In our exploration of graphing, I wanted to show you a really good example of collecting data in a meaningful way, before we look at some less than ideal examples.

Above, you can see that this group of children chose their favorite book between “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “Panda Bear, Panda Bear.”  Using name cards with the children’s names written carefully across the top, and then a small picture of each child in the corner, children voted by placing their name card under their book choice.

1.  Children’s names are reinforced with their photographs.  Remember, many children can recognize their own names using a variety of clues, but they may not recognize any of their classmates names.  Using the above technique, all of the children can “read” the data using the photographs as additional support.

2.  The slots for names are evenly spaced.  There is a clear one-to-one correspondence between the cards and the slots.  One card per one slot.  This helps support the children when they count the results. This also means that the children won’t be “fooled” by the votes.  They can easily see which book received more votes.

3.  There are only 2 choices.  Often, teachers are tempted to think that “more is more.”  For children under 3 I believe that choosing between 2 options is entirely appropriate.  You will also find less hemming and hawing when the children make their choices.

4.  The “graph” remains in the classroom.  Children can go and revisit their data set after the activity is over.  Teachers can ask the next day, or the next week, “Who can tell me which book had the most votes?” and children can go over to their data set and revisit the graph and figure it out for themselves.

5.  The books are familiar and recognizable by sight.   The book covers are copied and reduced in size and are completely identifiable to even very young children.

6.  If done well, children can count how many votes each book received.  It is also possible that some children can figure out how many more Brown Bear received than Panda Bear by showing them they can count on from the bottom of the Panda Bear list.  This is very difficult to do, but you may have some children who are ready for this.

Next week, we will look at more graphing examples and get lots of ideas for activities you can do with your own children.