EL Support Lesson

What Does the Graph Show?

Get your students familiar with talking about the data they see in bar graphs. This lesson can stand alone or be used alongside the *Organize Your Data* lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Organize Your Data lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Organize Your Data lesson plan.

Students will be able to interpret data.


Students will be able to interpret and explain data in bar graphs using key vocabulary and discussion supports.

(2 minutes)
  • Have students take out their whiteboards and whiteboard markers and meet in a common place in the classroom.
  • Write the word graph on the board and ask students to quickly sketch a graph on their whiteboards. Observe students' drawings, and point out the different types of graphs that you see. If possible, share a student example of a bar graph.
  • Explain to students that they will be looking at the data found in bar graphs today.
(8 minutes)
  • Define data as facts or pieces of information, and explain that data can be shown in lists, charts, graphs, or even paragraphs. Today, the focus will be looking at data that is displayed in bar graphs. Explain that they will also be utilizing the different parts of the bar graph to better understand what the data means.
  • Go over the remaining vocabulary terms by giving out a set of Vocabulary Cards to each student. Additionally, distribute a Glossary to each individual. Read aloud each of the tiered words and have students repeat them aloud. Do the same for the definitions. Ask students to discuss the images they see and how they relate to the definitions. Provide a sentence stem to support discussion, such as "The image goes with the word because ____."
  • Direct students to label the last column on the Glossary as "Example." Allow students to work together to come up with an example for each term. If they are not able to do this right now, allow them to stop and jot something down during the lesson as they learn more about the vocabulary words in context.
  • Display two examples of bar graphs to illustrate how the data can be displayed with either vertical or horizontal bars on the graph. Use the worksheets Go Organic! Practice Reading a Bar Graph and Go Runners! Practice Reading a Bar Graph. Point out the title, data, x-axis, and y-axis, and think aloud about what the data shows.
(8 minutes)
  • Distribute a copy of the Bar Graph: Getting to School worksheet and instruct students to refer to the Glossary or Vocabulary Cards as you play a little vocabulary game. Point to a place on the graph and have students call out the associated vocabulary term. After each term is correctly called out, have them label it on their worksheet.
  • Explain that you are going to look at the questions on the bottom to model how to use the graph to help you understand what the data is showing. Before looking at the questions, add in labels for the x-axis (Transportation) and y-axis (Number of students) so that each part of the graph is labeled.
  • Look at the first question on the worksheet and think aloud about how the bar graph can help you answer that question. Say, "I can look at the x-axis to find the bar for bicycle riders. I can use the y-axis to find out how many kids ride their bicycles to school."
  • Think aloud about the second question on the worksheet and show students how they can compare the number of bicycle riders and car riders. Say, "I already figured out how many kids ride their bicycles to school, so now I just have to figure out how many car riders there are. If I look at the x-axis to find the bar for car riders, and then find the number on the y-axis, I see that there were ten. Since there were 30 bicycle riders and 10 car riders, I know that there were 20 more bicycle riders than car riders."
  • Engage the class in answering the remainder of the questions, and encourage students to use the vocabulary terms as they explain. Provide sentence stems/frames for student explanation, such as:
    • I can find the answer by ____.
    • I look on the x-axis to find ____ and I look on the y-axis to find ____, so that means ____.
    • I know the answer is ____ because ____.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that they are going to do a Numbered Heads Together activity to talk about a set of data and some questions.
  • Put students into small groups of four. Have each group of students count off by the number of students in the group so that every group has a one, two, three, and four. If the class is smaller, adjust the numbering for this activity.
  • Present a question that requires explanation by the students. Display the Winter Sports: Practice Reading a Bar Graph worksheet and give students time to look at the graph. Then, have them focus on the first question.
  • Give the groups a few minutes to make sure that everyone in the group can explain each step of how to find the answer. Allow them to create notes together.
  • Call a random number from 1-4 to be the reporter for the group, and tell the groups they are no longer allowed to write or talk to each other. Explain that the reporters are allowed to use the notes that have already been created. Invite the reporters, one at a time, to explain the next step of the problem, to agree/disagree with the previous reporter, or to justify the reasoning of their group in some way.
  • Reveal the correct answer for the problem after every reporter shares.
  • Repeat this process for the remainder of the problems on the worksheet, calling a different random number from 1-4, and provide feedback and clarification as needed on the process and content. Support students by offering sentence stems and frames for them to use in their discussions. For example, "First, we have to look at ____." and "The answer is ____ because ____."


  • Allow access to reference materials in home language (L1).
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary to the teacher.
  • Provide a word bank of key terms and phrases for students to use in group and class discussions.
  • Group students intentionally based on academic and language needs.


  • Allow learners to utilize glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions.
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Distribute an index card to each individual. Explain that they are going to look at a set of data in a graph, but that the title is missing. Tell them that you need them to come up with a title based on what they see in the graph.
  • Display a graph with data and all parts labeled (x-axis, y-axis) except the title. Ask students to write down a possible title on the index card.
  • Put students into partnerships and have them discuss their suggested titles. Provide a sentence frame for students as they discuss, such as "A possible title could be ____ because ____."
  • Circulate and observe students' reasoning as they explain the title they came up with. Remind them to use the key vocabulary in their explanations.
(2 minutes)
  • Share some of the suggested titles students came up with and any other observations you made.
  • Remind students that a graph is a powerful way to look at data and learn more about a situation. It allows us to see facts and information in a visual way.

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