Conducting a Survey (Owl Pellets Day 3)

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SWBAT ask a question, conduct a survey, and organize results using a line plot.

Big Idea

This lesson provides students with the opportunity to conduct a survey to their classmates about owl pellets. Then, they use this data to create a line plot.


10 minutes

To introduce this lesson, I post the Questions students asked at the end of the last lesson. 

These questions reflect the natural curiosity students have about their classmates' owl pellets.  

I read the sample questions to the class and provide them with an opportunity to turn and talk about other "I wonders..." they have about the owl pellet data that was collected. 

Then I introduce the lesson.

Today you will have an opportunity to conduct a survey.  Think about one question you have about the owl pellets data.  What would you like to find out?  What would you like to know more about?  When you have chosen your question, you may ask your classmates to provide you with their owl pellet data.  Then, you will use that data to make a line plot.

The Conducting a Survey handout is used to provide students with an over view of their expectations, as well as a check list to monitor their progress.  

Survey the Class

10 minutes

Students take time to choose a survey question.  They may select from the suggestions on the board, or choose their own.  Some students express curiosity in knowing the total number of bones in each of the owl pellets.  This will be a challenge when it comes to making a line plot, because there will be a wide range.  I make a note of who these students are so I can provide support as needed. 

Students develop their own strategies for collecting data:

• Record the names of the students in the class, then make sure to ask every

• Travel around the class to each of the groups of students, and ask the whole group before moving on.

• Predicting the possible answers and creating a chart, then adding tally marks as students respond.

• Read student data that is available on all desks (this option became available when I added it in the end - see reflection).

Before moving on to creating a line plot, students gather on the carpet to reflect about the process.

•" I was frustrated because I only had 19 pieces of data and I knew I needed 20.  I asked everyone a few times and I couldn't figure out who I was missing.  Finally, I realized I never wrote down the data from my own owl pellet. 

• "I was able to get my survey done while everyone was finishing up their last line plot.  It was easy for me because no one was moving around.  I think that made it more of a challenge."

• " I liked learning what everyone else found.  It was interesting because all of our owl pellets were so different."

Planning & Plotting

30 minutes

After summarizing the survey experience, I refocus students attention on the conducting a survey handout. This handout outlines the process of conducting a survey and then making a line plot with the data.  It emphasizes the importance of planning and thinking  before starting to plot. 

I review categorical and numerical data.  "If you have categorical data, what should be on your x-axis? (words). If you have numerical data what should be on the x-axis? (numbers)." This may seem trivial, but in the data collection process, some students recorded each of their classmates names.  If is important to help them understand that the names are not the data they collected and are insignificant to answering their question.  The students names do not belong as part of the line plot.  

I ask the students to share some planning tips that they learned in the process of creating the line plot about bone types:

• Make sure you have enough room of all of your x's

• Think about how you should hold the paper before you start.

• What is the lowest number and what is the highest number? Because you will have to put all the numbers inbetween.

• Use 2 papers if you need to.

Following this short recap, students head to their seats to work on organizing the data they have collected. While they are working, I circulate to provide support as students struggle with individual questions. 


5 minutes

Students are given a chance to ask for help from the class.  As a quick wrap up, I ask if there are any students who are feeling stuck/frustrated with the line plot process.  Three students raise their hands, so I allow them to explain their frustration and ask a question to the class to get them "unstuck".