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Using Current Data for Graphing Skills

Grades: 5-8
Author: Vicki Peplin
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Module Description

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 schools but also in understanding the complexities of everyday life. This module is designed to help participants identify the parts and differences between an effective and ineffective graph, draw their own graphs, and interpret and relay information in a graph into another form of communication. This module requires the use of computers and the Internet by teacher groups, the learning cycle, and hands-on/minds-on teaching strategies.


  • Participants will be able to identify all the necessary components of a graph.
  • Participants will be able to draw their own graph with all of the necessary components.
  • Participants 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.)
  • Participants will develop an implementation lesson plan to use in their own classroom incorporating activities conducted in the module.


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



Collect a set of data from participants' input. For example, ask participants to give the month of their birthdays. Then make circle graphs or bar graphs of these data. This engagement activity should only take about 5-10 minutes.

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


Place participants in groups of 2-3 and have them navigate themselves to the National Centers for Educational Statistics website of graph example at: ( Participants 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 participant groups analyze and list the parts of the graph examples they chose. Next, the participant groups should compare and contrast their newly created list of graph parts with the list the entire group made in the engagement activity. Have participants indicate which parts were included in both lists and which were not.

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


As a large group direct participant discussion as to what parts of the graph they feel are the most important in relaying information to the reader. Once the group 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 participants to the bar graph, line graph, pie graph, and column graph sites. Discuss which kind of graph should be used for what kind of data using the Types of Graph Website (

Also discuss with the participants the major teaching techniques highlighted in this module: the hands-on/minds-on learning and use of technology in science instruction. Information about hand-on/minds-on learning can be found on the AGPA's best practices website at Also, information about the learning cycle can be found on AGPA's best practices website at

Assessment: After discussing these types of graphs with participants 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 participants answer all questions correctly before moving on to the next activity.


Part I

As a large group, show participants 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 participants will be able to select different states, cities or counties of choice to compare data (population, education, income, etc). Have the large group discuss which statistics they will use from the FedStats website. At the National Centers for Educational Statistics website participants will be able to build their own graph using templates and manually imputing data (from the FedStats site).

Assessment: In groups, have participants create a graph based off of 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 participants to click on the link that allows them to e-mail their graph to the presenter. The participants will turn in their electronic assignment via e-mail and not produce a hard copy on paper.

Part II

At the end of the module have participants complete the Lesson implementation template individually and then discuss with a peer or with the group as a whole what they plan on taking back to their classrooms. Plans should focus on a topic related to the content of this experience with an emphasis on making graphs using current data.

Assessment: The presenter will conduct an informal assessment of participants' learning during the discussion(s). If possible, the presenter could visit the participants' classes while they are using their implementation lesson developed during the module.


This module is designed to model the best teaching practices: hands-on/minds-on learning and the use of technology in science education to the teaching of the skill of graphing. Once participants feel comfortable with these teaching techniques they can then lead their own students through the same processes to further the students' understanding of the graphing skills.

Science Standards

NSES Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry: As a result of activities, in grades 5-8, all students should develop

  • abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD A: Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry.

Best Teaching Practices

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

Time Frame

2-3 hours


The presenter must attain access to enough computers with Internet access for the size of group. It would be suggested that presenter bookmark the three needed websites on each computer to ease participant navigation to the websites. Notify participants in advance, to bring their curriculum guides and or textbooks to facilitate their development of an implementation plan.


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


Assessments are given after each part of the learning cycle in the procedures. If possible, the presenter could visit the participants' classes while they are using their implementation lesson developed during the module.

Explanation of Science

Graphing Components:

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


None Available for this Module


Links to multiple graphing lesson plan at

Math portal-middle school lesson plans at

Center for innovation in Engineering and Science Education real-time data projects at

Free online graph paper found at

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Throughout this module the presenter should be aware that there are a variety of learning styles and needs from the participants. Any and all accommodations should be made by the presenter as needed.


None available for this module


National Centers for Educational Statistics:


Tables and Graphs tutorial:

Types of Graphs Websites: