Graph Dissection

What is Graph Dissection?

Graph Dissection is a term given to the taking apart or breaking down of information found in graphs, charts, maps and other educational graphics. Graphic information is a wonderful way to present complex material in a compact fashion. However, using this graphic information often requires strong reading comprehension, analysis and critical thinking. Multiple intelligence theory would suggest that some people have a spatial intelligence that loves graphs while others need some help. The objective is to give students tools that they can use to break down data when there is no teacher to give them the help.

How can Graph Dissection help your students?

Excellent teachers who have experience with elementary general and special learners as well as adults in GED classes have used Graph Dissection successfully.

How can you implement Graph Dissection in order to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

In selecting the Big Ideas for a particular course, consider the following:

  • In reading charts and tables, students are taught to begin with the title of the chart. What data is being presented? What should I be looking for that is compared to something else?
  • In reading charts and tables, students are taught to be aware of column and row headings. What do the words and numbers signify?
  • In reading pictographs, students are taught to be aware of what the symbols and pictures represent. What does the key tell us? What is the main idea of the pictograph?
  • In reading bar graphs, students are taught to read the title, then look at the bars. Bar graphs compare things that are similar. What is being compared? What does the scale tell about how much difference there is? e. g. Does the scale start at zero? Or are all numbers similar.
  • In reading line graphs, students are taught to read the title, then determine what two pieces of data are being compared. Most line graphs deal with two types of data that occur over time. What is the time span? What is the scale? How much difference is there?
  • In reading circle graphs, students are taught to read the title to determine what is being shown. In circle graphs, there is a “Whole” thing that is being divided. What is the Whole? What do the wedges represent? Can you tell what percentage each wedge is representing?
  • In reading drawings, students are taught to read the title or the caption to determine what is being illustrated. Is it an event in history? Does it illustrate a principle that is being discussed in the text? What is the purpose of the drawing?
  • In reading diagrams such as timelines, students are taught to read the title and the labels. What process or cycle is being demonstrated? What is the range that is covered by the diagram? How does this period of time compare with your lifetime?
  • In reading editorial cartoons, students are taught to look at the figures as representative of an important person or even an idea or a phenomenon. They are taught to look for humor. They are to look for the point that is being made by the cartoon.
  • In reading maps, students are taught to look at the title to see what is being shown. Is it country boundaries? Rainfall? Crops grown? They are taught to look for keys and determine what each symbol represents.

What are the different types of Graph Dissection?

Teachers have the same range of choice on how to present the "Dissection" as they do in any classroom presentation. One option would be to present "How-To" worksheets on each type of graph as it is encountered. Teachers review the worksheet with a hypothetical example pointing out each of the elements. Then students take the real example from the text or handout and apply the newfound process to the real example.

Where can you find more information about Graph Dissection?

Lindquist, Tarry Ways that Work, Putting Social Studies Standards into Practice (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann 1997)