Graphing Our Data

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SWBAT create bar graphs to represent animal species living in the habitats studied.

Big Idea

We can create graphs to represent habitats.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

The children will use the data from the 4 Gems of Biodiversity activities (rain forest, coral reef, desert, and woodland) to create bar graphs to represent the number of animal classification species in each of the habitats.  Then the children will ask and answer questions about the four bar graphs. Since this is a long lesson, you may consider breaking it into two smaller sessions.  I have noted a good breaking point.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

In the NGSS, one of the performance expectations is that children need to able to compare the biodiversity of life in different habitats.  The children will be creating a graph to aide them in their comparisons.  Making graphs itself is a form of a model, which is one of the science practices. In addition, making and interpreting graphs is part of the Common Core measurement standard.


small graph with lines or you may use this larger graph--each child needs 4 graphs, one for each of the habitats under study

red, black, yellow, green and blue crayons or colored pencils for each child 

gems of biodiversity information chart-- 1 pulled up on Smartboard

wild about graphing sheet-- 1 per child (there are two on a page)


5 minutes

I write the following question on the board just to get the children thinking about today's topic.

What are some ways that people use models?  Think about this question.  I am going to write your answers here on the board.

Kids share their ideas, mostly model trains, planes and cars.  

Remember when we talked about we can use models to represent something?  Scientist use models to represent something else.  They can use models that are small to represent something that is big, such as the model trains, planes and cars you have mentioned.  But models can be in other forms.  For example, a sketch or drawing can be a model. Today we are going to use a bar graph as a model.  It will be representing the animal classifications in a habitat.

Creating the Graphs

30 minutes

The children will be creating 4 different graphs to represent the 4 habitats that we have studied (rain forest, desert, coral reef and woodlands).  Instead of giving the children all 4 graphs at once, I give them just one at a time to keep things simple. Here is a short video to explain the graph paper.

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I hand out the first graph with unit lines to the class. I also pull up it on the Smartboard to use as a sample. You might want to create 4 graphs before you begin writing on them so you can have a class model for each habitat.

Here is the graph that we will be using for our information or data. When have you seen a graph before?  Right, we've used graphs in spelling and also in math. 

I ask the children questions since I want them to be connect their earlier learning to what we are about to learn.  This will help form connections in their brains that might help them remember the information better.

What do you notice about the numbers on the side?  Why do you think I made the graph this way?  Right, it is counting by fives.  Let's count the numbers on the side together.  Put your finger on the zero and then count with me...5, 10, 15, 20, 25 (we count up to 55).

I want them to notice that the numbers on the side.  In math, we have used single and double unit graphs, but this graph unit is 5.  I had to make the graph this way since the largest number that we need is 52, and the other units would make the graph too tall.  We will discuss what to do when you have a number inbetween later.

Who can read the words at the bottom of the graph?  What does each column stand for?

When the children read the words at the bottom, they should be able to relate that the names stand for the animal classification groups that we have been examining.

We are going to be making a graph to compare the different habitats. I want you to use your best handwriting and your best coloring since it is going to be part of your science notebook.  At the top of your paper it says "animal species of the ________."  In that space I would like you to write rain forest since we will be starting with that information.

I make sure to write it on the Smartboard so the children can see how to spell it correctly.

You are going to need red, black, yellow, green and blue crayons or colored pencils.  Please pull those colors out of your supply boxes.  Each of those colors will be the same colors that the gems were for each habitat.  

  • What color did red stand for? (birds)
  • What color did black stand for? (mammals)
  • Yellow? (amphibians) 
  • Green? (reptiles) 
  • Blue? (fish)

Most of the children remember the colors previously used and shout out the answers.   

Each animal classification will be represented by the colors we just stated.  In a bar graph, each bar is a different color.  I noticed that sometimes when kids are making bar graphs they forget where to stop coloring.  Their bars look sloppy and are not accurate.  This is not the way a scientists works.  When they share their information it needs to be neat and accurate.  So when I make a bar on the graph, I first make a mark at the where the bar should stop using my ruler as a guide.  Then I outline the information bar.  Next I completely shade in the entire rectangle that I just made.  This makes my graph neat and also when I color I know exactly where to stop.

I model this on the graph on the Smartboard.  I like them to know a method that works so their graphs can look neat.

If you have a number that doesn't end with a 0 or a 5, you are going to have to figure out where to put your ending line.  You can think of this scale on the side as a number line.  This is kind of like a number line that is going up. So if you have a number that is in-between you are going to have to make your own line.  For example, if I need to make the graph show 22. Where would I put my mark? 

This can be a difficult concept for the children, so I want to make sure that they understand it. We will be encountering information that is not a multiple of 5.

For the next part I need to pull up the gems of biodiversity information chart so I can refer to the information.  

