More than just a graph-Upping the rigor in graphing and a trick to blow your mind!

Cool math tips for getting the most out of graphing

It only took me 14 years to figure out this graphing trick.  I might be a little slow. But I felt like a genius in math today. We were graphing apples… Who doesn’t graph apples? But today was different. Today changed graphing forever. 
Simple changes… big results.
Teaching the difference is the bane of any graphing lesson. Graphing is so easy, concrete, and fun. Then comes the “What’s the difference?” question and half the kids miss it and the other half of them pretend to need to go to the bathroom.  So I changed my method. I kept asking them to compare things that were exactly the same.
Light bulb moment- differnece is hard to see until you can see similarites
Oh I played it up… “What do you mean the Yellow Golden Delicious are the same as the Gala apples????” Then I showed them two groups of 5 paper clips each and questioned again. “What’s the difference?” They cried out, “They are the same. There is no difference!” I did it with cubes. I did it with sheets of paper. I did it with fingers. Then, Then Then, I did it with Skittles and two students. “Jane has 6 and Mike has 6. So what’s the difference?” The kids were going crazy, almost yelling “THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE !!! ”. Had their teacher gone crazy? (Yes, years ago.) When I let the 2 students eat all 12 skittles it was “game on”. They all wanted Skittles. So I brought up to new kids. One kid was given 3 Skittles and the other one was given 5. I asked again, “What’s the difference?” and just about every hand went up.  They were so HAPPY to finally see a difference between the groups that they actually saw the (math term) difference.  I asked how did you figure that out? I got these answers:
“ I counted up.”
“I subtracted.”
“I looked at the ones that were the same and the extras were how they were different.”
It worked. Graphing tip #1 teach the difference by comparing things that are exactly the same first!
Graphing tip #2 Don’t create the whole graph and then ask questions. Stop and question often as you build
Genis ideas
I don’t know why it took me 14 years to figure this out, but I asked oh 50-60 questions in this graphing session and they were engaged the whole time because the graph kept changing with each group that added their data.
Simple tips to getting more out of graphing
These two are pretty self explanatory but worth talking about.  By numbering, your kids can compare faster and talk about what they see using number words instead of just the words more and less.
Buddy reading the bulletin boards, otherwise known as playing teacher. I love to turn my kids loose in the classroom and walk around listening to them teach each other. It gives them a chance to use their academic language in a non-threatening way, and gets the talking about math and other subjects in complete sentences. My room is filled with our anchor charts so they can revisit an entire month of learning without having a “review lesson”. I walk around with a clipboard and just bask in the glory of what they know. They come alive and become animated in an awe inspiring way!
So you must have gathered by now that we are in the throngs of Apple Week. You too? Go figure! What is it September od something? Well, you know how I feel about informational reading and the lack there of in first grade. Oh there are a TON of books out there. Too bad the kids can’t read them. So, you know I wrote some. Two, as a matter of fact!
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Social Studies and Science are both covered and my kids loved them!!!
We graphed, made applesauce, and wrote about Johnny.
Washing: Say “Scrub a Dub” Twice and move on to the “Drying Station” (5 moms handing out paper towels)
We also drew him for the covers of our published writing. Just adorable!
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Today we took our science and social studies test and the kids rocked it.  I even saw them referring to the vocabulary cards! Praise the Lord, no one asked me how to spell “apple”. Well, maybe one kid did and the girl next him said, “Duh, use the vocabulary wall!” I decided not to correct her brutal honesty because the word apple appears in about oh 200 charts in my room right now.
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Today I got 6 grades in my grade book!
Social Studies
Oral Speaking
and 3 Writing grades.
Yes 3 writing grades!
The Appleseed writing was one grade. The Science test asks them to tell two facts about an apple tree, so since our bench mark for month 1 is two sentences, that was a grade. The Appleseed Social Studies test has a writing component too! I am in grade book heaven!
If you want to be in grade book heaven, then here you go My Love. It’s a mini unit to sink your teeth into!
Click tpt 
Plus, here is a freebie I thought you might enjoy!
Download now
Win one of three: (1st Comment, Pinterest, Facebook fans)
1. First to comment.
2. Pin it to win it: Put the Pinterest URL and your email address in comments.
3. Facebook fans click here. Random sampler will pick from those who comment on the Apples and Appleseed cover photo on Facebook.
All winners chosen by Random Sampler on Friday night.
Ready set go!
Winners Update!


  1. Thank you for sharing your "what's the difference" ah-ha moment! I'm definitely going to try it out!

  2. Thank you for sharing your "what's the difference" ah-ha moment! I'm definitely going to try it out!

  3. Ah I love that difference trick!

  4. Great post -- I will definitely be using your difference trick with my class!


  5. Isn't it funny how sometimes kids say EXACTLY what we want to say, but just can't? Hard to correct them when inside you are fist pumping, high fiving and doing a victory dance!)

    Pinned it here

    tokyoshoes at hotmail dot com

  6. I bet the students will never forget how fun school is in your classroom. Great job-from a principal!

  7. This looks great!

  8. It's so cute Katie! And I am so jealous of that uber cute frame and johnny you made!

  9. I love it! Thanks for the opportunity to win this great unit!

    Mindful Rambles

  10. This is awesome! I love all your work and this would be superfun for my kiddos!

    1. Of course, I forgot my email!

  11. These activities look great!


  12. This unit looks very fun- I'd love to win it!
    Thanks! Carol

  13. It looks like you had great fun with apples! We are starting this next week -loved all the photos of the kids in action!
    Thanks, Marie

  14. I'm excited about the September Mystery Box giveaway!

  15. Beautiful tip! I'm going to try it next week! FINGERS CROSSED!
    Emily @ The First Grade Frenzy

  16. Thank you for the "difference" tip - it makes total sense...why didn't I think of that?! :) I can't wait to give it a try when we graph our apples next week!

  17. Holy wow sister! Yeah- for real the whole "difference" thing is a nightmare every year. Thanks for all the great tips!!
    Rowdy in First Grade

  18. Love the ideas...especially the "what's the difference" (SAME)! It makes sense to do that now...I always have kinders who struggle with understanding "difference".
    I have also been asking questions throughout the creation of the graph...they love it! Going table by table does help to set it up and inquire as you go!
    Thanks again for sharing...I'll be looking for your apple unit as well!

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sorry, I deleted my comment yesterday. I am new to blogging and wanted to make sure my avatar was my new blog. I just wanted to say I loved your ideas for apples. I am a science teacher K-5 and am always looking for great ideas to pass along to my teachers. Love how you used the activities to grade in multiple areas!


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