Learning Plans & Activities
Developing and Utilizing Graphical Literacy

In this lesson, students will interact with various graphs; then they will represent data from library circulation statistics in a graphical form to convey a message.






Classroom Teacher, Math Specialists


Students will group numeric information related to library circulation.

Students will determine why this information would be important to share with a determined audience.

Students will evaluate what graphical method best represents the meaning of the data.

Students will create graphical representations of the data.


Library data that is developmentally appropriate to the students. For example, library circulation data by day, week, or month, circulation of popular titles, top circulated titles, prices per book, books acquired in different genres, or books acquired in different library categories may be used. Do not use any library data that compromises a student's privacy.

Regarding "developmentally appropriate" data, students should be working with numbers of units similar to what they interact with in math class. For example, if a grade level is typically working with units no higher than hundreds, do not provide data that is in the thousands of units.


One 45-minute lesson


AASL Learner Framework

I.B.3. Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.

I.C.4. Learners adapt, communicate, and exchange learning products with others in a cycle that includes sharing products with an authentic audience.

IV.B.4. Learners gather information appropriate to the task by organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme.

Common Core Standards

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.B.4. Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in appropriate units— whole numbers, halves, or quarters.

Instructional Procedure

Note: Students should already have exposure to reading various types of line, bar, and circle graphs as well as discussing the creator's purpose in sharing the information in a graphical format.

Begin the lesson by reminding students that people share information for a purpose, for example, to inform or persuade. Tell them that they will be sharing information for a purpose, but sharing it in a specific way, graphically.

Give students a variety of library data. (Be sure that it is not in graphical form already.) Ideally, there should be several sets of data for students to interact with (see suggestions listed in Materials Needed). In small groups of three or four, ask students to investigate the data and identify two pieces of information that they would like to share.

Ask students: Who do you want to share the information with? Why do you want to share it? What type of graphs would show the information best?

Once students have information that they want to share for a specific audience and purpose, have groups use the library data to create graphs. Have examples of other graphs they have interacted with earlier in the school year as models to remind them to include a title, axis, numbers, labels, and other features.

As groups finish, have students view others' graphs in a gallery walk. Encourage them to answer similar questions of the other graphs: Who do you think this information is for? What is the information that the graph is trying to share? Is this type of graph the best choice to share this information?


Use other data from the school, district, or community that students can interact with. For example, share the number of copies made every day, the amount of paper that is used weekly, or the number of certain types of drinks that are chosen daily from the cafeteria.

Have students create their graphs using apps or software such as Numbers for iPad or Sheets in Google Drive.

After students create graphs from library data from their school, share similar data from another elementary school. Ask students how their graphs could be altered to include this new information and have them revise their graphs. Ask them how this changes the message they wanted to share.


As students view others' graphs in the gallery walk, have them write the answers to their questions on sticky notes and leave them for the creators of the graphs. When students return to their graph, allow them to reflect on the notes from others. In an exit slip ask: According to your feedback, does your graph share the message you intended to the target audience? What changes, if any, might you make to improve your graph so that your message and audience is clearer?

Additional Resources

Learn more about fostering graphical literacy in Tom's editorial, "Introducing Graphical Literacy in the Library."

Tom Bober

MLA Citation Bober, Tom. "Developing and Utilizing Graphical Literacy." School Library Connection, December 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2235469?childId=2235470&topicCenterId=1955265&tab=1.

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Entry ID: 2235470

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