# Elementary Data Collecting and Graphing Activity - Tweaked ;)

*This article is part of the “LP Tweaks” blog series showcasing how small adjustments to the questions, organization, and/or data moves within your existing curriculum can help align the learning to different data skills for your learners. This original lesson is strong, and the intention is not to communicate otherwise but rather to share how you could adjust things for a different desired outcome.*

Written by: Naomi W

So imagine that you have a great data-based lesson from Susan H from TeachersPayTeachers, "Our Classroom Birthday Graph" Data Collection and Graphing Back to School,” on reading and making different graph types (*note this activity requires payment for the curriculum). Specifically, you love how this lesson helps students to draw single-unit scale graphs – a picture graph and a bar graph – to represent a data set with up to four categories. And the lesson connects well with multiple math standards:

2. MD.D 10: Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with a single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together take-apart and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph.

3. MD.B.3: Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step “how many more” and “how many less” problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs.

Additionally, in past years you have used this activity of personalized data (your students’ birthdays) as an engagement activity into a science unit on DCI ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. Specifically, getting students to think about connections between their birthdays and what is visible in the night sky (5-ESS1-2 Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearances of some stars in the night sky). In the past, your students have liked the hands-on aspects of this activity.

However, based on your current students' performance in the last unit you are looking to give them more time to Visualize Data in a practiced way to more deeply get at grasping the structure of data represented in dot plots, bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs for their data analysis and interpretation skills (see Building Blocks for Data Literacy to explore the corresponding data skills of these areas more).

You are torn, you like the "Our Classroom Birthday Graph" Data Collection and Graphing Back to School” lesson by Susan H and you have used it many times before, but you are worried the questions aren’t directly getting at the data skills your learners need to practice at this point in the year. Do we need to throw it out and start all over?

Absolutely, not! Let’s check out some easy optional tweaks to make the lesson more of what you are looking for now.

Here is an example of how we can add a few questions to the lesson to more directly help your current students practice the data skills you want to target more in this specific data interaction at this point in the year.

Black text is the original lesson and the purple text is the suggested additional questions to add. A full copy of the revised lesson can be viewed: here.

First let’s look at some questions to help students “grasp the structure of data represented in bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs” in appropriate ways for upper elementary students. Students are prompted to make two graphs (i.e., picture graph and pie chart) of their data. This does not add a large amount to the workload of the students, but it provides a great opportunity for them to practice graphing with technology and seeing the same data in two different graph types. By having the students create multiple graphs, it gives them a chance to visualize the different ways to represent data. This is an important skill they need to learn at an earlier age. They need to start practicing this skill and see that bar graphs are not necessarily the default graphs to make.

Black text is the original lesson and the purple text is the suggested additional questions to add. A full copy of the revised lesson can be viewed: here.

Even though the students have charted their data in multiple ways, this last question is designed to specifically have students compare the same data in different ways for a specific reason. Not all data makes sense in all types of charts. This is a first-hand look for students to see what makes the most sense data-wise in the representation of the data they are collecting. As our students are learning these skills we need to be explicit about having them reflect on the different graph types.

Black text is the original lesson and the purple text is the suggested additional questions to add. A full copy of the revised lesson can be viewed: here.

Another part of having students “grasp” different graph types is helping them to develop a broader way of looking at the data from the graph(s). By adding the specific groups of months we can scaffold students to look at the data beyond just most and least, and begin to consider the data across seasons. This can give the students a chance to have a discussion about which season had the most birthdays and why they think that is.

Additionally, by using this lesson and these adjusted questions we are able to more deeply connect math-science learning all in one learning experience for our students. Such cross-disciplinary opportunities are beneficial for students since they are working on their math skills as well as incorporating science content into the lesson. By using birthdays, we can use data relevant to students (who doesn’t love talking about their birthday?!) and incorporate the seasons and the months which are part of 5-ESS1-2.

Therefore, with the addition of 4 new questions, you can continue to use the tried-and-true lesson while also better aligning it to your current learners' needs and/or your desired focus areas for your learners to practice data skills.

To me that feels like a win-win…using a lesson that you like with a more strategic data focus to help learners build their skills :)

Will this exact tweak work for everyone or every lesson? Absolutely not!

Another adjustment in this lesson could help students who need to work on their graphing data skills at this time of the year. So rather than just grasping the structure of data represented in picture charts and pie charts, students could explore making a bar chart from their picture chart and consider which type of chart or graph best represents the data.

The point is that with a better sense of what we are working towards with data skills (see Building Blocks for Data Literacy to explore the range of data skills K-12 our learners should be working to master) we can be empowered to make our existing curriculum work better for us and our learners…rather than needing to find or write all new curriculum.

Give it a try! What in your next lesson with data can you slightly adjust to make it better hit the skills you want your students to practice?

Let us know how it goes at [email protected].