In this lesson plan, children learn how graphs can be used to compare and analyze data. They begin by watching a video in which they follow Curious George’s adventure as “librarian for a day,” where he learns the value of sorting. After they watch the video, children begin to explore concrete graphs by lining up people according to their responses to various questions. Next, they use objects (such as shoes, mittens, crayons, or blocks) to construct and interpret concrete graphs. Children then transition from concrete to representational graphs through an activity using nametags. Finally, they investigate abstract bar graphs. As children go through the activities, they will be using the following science and mathematics skills: asking questions and making observations; making graphs; and comparing data.
- Understand that graphs can be used to compare and analyze data.
- Masking tape
- Objects (e.g., shoes, mittens, crayons, colored blocks, etc.)
- Which Do You Like Better? family activity sheet
The following graphing activities follow a developmental order: concrete graphs, picture graphs, and finally abstract bar graphs. Students need to have lots of experiences making and interpreting concrete graphs before they can move on to more symbolic levels. Encourage students to make observations about the completed graphs. Ask questions to help them make additional comparisons. Photographing concrete graphs will help you discuss the results and make comparisons at a later date.
1. Sorting with George
Begin by having children watch the Curious George: Graphing video to begin thinking about sorting in preparation for putting data into graphs. After showing the video, ask children: How did George sort the books? What are some other ways he might sort the books?
2. Concrete Graphs: People
- Create a People Graph. Place a line of tape on the floor as a baseline. For your first graph, choose a question with easy-to-see attributes and just two choices, for example: Are you wearing long sleeves or short sleeves? What color is your hair: black or not black? Let students help you create labels for the rows. Have the first student stand behind the label representing his or her answer. Other students with the same answer can line up behind. Repeat, until all students are standing in a row.
- Interpret the graph. Ask: Do more kids have short sleeves or long sleeves? How do you know? How many kids do NOT have long sleeves? How do you know? If students are having trouble “reading” the People Graph while they are in their rows, you may want to divide the class and have half the class form a People Graph and the other half “read” it.
- Make more graphs. Try some of these People Graph ideas:
- Appearance/Age: What color are your eyes? How old are you?
- Yes or no?: Do you have the letter e in your name? Do you like spiders?
- Either/or: Do you want to go to the gym or the playground? Are you a girl or a boy?
- Choices: Which of these books do you like best? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
As soon as possible, encourage students to pose their own graphing questions. You may want children to predict which answer will be the most common, then compare their prediction with the completed graph.
3. Concrete Graphs: Objects
Create a graphing mat. Use masking tape to make four parallel columns, each containing about ten spaces. You will place objects in these spaces to create concrete graphs. The size and location of your graphing mat will depend on the objects your students are using.
During a graphing activity, you may run out of space or need an extra column. This is a good opportunity for students to problem solve! Ask: What shall we do? Lengthen or add new columns, as students suggest. You can graph shoes, mittens, crayons or colored blocks (to represent favorite colors), or any of the toys or school supplies you used in the Grouping activities. Here is an example, using shoes.
- Construct a shoe color graph. Ask students to take off one shoe and place it in front of them. Give them time to look at the shoes. Say: Lets sort our shoes by color! Write and place a label in front of each column, then have children take turns placing their shoe on the graph. As the first child places a shoe, note aloud that it is placed in the first space in the column, right by the label (or help the child correct the placement). Later you might say: Look, Ravi has put his shoe in the very next space, one shoe per space. That’s exactly right!
- Interpret the graph. Ask questions such as: What do you notice about this graph? Are there more blue shoes or red shoes? How do you know? Did you have to count? Why or why not? Are there fewer black shoes or brown shoes? How many shoes are black? Ask higher-order thinking questions as well: If you owned a kids’ shoe shop, would you put more black shoes or brown shoes in your store? Why? If we did this graph tomorrow, do you think we would have the same results? Why or why not? How can we save the results of this graph so we can try it again tomorrow and see if it’s the same or different?
4. Picture Graphs with Nametags
Create sturdy nametags with each child’s photo and name. Students can use these nametags to make many different graphs—maybe one a day!
- Transitioning from concrete to representational. After completing the Object Graph with students’ pencils, shoes, or favorite colors, observe that sometimes when we make graphs we can’t put the object itself on the mat, so we use pictures instead. Replace each child’s object with his or her nametag. This direct substitution may help students make the transition more easily.
- Graphing with nametags. Try some of these ideas. Invent others with your students.
- How do you get to school? (Write categories across the bottom: Walk, Car, Bus.)
- What’s your favorite food? (Students will dictate the categories to list across the bottom.)
- When is your birthday? (List the names of the months across the bottom of the graph.)
- What’s the first letter of your name? (List letters across the bottom of the graph.)
Discuss each completed graph: What do you notice about the graph? How do most kids get to school? Do more people like ice cream or pizza? Who has the same birthday month as you? How many kids have names that begin with S?
5. Abstract Bar Graphs
Class bar graphs. On chart paper, draw a blank bar graph like the one in the Which Do You Like Better? family activity sheet. Write a “Which one do you like better…?” question at the top of the graph and draw or write an answer choice at the bottom of each column, for example, Which do you like better, oranges or bananas? Students will color in a square or write their initials on a sticky note and attach it to a square above the answer of their choice. Discuss the completed graph. Which choice is the most popular? How can you tell? How many people like bananas better? Do class bar graphs often with the class. Display the graphs so the students can continue to discuss them.
Student bar graphs. When children are ready to work more independently, distribute copies of the Which Do You Like Better? family activity sheet. Have children suggest their own questions, drawing or writing their answer choices at the bottom of the columns. Children can complete their graph by polling classmates, or they can take the graph home and gather answers from family and friends.
Extend with Games
“Busy Day’s Hat Grab”: George is at the airport borrowing hats to make a graph. Children help George fill in his graph by choosing hats by color.
Extend with Books
Learning with Curious George: PreK Math (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2012) Provides age-appropriate, kid-friendly content to encourage an understanding of PreK math and reading concepts along with a love of learning.