Amazing Animals - Graphing and Asking Questions

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SWBAT set up a graph, transfer data to it from a table, and ask / answer questions related to that data.

Big Idea

Students love animals and discussing the basic of animal classification and sharing what they know provides another activity that builds classroom community and a home-school connection.

Opener (Discuss Homework)

5 minutes

Ask a few of the students to share with the class the animal names/quantities they were able to get from someone at home.  Other questions could be: What was the most surprising animal listed by someone at home?  What is an animals someone at home listed that you had in common with them? What did you tell someone at home about what we did in math yesterday?

Setting up the Graph

15 minutes

Students work in partnerships to create these graphs, which works well in my 2-1 classroom.  Alternatives would be ½ on paper, ½ online, all on paper, or to rotate them through this lesson in groups.

I use an online chart tool in this lesson and set up the graph with the children.

Neatness and accuracy count in setting up a graph.  So does spelling.  If the labels are incorrect, it skews the data.  I talk to the students about this very practical aspect of attending to precision in setting up a graph.

Adding the Data

10 minutes

If students create this graph on the computer, this is where they add in the categories and count for each.  If students are creating this graph on paper, I help them number the y axis by ones or twos, depending on the grid size of the graph paper and our largest category count.  One year I had a class name close to 100 mammals, so the y axis was labeled in intervals of 5 animals.

Writing and Answering Questions About the Data (Comparisons)

15 minutes

I model 1 - 3 straightforward questions using comparisons or adding together.


In which category were students able to name the most animals and how much more did they name in this category than the 2nd closest category?

1st category:  Mammals – 52

2nd category-  Birds – 14

52 – 14 = difference between the most numerous and 2nd most numerous category

Adding together: 

How many birds and mammals did they name altogether?

(More meaningful:  What’s the difference between the number of named vertebrates and the number of named invertebrates?)

The questions students create will vary in the degree to which they are meaningful.  I talk with them about that later on and during this part of the lesson I focus on making sure they can ask and answer questions based on data from a graph or table.

Questions We Can't Yet Answer

7 minutes

Time permitting, I talk with them about creating questions to direct lines of further study.  Creating questions guides learning!  I model a few questions:

"How many of the animals named by students were pets?  How do you think our experience with pets influences what we learn about other animals, specifically wild animals?  For example, do you think a student who has a box turtle is more likely to learn about other turtle species than someone who has never had a turtle as a pet?"

"Why do you think so few _____________ were named?  Does it matter?"

"How many of the animals we named are native inhabitants of (the Sonoran Desert)?  Is it important to know the names of animals that live around us?  Why or why not?

Question Spotlight

10 minutes

I have students stay seated at the carpet as they write up their higher level questions and take notes on a few examples I want to share and then I specifically call on those students to share their questions with the class.  We discuss what makes it a good question and/or how it could be made an ever better question!