Looking at the data from the rain forest, I see that there are 35 species of birds.  So what color of crayon should I be using to fill in the graph? (red)

I start with the birds since their graph begins with birds.  

Since I want to show 35, I slide up the side numbers with my left pointer finger until I see the number 35.  Then I put my right pointer finger in the bird column and continue up until this finger meets my left finger.  Then I know this is where my ending line should go.  Remember what I said earlier, I make this line then make a rectangle to show the information and then shade it in.  I do this as neatly as I can.  You try it, and make sure you color it in RED.

I walk around the room and help those who need it. I continue to remind them to draw their stopping point first. I give them a few minutes to color it in.

The next column is mammals. The information chart says that there is 15 mammals.  What color would I use for this? (black).  I call on a student to come to the front and demonstrate how to show 15 on our chart.

So far our information has been a multiple of 5.  But the fish are going to be harder. This says that fish are 22.  Do we have a 22 on our graph?  

A girl informs us that we are going to have to go between 20 and 25.

Right, you are going to have to go almost half way in between the lines.  I walk around and help a few of the students who are not sure where to put the lines.

The next one is reptiles.  Reptiles are what color? (green) There are 1800 species of reptiles, so we used 18 gems.  How do we show 18 on our graph?

The next one is the amphibians.  We used 10 gems.  Make your graph show 10 amphibians.

We continue with this same process for the next 3 habitats.  This photo shows a boy working on his graph.  This student sample shows what the graphs look like when all four graphs have been completed.



Analyzing the Graphs

25 minutes

After the children have glued their 4 graphs into their science notebooks, they will work to analyze the information by completing the wild about graphing sheet.  At this time we do not glue it in the notebook since we need to refer to the graphs while having the recording sheets out. 

The questions on this sheet do not refer to specific quantities, since the numbers are quite large.  However, the children can still work with these graphs to help them make comparisons within the habitats and to each other.

Before the children start, we go over the scale of the graph again to make sure everyone understands.  We work through the first question together.  Then the children work through the rest of the questions.  When they are finished, we discuss not only their answers, but how they got their answers.  

If you were trying to figure out from the four habitats that we have studied which habitat has the most reptiles how would you do that?

I want the children to think how they got to the answer and make generalizations so they can repeat the process in a different context.

A girl answers that she looked at all four graphs and thinks that the answer is the coral reefs.

Can you tell us how you got your answer?  Which bar to look at on the graph?

I want her to pinpoint that she was looking at the green bar since that one stood for the reptiles, which she did. Then she continues to go through each graph telling us how many reptiles are on each graph.  Then she says that the green bar on the coral reef graph was the tallest, so it must have the most reptiles.

We continue to go through the next 5 problems on the recording sheet by having the children explain how they arrived at their answers. This metacognition helps them learn and remember concepts better.  It also helps the children in the class get to the correct answer.

When we get to the bottom section, the children must ask and answer a question from their own observations. 

At the bottom of the recording sheet I want you to write a question about the graphs. 

I want you to look at all 4 graphs.  For example, when I look at all of the graphs I see that there are more species of birds in the desert than in the woodlands.  So I would write down "Are there more bird species in the desert or in the woodlands?" on the line. (I model this on the Smartboard).  

Then I would write down the answer to that question on the next line.  Since there are more species of birds in the desert,  I would write that down on the blank in a complete sentence. So I would write, "There are more species of birds in the desert."

Since the numbers on this graph go up into the thousands, your questions should not contain any specific numbers. 

Then the students write their own questions and answers (see Sample 1Sample 2, and Sample 3.  Students take turns being "the teacher" and asking their question and then they get to call on another student to answer their question.  They love being the "teacher" and asking the questions (see being the teacher 1 and being the teacher 2).

Part of the second grade Common Core math standard is to draw and interpret bar graphs. Then they need to solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph, so this is the perfect venue.  Using the bar graphs at this time in science makes sense since it naturally combines the two disciplines.




10 minutes

To wrap up the lesson, we discuss what we have accomplished.

Today and yesterday, you did a lot of hard work.  You made 4 different graphs with lots of information on them and then were able to extract that information and make observations, just like a scientist.  

Why do you think scientists make graphs?  How does it help show information?  

We also looked at a table or chart to help us make the bar graphs.  It had the same information on it.  Which one made it easier to compare information?

By asking these questions I am trying to get them to see the "larger" picture.  Scientists make graphs to show information.  It is in a form that displays the information in a more visually pleasing manner than a chart.  Because of that it makes it easier for comparisons.  

We glue our "Wild About Graphs" worksheet into our science journal.  At the bottom of the page, they write and then complete this sentence starter:

Scientist make graphs to ____________________________________.

Their answers should include ideas about showing and/or comparing information.