need experience with making their own. Younger students will understand graphing best when they begin graphing using real objects. After they have experience with real graphs they can begin to make picture graphs and symbolic graphs.
Try these ideas for making concrete and picture graphs. You can purchase a pre-made floor mat for graphing or make your own using a white shower curtain liner and making a grid on it with painter’s tape.
After you complete each graph let the students talk about their observations and then ask questions about the graph. Some questions to consider are:
- Which column has the most? the least?
- Are any columns the same?
- How many _________?
- Are their more _________ or more ________?
- How many more __________are there than _________?
- How many fewer ____________ are their than ___________?
- How many are their altogether?
This is an easy first graphing experience for students. Have each student take off one shoe. Sort the shoes into piles for laces and no laces. Then label two columns of your floor mat Laces and No Laces with index cards. Have the students line that shoes up in the appropriate columns and then discuss the graph.
They may need some guidance deciding where to place the shoes, if this is their first time graphing. You can also graphs shoes by color or type of shoe e.g. boots, sneakers or sandals.
If you teach kindergarten or first grade, you probably have an apple unit early in the year. To add some graphing to the unit, have each student bring in a red, yellow or green apple and then sort and graph them onto your graphing mat.
You might bring in one or two yellow and greens, so that you don’t end up with all red apples and so that you have extra for those who have forgotten to bring one. After you graph you can use the apples for tasting the different colors or for making applesauce. If you do apple tasting, have each students draw his favorite color apple onto an index card and then graph the favorites. This is a great transition to a picture graph.
Make a graphing mat for each student on white paper. Then give them m&m’s, skittles, gummy bears or lifesavers to graph by color. Near Valentine’s Day, give each student a box of conversation hearts to graph. They can lay the candy pieces into the squares in the columns for each color. To extend the activity, have them color in the squares to make a bar graph after they have made the real graph.
Other fun foods to graph and eat are Fruit Loops or Trix cereal, small boxes of animal crackers and colored goldfish crackers.
Once your students have mastered making graphs with real objects, start letting them make picture graphs. You can use your floor mat or just tape their pictures to chart paper or the chalk board.
Favorites are easy for young children to graph. You decide which items they are going to choose from so that you don’t end up with too many columns. If you are graphing favorite pets, give them the choices dog, cat, bird or fish. Someone will probably insist that his favorite pet is a snake, but you can just tell him to choose his favorite from the choices given. Then have each student draw a picture of her favorite and place it on the graph.
Other favorites to graph:
- Type of weather
- Ice Cream Flavor
- Type of fruit or vegetable
You can keep an ongoing weather graph each month to track what the weather is like. Make pictures of a sun, clouds, rain, snow and wind and add one to your graph each day to represent the weather after your class has been outside. During a weather unit, you might want to actually take a picture outside each day to show the weather and then use the picture to make a graph at the end of your unit.
If you are required to send in a lunch count each day, you can make it a daily graphing activity. Just make a bunch of die-cuts of lunchboxes and a dollar sign or something else to represent buying lunch. Have your students graph the picture that tells what they will be doing for lunch each day when they arrive at school. You can also laminate a graph with columns for buying lunch or bringing lunch from home on it and have each student place his picture in the appropriate column each day. This works as an attendance graph too, because you will be able to see which students picture are not on the graph. Discuss the graphs as part of your morning calendar time.
These fun activities will help your students become experts at graphing!