Introduction to Bar Graphs

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This lesson allows students to learn what bar graphs are used for, how to interpret the data presented, and how to organize their own data using bar graphs.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • practice making bar graphs.
  • be able to interpret bar graphs.
  • ask a question, collect data about that question, and create a bar graph to answer their question.

Standards Addressed:

Student Prerequisites

  • Technological: Students must be able to:
    • perform basic mouse manipulations such as point, click and drag.
    • use a browser for experimenting with the activities.

Teacher Preparation

  • access to a browser.
  • access to 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

    • Begin by calling on each student in the class and asking what color his/her eyes are.
    • As each student answers make a tally mark by the appropriate color.
    • Ask the students to arrange the information displayed on the board in a way that it is easy to read on a sheet of paper.
    • Monitor the students' progress.

  2. Objectives

    Students will:

    • practice making bar graphs.
    • be able to interpret bar graphs.
    • ask a question, collect data about that question, and create a bar graph to answer their question.

  3. Teacher Input

    • Congratulate the students on their efforts.
    • If any student happens to arrange their information in a bar graph-like-manner use his/her graph as an example.
    • If not, explain to the students that some people choose to arrange their data in what is known as a bar graph.
    • Explain the term bar graph.
    • Explain how to arrange data using a bar graph.

  4. Guided Practice

    • Have the students help you arrange the data located on the board into a bar graph.
    • Describe to the students how to use the Bar Graph Shape Sorter applet.
    • Instruct the students to run through several sets of shapes to get a feel for the program.
    • Record information about the types of pants people are wearing (Pants, jeans, dresses, or shorts).
    • Instruct the students on how to use the Bar Graph applet.
    • Have the students use the Bar Graph applet to graph the data collected about what type of pants people in the class wear.

  5. Independent Practice

    • Instruct the kids to come up with a question they would like to answer by surveying their classmates.
    • You may want to give them a few sample questions to choose from if they cannot come up with one on their own:
      • Shoe Size
      • Birth Month
      • Favorite Color
      • Hair Color
      • Favorite Book
      • Favorite Television Show
    • Have the students question their classmates and then create a bar graph either on paper or by using the Bar Graph applet

  6. Closure

    • Choose several students to share their bar graphs with the class.
    • Cover all pertinent vocabulary.

Alternate Outline

For younger students, you may want to hand them a bag of shapes and have them create a bar graph similar to those found in the Bar Graph Shape Sorter applet, rather than having them survey the class and creating a bar graph using the Bar Graph applet.

Suggested Follow-Up

Students can learn about other graphical representations of data, including the histogram. The Histograms and Bar Graphs lesson helps students to understand the differences between these two representations.

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