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Using Current Data for Graphing Skills

Grades: 6-8
Author: Vicki Peplin
Source: Original Lesson with websites used: National Centers for Educational Statistics, FedStats, Tables and Graphs tutorial


Everywhere you look graphs surround your life. All types of businesses, periodicals, and reference materials utilize graphs to visually depict statistical information. Graphing skills are not only helpful within the walls of a science classroom but also in understanding the complexities of everyday life. This lesson is designed to help students identify the difference between an effective and ineffective graph, draw their own graphs, and interpret and relay information in a graph into another form of communication. This lesson requires the use of computers and the Internet by student groups.


What should students know as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will be able to identify all the necessary components of a graph

What should the students be able to do as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will be able to draw their own graph with all of the necessary components.
  • Students will be able to read and interpret the data on a graph and relay this information in an alternative form (e.g. Written, spoken, etc.)


  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Graph paper
  • Computers with Internet access (1 per group of 2-3 students)
  • LCD projector
  • Chalkboard
  • Chalk



Have students individually create a graph based on real data from their peers such as favorite color, ice cream flavor, etc. Provide students with graph paper, colored pencils, markers, rulers, and data sets so that they can make their graph as colorful as they want.

Assessment: Have students present their graphs to the class. While each student is presenting, have him or her explain the parts of the graph he or she decided to put within the graph. As the students present, the teacher should be compiling a list of the parts of a graph the students mentioned on the chalkboard and the seated students should copy down the list somewhere near their own graph. Once all student graphs have been presented, have students compare their own graph's parts to the parts list compiled by the teacher. Students should indicate which parts they did include on their own graph and which parts they did not include.


Place students in groups of 2-3 and have them navigate themselves to the National Centers for Educational Statistics website of graph example at: ( Student will need to click on the pink tab labeled "examples" on the left-hand side of the website. Then they will need to click on at least 3 of the examples listed on the pink background. Have the student groups analyze and list the parts of the graph examples they chose. Next, the student groups should compare and contrast their newly created list of graph parts with the list the entire class made in the engagement activity. Have students indicate which parts were included in both lists and which were not.

Assessment: Have students share their newly formed list of graph parts with the entire class. As in the engagement activity, the teacher should compile an overall class list of graph parts. The class as a whole should then compare and contrast their graph parts lists from the engagement and exploration activities.


As a large class direct student discussion as to what parts of the graph they feel are the most important in relaying information to the reader. Once the class has their edited list of graph components, use the LCD projector with Internet hookup to display the Tables and Graph Website ( Using the links at the bottom of the page direct the students to the bar graph, line graph, pie graph, and column graph sites.

Assessment: After discussing these types of graphs with students have them break back up into their computer groups and take the quizzes found on each of the graph links (from above website). Make sure all students answer all questions correctly before moving on to the next activity.


As a class, show students the National Centers for Educational Statistics website ( and how it is used to create their own graph based upon current data of their state's statistics using the FedStats website ( At the FedStats website students will be able to select different states, cities or counties of choice to compare data (population, education, income, etc). Have the class discuss which statistics they will use from the FedStats website. At the National Centers for Educational Statistics website students will be able to build their own graph using templates and manually inputting data (from the FedStats site).

Assessment: In groups, have students create a graph based on the class discussion using the current data from the FedStats website and the National Centers for Educational Statistics website. Once the graphs are completed on the computer direct students to click on the link that allows them to e-mail their graph to the teacher. The students will turn in their electronic assignment via e-mail and not produce a hard copy on paper.


Students must have a basic understanding of how to navigate to predetermined websites on school provided computers.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Hands-on/Minds-on Learning
  • Learning Cycle
  • Use of Technology in Science Instruction

Alignment with Standards

NGSS Standards:

  • MS-PS3-1 Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object.
  • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Common Core Standards:

  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version ofthat information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.

National Standards:

  • Content Standard A: 5-8 Science as Inquiry

Ohio Standards:

  • Grades 6-8 Scientific Inquiry Benchmark B

Content Knowledge

Graphing Components:

  • X axis with label and units
  • Y axis with label and units
  • Title
  • Key
  • Source
  • Grid Lines
  • Even spacing for numerical divisions

  • Safety

    The teacher should make sure that the Internet is safe for students by blocking any websites that are not appropriate for middle school students. Typically school districts have internally blocked questionable websites so this may not need to be a concern of the individual teacher.


    Throughout life, students will encounter different types of graphs to represent data and they will need the skills learned in this lesson to correctly understand and conceptualize what message the graphs are trying to relay in pictorial form.


    At home (or anywhere with Internet hookup) have individual students find their own real-time data site and graph the data either online (using the National Centers for Educational Statistics website) or on graph paper. Students must have at least 5 different data sets for comparison purposes and cite their data source. Once a paper copy has been made of their work, students will bring their graph to class (allow at least a few days for students to complete the graph so that everyone will have time to access the Internet) and another student will read the graph and write out their interpretations of the data. The teacher will assess the level of skill of both the making of a graph and the interpretation of a different graph.

    Other Considerations

    Grouping Suggestions Students should be grouped in 2-3 person groups based upon their computer skills. Students with little or no experience in using a computer or the Internet should be grouped with students that have a good understanding of navigating on the Internet.

    Pacing/Suggested Time: 2-3 class periods (depending upon computer availability and level of computer skill of students)

    Printable PDF Worksheets