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Representing Data: Charts and Graphs

In order to make sense of data gathered during investigations and Journey North migration studies, it helps to get a visual overview of the information. Tables are used to organize amounts of numerical data (e.g., the number of different species of frogs spotted in a day.) Graphs visually show comparisons or relationships.

As students pull and organize information from Journey North maps and migration data tables, they should think about their driving question and what they'd like to depict. By exposing them to different types of graphs, helping them understand when it's most appropriate to use each one, and modeling how to create each type, you will prepare them for making appropriate choices as classroom scientists. Here are some tips on when to use different graph types:

  • Circle (Pie) Graphs - Use these to depict parts of a whole, such as the fraction (percentage) of Journey North classrooms that are tracking just 1 species, 2 species, 3, species, and 4 or more species.

  • Bar Graphs - Use these to show comparisons of data with discreet categories, such as the number of miles traveled by each of 6 eagles.

  • Area Graphs - Use these to depict how something changes over time. It applies to data that may have peaks and valleys, such as the average number of monarchs spotted each week outside your classroom.

  • Line Graphs - Upper elementary students can use these for continuous data (e.g., height, time, temperature, volume) to show how things relate to one another. (Time is typically depicted on the X axis.) For instance, students might use a line graph to depict how the average daily temperature (or isotherm) changes over time.
  • Scatter Plots - These are like line graphs, but are used to represent trends; individual data points are not connected. Once students have plotted points on the graph from data tables, they can draw a "line of best fit" between or near the points that offers a visual image of the correlation between variables. From that, they should be able to write a sentence or two that summarizes the data (e.g., As the temperature warmed, the number of robins sighted increased). sense of the data they collected.

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