Lesson plan

Let’s Find Out! Answering Questions by Collecting and Organizing Data

Your students will practice data collection and graphing while learning more about each other. Your data scientists will craft a survey question, collect data from the class, and then create a bar graph to represent their findings.
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Students will be able to create a bar graph using appropriate scale and all parts of a graph.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell your class that you really enjoy getting to know them and you’d like to know more about what third grade life is like for them. For example, what kinds of things to third graders do when they get home from school?
  • Ask them what they usually do after school and call on a few students. Explain that the process of calling on students individually won’t really give you a good idea of the class’ activity as a whole.
  • Tell them that you are going to create a survey to find out about how third graders spend time at home.
(15 minutes)
  • Explain that you are going to design a survey together and then collect data. A survey is a method of collecting information and can be done by phone, on the internet, in person, etc. In this case we are going to ask everyone in the class a question.
  • Tell students that first step is to craft the question in a way that everyone will be able to answer, such as, "Which of the following activities do you do most often when you get home from school?"
  • Generate five to six choices that the group thinks will encompass all possible activities.
    • Examples: Sports/Play Outside, Homework/Read, Watch TV, Internet/Video Games, Spend Time with Family, and Chores.
    • You may need an “Other” choice if there are several outlier responses.
  • Write the choices on the board in a column so that students can add tally marks after.
  • Explain that you are now going to collect information, also known as data. Instruct students to come to the board (by groups or rows) to put one tally mark after the activity they do most often when they get home from school. Remind them that the fifth tally mark goes diagonal.
  • As a class, count up the tallies for each row and write the total.
  • Create a bar graph on a projector, chart paper, or the whiteboard using this data. Include and label the five parts to a bar graph: Title, vertical and horizontal axes, bars, scale and labels on axes.
  • Point out the five parts to a graph and explain that a bar graph is one way to organize data into an image that makes the data easier to interpret and draw conclusions.
(10 minutes)
  • Discuss the graph using a “see, think, wonder” protocol.
  • First, have students observe the graph and make comments that start with the words, “I see…”. Then instruct students to share comments that start with the words, “I think…” so that they can be begin to interpret the graph. Last, students make comments that start with “I wonder…” which will encourage them to ask further questions about the data. Examples:
    • I see tall bars and short bars.
    • I think that a lot of kids in this class are good at getting their homework done.
    • I wonder what games the kids who marked "play outside" are playing.
  • Optional: Review other bar graphs that you find online or in class resources (math book, child-friendly news periodicals, etc.). Point out the five parts and practice interpreting the graphs (What does this graph tell us?).
(35 minutes)
  • Write the process on the board: 1) Craft question and answers, 2) Collect data, and 3) Create graph.
  • Tell students to think about your class and craft an interesting question that tell them something they’re really curious about (Avoid questions like, "What is your favorite color?"). Create four to six choices or categories.
  • Have students collect data. You can give each student a class list so they can check off names when students have responded, have them write their names under their selected answer, or simply have them survey a smaller amount of students to make this manageable.
  • Instruct students to create a graph (with all five parts) using the model on the board and the graph paper provided.
  • Students may craft questions and possible answers and then find out that they don’t work well. That’s totally fine and a powerful learning experience. Have them revise or start over.


  • Provide a data collection template.
  • Provide a bar graph template with blanks for the title and axes labels and the skeleton of the graph.
  • Work with struggling students at the help table to craft a question and choices together.


  • Students can find a website where they an enter their data and produce a printable bar graph using their data. See Suggested Media/Books section.
  • Students can find and share examples of bar graphs in resources (newspapers, magazines, etc.). They could write a few thoughts or questions about them and share with the class.
  • Use the video listed below for any students who are absent or for those who need a review.
  • Use the bar graphing website below to generate a graph online.
  • Google Docs also has a graph making feature that you could explore with students.
(5 minutes)
  • Instruct students to look at their graphs. Review the five parts of a graph and have them point to each part as you list them aloud. You may have students trade graphs. You could also project a student example to model as you go through the parts.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students stand in a large circle around all of their graphs, arranged on the floor in the center.
  • Go through the “see, think, wonder” protocol again, reflecting on the graphs and the process. Spend a little extra time on the “think” phase, focusing on what the graphs tell you about your class.
  • Consider and discuss the Essential Questions outlined in the Data Unit. There are no “right” answers, these are designed to encourage students to think interpretively and apply their new learning to “real life.”
    • Why is data collected and analyzed?
    • How might people use data to influence others?
    • How can predictions be made based on data?

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