I love graphing! It is one of my favorite things to teach. I love how many possibilities there are with this concept. I also love that it is a concept that really grows with students. It is easy to see how the bar graphs we made in our preschool classroom are similar to the graphs we use in high school and college. Graphs are used in articles, magazines, and opinion polls...we see them everywhere! Maybe that is why I like teaching graphing so much---it is a skill that I know my students are going to use for the rest of their lives.
Graphing is also one of the concepts I have had the opportunity to teach in all of my practicum experiences (which might be another reason why I like to teach it so much). Here is a run down of the graphing activities I have taught and how they grow at each level.
Preschool: Shoe Graphs
During my lead teaching week my focus in math was graphing. As a way to help students learn about graphs, we used a shower curtain and each morning at arrival the children in the class would take one shoe off and place their shoes on the graph. We would then talk about our graph during our first circle time. The focus was to graph by a different property each day (the graph for the first day, shown in the picture above, was to graph by color). This helped the children focus on identifying characteristics, classifying and sorting. We would talk about the basics: which category had the most and the least and how many shoes were in each category. At the end of circle time children would be dismissed by getting their shoes back...a relief for me because I got really sick of the "put your mat away" song!
Kindergarten: M&M Graphing
Any lesson that involves candy is an instant hit with students! Making them work before they can eat their candy it is a GREAT motivator. Every time I have used candy as a manipulative my students work really hard to stay on task so they can get my approval that their work is done correctly and FINALLY eat!
In this lesson, we practiced graphing with M&Ms. My main focus was to help the children learn how to represent a group of objects on a bar graph. It seems easy to us as adults, but children at this age sometimes have a hard time understanding how blocks on a page can really mean real-life objects. When they actually get to construct their graph using actual materials I think it makes the concept less abstract and easier to master.
I started the lesson by demonstrating how to construct a graph with the students. We followed these steps:
1. Separate the M&Ms by color (I bought a few large bags and separated them into ziplocks for my students...I did this opposed to fun size bags b/c I had more control of the contents. I used this as a way to differentiate instruction for the students).
2. Look at the graphing page and find the first color. How many do you have? (I pre-created the graphing pages for my students. We talked about all the parts of the graph during the intro to the lesson. I thought it would be too much of a task for the children to do the writing and graphing and post activity)
3. Count that number of blocks up. Put your crayon on the highest block and color down. (I always teach color down at the suggestion of my K mentor teacher--coloring down will help the children keep the children from accidentally coloring too far. It also helps for later when their bar graphs may not have grids. It also teaches them to look over to find out the value of the bar)
4. Repeat for each color
When the children completed their graphs they raised their hands. My mentor teacher and I would ask them a few questions (Which color did you have the most of? etc), check to see if they had made their graph accurately, and then let them eat their M&Ms.
After the children finished making their graphs, I wanted to reinforce looking at graphs and the data they contain. I created a short worksheet that they completed in pairs. This was a little tricky for them, but it really forced them to look at what their graphs represented and answer questions about it. Here is the worksheet:
We did a short unit on graphing before winter break. The unit focused more on the data analysis side of graphing rather than constructing graphs. I created one of the lessons in which we focused on why it is important to know the question that was used to collect the data.
I started the lesson by asking putting up a chart in with the categories video game, doll, puppy, book. I did not tell the children what the categories were for and asked them to mark the graph. One by one they came up and marked the graph. A few students caught on and asked me if they were supposed to mark their favorite and I would respond "whatever you think" which seemed to satisfy them. When they finished I asked them what the graph was about and I got all sorts of answers (favorite toy, what they wanted for Christmas were the most popular). After some of their answers I told them "Would you have answered the same if I told you this graph was the thing you would NEVER be allowed to play with again?" and was almost blown out of my chair with their "NOOO!"s. This led us to the discussion that the question used to collect the data is really important.
Prior to the lesson I created a few different graphs with no titles that were all food related (desserts, entrees, drinks). I put up each one and had the children create questions that they thought the graph showed. I would select one of the answers as the "real" question asked. I made sure that one of the questions was "What is the ____ you liked the least"
After each graph had a question that showed what the graph talked about I paired the students up for this challenge: "Use the graphs to create the perfect meal for the students in this class" and handed each group a slip of paper to construct the meal. The students who finished early were asked to create a meal that you "absolutely would not want to give the class". This turned out to be a really fun way to help the students see how data can be used. It also was a good way to show "majority rules".
I am excited to keep exploring graphing with my students! The next stop in the graphing adventure will come during my Geometry unit...get excited!