Elementary school teachers are always looking for fail-proof ways to teach their students about new concepts and skills. In order to keep students’ attention, your lessons must be engaging, hands-on, and give students meaningful opportunities to connect to the topic. If you are looking for engaging and fail-proof ways to teach your students about creating a line plot and reading it to analyze data, read on for 5 activities that you can use with your students that they’ll have a blast with!
What is a Line Plot?
A line plot is a type of graph that displays data along a number line to show the frequency of each value. Sometimes a line plot can be used to show categories rather than numbers.
Depending on where you live and the standards you follow, you might introduce line plots in different grade levels. If you follow the Texas TEKS, line plots are not introduced until 3rd grade. However, if you follow the Common Core standards, line plots are introduced in 2nd grade.
You can learn more about what line plots are and see some of these line plot example activities in action in my YouTube video below.
Introducing Parts of a Line Plot Anchor Chart
When introducing a new concept, especially a visual concept like line plots, it’s effective to use a whole group anchor chart to help break the concept down with your students. This also allows you to introduce mathematical vocabulary words and teach the parts of line plots.
As you create a whole group line plot anchor chart together to introduce the parts of a line plot, have students also create their own mini line plot anchor chart in their math journal. This is effective because they put the learning into practice right away and can save it for future reference later on.
The key parts of a line plot are:
The first part of a line plot is the title. The title is the name of the line plot and should reflect what this type of graph is showing.
Next up is the symbols. When creating a line plot, the symbols represent each time a frequency occurs. They are usually represented with X’s. The frequency is a mathematical vocabulary term that means how many times a number appears on the line plot.
Number Line or Category
The final part of a line plot is the number line or category. This shows the numbers or categories being represented in the data shown on the line plot.
How to Read a Line Plot
Once students understand the different parts of a line plot and the vocabulary terms that go along with it, then it’s important to teach them how to read a line plot.
In this line plot example, students plot the number of children in their family.
Prior to the lesson, have a blank line plot anchor chart template set up without any data being shown. Give each student an X and have them plot their X (or symbol) above the number of children in their family.
During this time, review and reinforce the meaning of the word frequency, reminding students that frequency means the number of times something appears. Therefore, if more than one student has 3 children in their family, instead of putting their X beside another one, they would place it on top.
After each child has plotted their answer, analyze the data together. Since there are 2 X’s above the number 4, that means that 2 students in the class have 4 children in their family. There are 6 X’s above the number 3, meaning that 6 students in the class have 3 children in their family.
Sometimes a line plot can show data based on different categories rather than numbers. In this line plot example, students plot which superpower was their favorite.
3 students chose transform and lightning speed while invisible was the class favorite with 5 students choosing that superpower.
I recommend that each time you create a whole group line plot example anchor chart, you review the parts of the line plot, use appropriate vocabulary words when creating the line plot, and discuss the frequency when reading and analyzing the line plot data.
Activities for Creating a Line Plot
When practicing creating a line plot, it’s important to provide students with meaningful, hands-on practice for creating and reading line plots. It’s also important to use line plot examples that students will be interested in and excited to work with, such as the examples shown above.
Another way to do this is by incorporating mathematical concepts students have already learned throughout the year into your line plot activities.
Read on for 5 of my favorite engaging and fail-proof line plot activities that you can use with your students!
Find the Value and Plot
The first line plot example activity is called Find the Value and Plot, which is an example that incorporates the concept of place value as well.
For this activity, students will write the value of each number shown under the flap in their math journal. Then, they will plot how frequently each number appears by drawing X’s above the value on the number line.
This is the perfect way to review place value during your graphing unit.
Paper Bag Line Plots
This line plot activity incorporates the concept of measurement and is one of my favorite small group activities!
To use this activity, grab several small, random objects, such as various school supplies or classroom manipulatives, and place them into a paper bag.
Each child will take turns pulling an object out of the bag, estimating the length of the object, and using their ruler to measure the length. Then they will plot their data on the line plot. The trick to this activity is finding multiple objects with the same frequency of length.
Roll, Add, and Plot
The next line plot example activity also incorporates addition skills, which is a great way to incorporate math facts into your graphing lessons. In this Roll, Add, and Plot activity, students will roll a dice and add 10 to that number. Next, they’ll plot the sum on their line plot.
They’ll repeat this 20 times before answering questions about their data, which encourages critical thinking skills.
Blow, Measure, and Plot
Blow, Measure, and Plot is always a huge hit with students when practicing creating a line plot and learning to read it.
On a flat surface, such as a table or the floor, place a piece of tape that will be the starting point. Each student will need a pom pom ball and a straw. They’ll place their pom pom on the piece of tape and blow it across the floor using their straw.
Then, they’ll use a ruler or measuring tape to measure how far their pom pom went. Finally, they’ll plot their results on the line plot. This is super hands-on activity that also gets students up and out of their seat, which is always a plus!
Dance Around and Plot
The final line plot activity is the perfect way to get those wiggles and extra energy out by playing Dance Around and Plot! You can use this line plot activity with any sort of number or categories, such as shapes.
In the example of using shapes, you’ll place shape cards in a circle around the room. Each student will stand on a shape with a copy of their recording sheet. The teacher will play music while the students walk along the circle, dancing as they go.
When the music stops, they must plot the shape they landed on. You can play for as long as time desires before having students read the line plot to answer the questions about the data they collected.
Line Plot Lesson Plans
When teaching line plots, it’s important to remember that the more hands-on and relatable you can make a concept, the more engaged students will be in their learning, which leads to fool-proof activities and lessons.
If you’re looking for more lesson plans, activities, and small group resources to help you teach about line plots and other types of graphs in your classroom, check out my guided math units and graphing math stations in my store below or in my TPT store!
For more tips, tricks, and ideas for teaching about graphs and data, check out these blog posts:
- Active Learning Opportunities for Creating a Pictograph in 2nd Grade
- Simple and Straightforward Ways to Teach Parts of Bar Graphs in 2nd Grade
Let me know in the comments which line plot activity your students would love most!
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