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How to Teach Graphing Skills in Engaging and Interactive Ways

Blog header for Teaching Graphing skills. Includes photo of bags of Skittles and Skittles bar graph.

One of my favorite math units is to teach graphing skills. Graphing in 2nd grade focuses on being able to read and interpret bar graphs, picture graphs, and line plots. Students also need to be able to create these graphs from data collected. I love having my students practice these skills with fun and hands-on activities! Keep reading to learn more ways you can teach graphing skills to your math students…

Books to Teach Graphing Skills

Books for teaching graphing skills.

Here are a few books you can use to teach graphing skills:

Teach Graphing Skills with Objects

Photo of small erasers that could be used as a manipulative to teach graphing.

Students can create their own pictograph by using the little erasers found in the Target Dollar Spot or other math manipulatives. For some students, it helps their understanding to be able to manipulate and move the items on the graph.

Creating Class Graphs

When I first introduce graphing to my class, we create a lot of graphs together. I pose a question for the class and then we take the data from their responses to create the bar graph or pictograph (whichever we’re focusing on at the moment).  For both of these types of graphs, we talk about how they focus on categorical data. 

This can also be a great way to teach graphing skills and tie in cross-curricular topics.  For your data, you can ask students a question about something in science or social studies to tie in different subject area.

Graphing Observations

Photo of anchor chart of a bar graph with student observations. Bar graph is focused on favorite specials.

During our data analysis unit, we spend a lot of time making observations. In addition to students being able to read the graph and answer specific questions, I also like them to just make their own observations.  I will often set up a blank piece of anchor chart paper, we’ll analyze a graph, and students will just share out what they notice. This is another great way to check for understanding.

Independent Practice

Photo of Color graph that can be used for independent graphing practice.

I had a hard time finding graphing practice that had the types of questions and graphing data I was looking for, so I created some of my own. For independent practice, I have students just read and answer questions from the graph and then also use data to create their own graphs.  I also wanted to extend the activity for some students by bringing in two sets of data to make it more challenging.  If you’re looking for some graphing practice already created for you, check out my graphing resource.

Skittles Graphing 

Photo of graphing activity where students graph the bag of Skittles colors.

Students always enjoy activities that have to do with food – so why not bring food into graphing! Each year, I love to have my students graph Skittles. I put a handful of Skittles in a ziploc bag and then students have to sort the colors, create a graph, and then answer questions. This is a fun, hands-on way for them to practice.

Line Plots

Photo example of line plot practice.

Line plots always tend to be trickier for students.  Since line plots are dealing with numerical data, not categorical, they sometimes get a little tripped up.  I again create some line plots together. One question I alway start with is – How many years have you been at our school? We also go over the importance of carefully labeling the line plots so we and others can interpret it.

Students then go on to interpret line plots and create them themselves. 

Create Your Own Graph Project

Photo of Create Your Own Graph project for students to work on in a group.

At the end of our graphing unit, after we have learned about bar graphs, picture graphs, and line plots I love to have the class work on a culminating project. This project can be done individually or in a group. 

Students get to create their own survey question and then survey they class. As they are surveying, they record the results and then create the graph that matches their data (categorical – bar graph or picture graph, numerical – line plot). When they are finished, they come up with a list of observations that they’ve made from their graph and present it to the class.

FREE Line Plot Small Group Activity

Looking for FREE line plot practice? Click HERE to grab my FREE small group Line Plot activity.

For more graphing practice…

Photo of sample of graphing practice in my TPT store - Team J's Classroom Fun.

For more information about how to teach graphing skills...