2. Reading charts and diagrams

Think about all the kinds of information texts that you read. Whether these are in the pages of textbooks, in advertising leaflets or on computer screens, they frequently include diagrams, charts, graphs, drawings, photographs or maps. To be successful as readers, you and your pupils need to understand how words, figures and visual images (such as photographs or drawings) work together to present information. Many writers on education now stress the importance of visual literacy. Learning how to read and respond to photographs and drawings is one part of becoming visually literate. Reading and responding to charts, graphs and diagrams is another. Bar and pie charts are some of the easier charts to understand and to make in order to summarise information.

Case Study 2: Making a pie chart to represent the number of pupil birthdays in each month of the year

Miss Maria Bako likes to make each pupil in her Primary 6 class of 60 pupils feel special. In her classroom she has a large sheet of paper with the month and day of each pupil’s birthday. On each birthday, the pupils sing Happy Birthday to their classmate. One day, a pupil commented that in some months they sing the birthday song much more often than others. Maria decided to use this comment to do some numeracy and some visual literacy work on pie charts.

First, she wrote the names of the months on her chalkboard and then she asked pupils to tell her how many of them had birthdays in each month. She wrote the number next to the month (e.g. January 5; February 3, and so on).

Then she drew a large circle on the board and told pupils to imagine that this was a pie and that as there were 60 in the class there would be 60 sections in the pie, one for each pupil. The sections would join to make slices. There would be 12 slices, because there are 12 months in a year. Each slice would represent the number of pupils who had their birthday in a particular month, but each slice would be a different size. She began with the month with most birthdays – September. In September, 12 pupils had birthdays.

Pupils quickly got the idea of making 12 slices of different sizes within the circle to represent the number of birthdays in each month as a percentage of the class. They copied the birthday pie chart into their books and made each slice a different colour.

The class talked about other information they could put into a pie chart and decided to explore how many pupils played different sports, how many supported each team in the national soccer league and how many pupils spoke the different languages used in their area.

Activity 2: Comprehending and making a pie chart

Copy the pie chart in Resource 4: A pie chart onto your chalkboard.

  • Ask pupils to suggest why this is called a pie chart.
  • Write out the questions (part b) about the pie chart on your chalkboard and ask pupils to work in pairs to answer them.
  • Discuss the answers with the class.
  • Use your chalkboard to show pupils how to turn these answers into a paragraph about Iredia’s weekend. Ask pupils to draw the pie chart.
  • For homework, ask pupils to draw their own pie charts to show how they usually spend their time at weekends.
  • After checking the homework, ask pupils to exchange their chart with a partner and to write a paragraph about their partner’s weekend.
  • What have you learned from these activities?

What relevant activity could you do next? (Look at Resource 4 for some ideas.)

1. Reading for understanding