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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Using Graphs In Preschool

A while back, I talked about the four things that I wanted to have more of in my classroom in order to promote more math opportunities:

There were:
Sorting & Classifying Opportunities
Using Math Mats
Grid, Line and Path Games

Today (finally) I'm going to talk about graphing.  One of the reasons that I like graphing so much is that it gives my class a real-life, relevant reason to use math concepts.  Once we graph something, it only makes sense to count elements from the graph, as well as to compare and contrast them.  Plus, it gives everyone a chance to participate - there is a piece of everyone on every graph, and their piece is important.

Really, there are two main things that you have to consider when you make graphs.  One is subject matter: What are you graphing?

The second is format:  How are you going to display your graph?

Subject Matter:
I try and find a way to make a graph with every unit.  Admittedly, some units are harder than other. It can help to have some basic questions that you can apply to any unit:

Graph Format:
As far as what graphing format to use, you have several options.  My favorite graph format is using a pocket chart.  Lots of different pocket charts will work, but this one is my favorite:

It's actually a hundreds pocket chart, but it's great for graphing because it gives you a 10 x 10 array of pockets to utilize.

I also sometimes use my "calendar" pocket chart:

Of course, regular pocket charts will work.  For this personal graph of "Things I Like/Don't Like", I used a small Target pocket chart with a piece of masking tape down the middle to make two distinct areas:

Sometimes we use the white board:

Or some chart paper:

Or regular posterboard:

Once you have your subject decided and know how you will format your graph, you want to think about what elements you will use on your graph.  Will you write the students' names on die cuts and put them in your pocket chart?  Will you use magnets with student names on them?  Or will you just write their names (or even better, have them write their names) on a piece of paper?

Graphing Elements:

As you can see from the pictures above, I use a variety of graphing elements.  Since I am trying to graph more this year, I have made name cards for my students that will just fit in the columns of my "calendar" pocket chart.  I also utilize names on popsicle sticks with magnets on the back.  (I can use both of these elements for many different graphs.) Or sometimes we just add the student names to relevant die cuts or labels.

I like to make printable headings and category signs for my graphs, and have placed several of these in my Teacher Store:

However, you don't have to have any kind of printable, or fancy anything.  Just grab a large piece of paper, a marker, and a stack of post-it notes for the students to put their names where they want.

No matter what kind of graph we make, I try to allow the students to place their names on the appropriate place on the graph by themselves as much as possible.  They stick their labels on, or put their names in the column that they choose.  As the year goes on, I encourage them to write their own names whenever possible.  This makes the graphing more relevant to them.

When we're done with our graphs, we like to put them outside our classroom door for the grownups to see and admire.  Plus, it tends to spark some conversations between the Little People and their grownups about the subject of  the graph, and what their choices were.

The way I see it, Graphs = Math + Expressing Personal Choices + Extra Language Practice with their parents - what more could one ask for in a preschool experience?


  1. I really love these graphs! I am a brand new pre-K teacher near Houston, TX, and I am always looking for ideas. Do you have printables of these graphs? i would love to use them!
    P.S.My husband is a pastor, too. We moved here from FL a few years ago.

  2. Actually, most of these printables I sell in my Teachers Pay Teachers store: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Julie-Locke. Some you can just buy alone (like the Pet Printables), but some (like the apple tasting one) are part of a bigger set. I'm glad you like them!

    And actually, I'm from Austin! Small world, isn't it?