Bar Graph Lesson

Shodor > Interactivate > Lessons > Bar Graph Lesson


The following lesson is designed to give students experience creating bar graphs and reading bar graphs. It also introduces students to the effectiveness of different representations of data. This lesson provides students with an opportunity to explore bar graphs using authentic information. This lesson would work well towards the middle of a unit on bar graphs, before the students make their own but after they've had sufficient practice reading them. It will take about 2 days (45 minutes each day) to complete this lesson. Please note the ideas for this lesson were provided by an Interactivate user, Brett Rycombel. Thank you Brett.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • have practice creating bar graphs
  • have experience reading bar graphs
  • have an understanding of how to accurately represent a graph with appropriate units

Standards Addressed:

Student Prerequisites

  • Data Analysis and Probability:
    • interpret a bar graph
  • Measurement:
    • understand different units of measurement for height
  • Technological:
    • perform basic mouse manipulations such as point, click and drag

Teacher Preparation

Students will need:

  • -Access to a browser
  • Pencil and paper

Key Terms

bar graphA diagram showing a system of connections or interrelations between two or more things by using bars

Lesson Outline

  1. Focus and Review

    Ask the students the following questions:

    • Why do we use bar graphs?
    • What are some things that we can show on bar graphs?

    Show the students a bar graph of precipitation over a year in inches using the following data and ask the following questions:

    • Why would this bar graph help us?
    • What do we know from this bar graph? How?

    Show the students a bar graph of the same data, but with precipitation measured in feet and ask the following questions:

    • Does this bar graph show us the same information?
    • Does it show you the information in a more helpful way or less helpful way?
  2. Objectives

    Let the students know what they will be doing and learning today. Say something like this:

    • Today, class, we are going to be exploring how heights of different things in the world compare to one another by using bar graphs.
    • We are going to use the computers to learn about how to put the data we find into a bar graph.
  3. Teacher Input
    • Use the Bar Graph activity to familiarize the students with how to input data. Create a small example bar graph and have the students create it with you.
    • Emphasize the importance of vertical scale on bar graphs and labeling the two axes. Also discuss the importance of having identical units for all heights found.
    • Explain the assignment: students will, in pairs, create a list of 4 things that have different heights. They then will research the height of these things using Google.
    • Emphasize that if the students can't find the height of one item after 5 minutes of research they need to pick something else. Also, you may want to suggest that the students include items with a wide range of heights to see how they compare.
  4. Guided Practice
    • Ask the students to provide some suggestions of fun things to compare heights with. If no one makes any suggestions provide some examples including: Mount Everest, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, tallest roller coaster or Niagara Falls. Write their suggestions and yours on the board for the students to reference.
    • Model how to research the height of one of the examples. Again emphasize that everything will need to be in the same units. Show how they can convert it to the right unit by using Google (type "number" "unit" to "new unit"). For example, "45 feet to mile".
  5. Independent Practice
    • Have the students discuss 4 heights to find with their partners and complete the research. Have the students record this data on a piece of paper to turn in with their final graph. Provide a model for students to use to organize their data on the paper.
    • Then, have them put this data onto the Bar Graph activity.
    • Have the students answer the following questions on the notebook paper once they have graphed their data:
      • What do you learn when looking at this graph?
      • What units did you use to graph your data?
      • Do these units give you a good representation of the data?
      • What is something you learned about bar graphs during this activity?
  6. Closure
    • Have the pairs share their bar graph with another group and share their answers to the questions. Then, bring the class together and go through the questions. Make sure to emphasize appropriate units and the usefulness of bar graphs. At the end, have the students hand in their notebook paper and email or print out their bar graphs.
    • To save the graphs the students will need to copy the graphs onto Word documents.
      • If you use Macs, hold down shift+command+4 and your pointer will become a cross like shape with a circle in the middle. You can click and drag over the bar graph and this will take a picture of the image and it will be saved on the desktop and you can insert this image into a Word document.
      • If you use PCs, select the key on the keyboard marked "Print Screen." You can now edit he image in Pain and then insert the image file into your Word document.

Alternate Outline

This lesson can be rearranged in several ways:

  • Instead of having the students research their chosen items, provide the class with a list of things with heights already found. Have the students select 4 things from that list to compare. This will take less time since the research aspect will not exist.
  • Have the students compare only things that are really large or things that are really small. This will provide their assignment with more structure and reduce trouble with conversions.

Suggested Follow-Up

  • After the discussions and activities, have the students print out their bar graphs and put them onto a bulletin board in the classroom. Reference the bar graphs when doing further exploration with bar graphs such as creating their own.

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