Reading Bar Graphs

Sample Bar Graph

Image courtesy NASA

To engage students in reading a bar graph using authentic NASA data. Students will identify major parts of bar graphs and make a generalization statement based on graphed data.
Grade Level: 2 – 5
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: One- 30 minute class period (Higher level option may take two-30 minute class periods)
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe two temperature bar graphs of data from Africa (coast vs. inland)
  • Students will identify major parts of the bar graph (title, labels, number values)
  • Students will evaluate changes in the temperature over a one year time span
  • Students will draw conclusions about stable vs. less stable temperature values (inland vs. coastal values)
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website via printed copy
  • Knowledge of basic structure of a bar graph
  • Knowledge of Temperature, Thermometer and Celsius
  • Knowledge of maps
  • Knowledge of Weather
Lesson Links:

Bar graphs are simple ways to display data. Taking numbers and creating a bar graph makes it easier to read and draw conclusions. From bar graphs, you can easily compare data from more than one source.


Pre-Lesson Prep: Students will need access to the bar graphs and questions.

Higher level option: You may also choose to use the blank graphs and numerical data if you want students to practice graphing data. In this case, pass out blank graph and number value chart and have students graph prior to proceeding to step one. You may want students to work in pairs so that they each graph one set, rather than each student graphing both data sets.

1. Hand out bar graphs. Explain that you will be tracking changes in temperature over one year (2007) in Africa.
2. Have students work in pairs to find the title of each graph and circle.
3. Have students find the label on the left hand side and put a star next to it.
4. Ask students to find the bottom of the graph. Ask them what the bottom is showing. (Months of the year)
How do you know? (It is labeled)
5. Prompt students to find the highest value on both graphs and put a smiley face above them (there may be a few with the same value)
6. Have students put a dot under the lowest value on both graphs. (there may be a few with the same value)
7. Explain to students that the changes in values, sometimes indicate a change in weather for each location. Both graphs are from Africa but one is inland, and one is along the coast. Which location has the most change? How do you know?

8. Ask students: Which place do you think, has a lot of different types of weather?
Provide think time.

9. Have students share their ideas with a partner then write I or C on a post it to show which one they chose. Divide the board into two sections, Inland and Coast. Have students walk up and place their post it in the correct space to vote.

10. Bring class together to discuss their choices. Introduce the word trend(s) as you revisit the graphs. If students have difficulty making their decision or seeing why the inland has a wider variety of weather, have them circle the tops of all of the bars on both graphs and look at the differences.

11. Have the class agree on a generalization statement about the graphed data.


(embedded in lesson)
What is the title of the graph(s)?
What does the bottom of the graph show? How do you know?
Which location’s pressure changes most? How do you know?
Which location, coast or inland, experiences a lot of different types of weather?


Display double bar graph data. Guide discussion about changes in temperature according to seasons. When is inland temperature higher than coastal? When is coastal temperature higher than inland? When are they about the same? What might this indicate about the season?

Provide numerical data from your area and blank graphs for students to complete.

Lesson plan contributed by Becky Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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