Strategy 9: Putting Words to Pictures

Students can often gain insight into a graph or diagram by making up a story to describe what it shows. This allows the creative side of their brain to engage with the analytical side. For example, one teacher asked students to think about this graph as recording a swim race, and to pretend they were a sports announcer calling the race. How would you call the race, from start to finish, minute by minute?

Here’s how one student wrote about this graph: “And they’re off. A is swimming a good steady stroke. B is dashing ahead, almost halfway down the pool. C is a little behind. Wait a minute! B appears to have stopped dead in the water! Something must be wrong – maybe he’s got a cramp. It looks like they’re throwing him a life preserver. A is still working steadily down the pool. And what’s happening with C? He just stopped and started heading backwards. I think he just lost his swim trunks and is going back to get them…” (Daniels… p. 256)

Of course, as a mathematics problem, you would want to look for evidence in the students’ writing that they understand both the distance and speed components of the graph.

Homework: Find a graph or photo or political cartoon, whatever works for your content that is a graphic, and have students write about it. Then write a reflection in the discussion tab for this page about how well it worked.