How to Use Graphs and Charts

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SWBAT use graphs and chart text features in order to answer questions about key details in the text.

Big Idea

How do I keep all this information straight? Oh yeah, I need to use my charts and graphs!

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Like all the other lessons in this nonfiction text features unit, today's lesson addresses standard RI1.5. One of the key shifts in the Common Core Standards is to have students be able to read, write, and speak using evidence from a text, either literary or informational.  If I want my students to be able to use evidence to answer questions about a nonfiction text, I have to teach them to navigate around that text first.  Otherwise, finding evidence becomes tedious and frustrating.  Being able to cite evidence when answering questions about an informational text becomes even more important in future years.  When I think about what my students are going to need to be able to do in future years in order to be college and career ready, I see them having to use their reading skills in the different academic disciplines and in life generally.  Graphs and charts are prevalent in informational sources, so, today, we will start along the path in getting our students ready to achieve that anchor standard by teaching a lesson on how to use charts and graphs in nonfiction text.

You will need to use the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson called Nonfiction Text Features.  You will also want to download the student work called "Animal Charts and Graphs," Animal Charts and Graphs.pdf.  I differentiated the charts and graphs based on student reading ability.  I wanted my students to do one chart and one graph activity with a text that they could decode easily.  You can look through the student work and decide which of the charts and graphs would meet each of your student's needs.  Finally, you will want to get the book "Lemonade For Sale" by Stuart Murphy.  If you don't have that particular book, I've found a website that lists several other books that are great for teaching about graphs and charts.  Just click here.

Introducing the Lesson and Connecting the Concept to Text

15 minutes

I started the lesson by explaining the objective.  I said, "Today we are going to learn about another nonfiction text feature - charts and graphs.  When we have data, or information, and the author wants to organize the information neatly and visually so that it's easy to understand, they usually put that information in a chart or graph. This way the reader can read the chart or graph and be able to use that information to answer his or her questions.  We are going to start our lesson by seeing how you could use a graph in our everyday lives.  Let's read the book 'Lemonade For Sale.'"

We read and discussed the book and the students had a good understanding of why the children in the book were making a graph. On the day that the children's sales dropped, I asked the students "What happened to the children's sales today?  How do you know their sales dropped?  What happened to the children's sales after they moved their stand near the juggler?  How do you know their sales increased?"  Students had to read the graph in order to answer my questions. They were also able to see a real world application for graph making.  I said to my students, "If you are going to be a business person one day, you are probably going to have to make and read graphs, so it's a good thing you are learning about graphs today."

Guided Practice (We Do)

20 minutes

Then we opened up the Smartboard lesson and did the practice activities on charts and graphs on pages 30-33.  Since we hadn't learned about graphs yet during math, I made sure the students had a good understanding of how to read both the chart and graph, using key math vocabulary. For instance, I have an example of a speed chart where a person is listed as running up to 25 mph, a cheetah running 70 mph, and a peregrine falcon flying 90 mph.  I showed the students how to read the chart.  Then we practiced the questions on the lesson.  These questions included:

  • Which is the fastest, the person, cheetah, or peregrine falcon?
  • How fast can a person run?
  • How fast can a cheetah run?

You can see that some questions are fairly straightforward, but students really have to be able to compare number to tell the speed that is fastest: 25, 70, or 90.  Students have to synthesize information in order to answer that.

For the graph portion of our guided practice I had some simple bar graphs listed.  One graph was our favorite foods.  On the graph, 6 people liked pizza, 4 liked spaghetti and meatballs, and 9 liked chicken nuggets.  I showed the students how to read the graph.  Then we answered the questions together which included:

  • What was the least favorite dinner?
  • What dinner was chosen by 6 children?
  • What dinner was the most popular choice?

 When we were done practicing, I knew my students were ready to do some independent practice.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

There are some lessons in this nonfiction text features unit where I have students work with a partner, but, today I wanted students to work by themselves.  As I noted before, I had differentiated the charts and graphs based on reading and skill levels.  I told the students, "You will get one chart and one graph activity based on what reading group you are in.  I will call your group and give you your activities.  Then you will go back and work by yourself."

As students were working, I circulated around the room, helping my strugglers.  I have been trying to ask questions of my students this year instead of just saying, "that's not right".  I want to really have my students think and guide them in seeing their own mistakes and finding their own solutions.  So when I saw a student answering something incorrectly, I started questioning them.  I have a video of my students working independently, so you can see how the lesson went and what they were able to achieve during independent practice: Reading Our Charts and Graphs.mp4.


5 minutes

I wanted a fun way to close our lesson.  I quietly started meowing and the students started shouting "Summary Sam!"  I have a cat puppet that I keep under my teacher chair in the room. I said, "Summary Sam is a lazy cat that likes to sleep most of the day.  He just missed this awesome lesson. Who can summarize our lesson that we just did?  Remember, we only want to tell Sam the most important parts."  The kids have so much fun when "Sam" comes out.  It is also a great way to practice the skill of summarizing.