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Teach What to Look for in Graphs & Charts in Non-Fiction


Social Studies ELA: Reading ^21st Century Skills All Ages Strategy


Abstract Reasoning Spatial Perception

Teach What to Look for in Graphs & Charts in Non-Fiction

If your student skips over graphs and charts when reading non-fiction or has trouble understanding why they are included in the reading

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will use the graphs and charts in non-fiction reading to help their understanding of the material.
  2. Direct Instruction: Teach a stepped process to looking at graphs/charts within the reading: a) Take time to read both the caption and interpret the graphic to get the full meaning. b) Go through each element of the graph or chart. First the title, next the labels, and then the key or legend. Take special note of any highlighted or starred elements. c) Consider any corresponding scales. Visualize in your head how big the actual version is to put the locations and distances into context.
  3. Model and Practice Practice the above steps in a group. Ask: What is the main takeaway from this diagram? Have students practice writing a one sentence summary of the visual.

*print* Student Checklist: Reading Graphs & Charts In Non-fiction

  1. Read the chart title and caption
  2. Then read through the labels of the chart, and lastly the key
  3. Make a picture in your head of maps or other information the chart gives you
  4. Write a one sentence summary: What is this chart/graph about?

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Graphics are often a short-hand version of what is written in the text, or they can provide new information not provided in the main text. Authors often use them for emphasis or to help the reader visualize a challenging concept. If you have a student who is not comfortable with graphs and charts they might skip over them and miss valuable information. Teaching students how and what to look for in diagrams, charts and maps can help them understand these additions are helpful and worth the effort.