Classic Tutor Tip: The Human Bar Graph

stick figures representing lines in a bar graph

Purpose: to make graph reading a concrete activity

Prep Time: 2-5 minutes

Materials: a long white board with space in front of it for students to line up, or a set of signs for the bar graph categories

Prep:  Choose two to five bar graph categories, depending on the number and level of students in class and either write them out across the board or make a sign for each and tape them up in a space where students will be able to stand in front of them.


1.      Choose an easy set of categories for the first time you do this activity, such as male and female. Next time choose a more challenging set of categories. See below for category suggestions.

2.      Demonstrate to students how to stand in front of a bar graph category.  For example, if the categories are house, apartment, duplex, and townhouse, stand in front the type of place you live in.

3.      Ask students to join you if they have the same answer. Show them how to form a line going outward from the sign.

4.      Invite the rest of the class to line up in front of their answers.

5.      Stand where all the students can see you and ask questions about the human bar graph. For example:

·         How many students live in an apartment? A house? A duplex?

·         Do more students live in an apartment or duplex? Do more students live in a house or townhouse?

·         Which line has the most students? The least?

6.      Ask the students closest to the signs to write how many students are in their lines.

7.      Students go back to their seats.  Show students how to draw a bar graph based on how they lined up.

8.      Either have the students draw their own copies of the bar graph or repeat steps 4-6 with a different set of bar graph categories and then students draw the bar graph.

Bar Graph Category Suggestions:

How do you get to school: walk, bike, car, bus
What is your birth order: first, middle, last, only
Which way do you practice English at home the most: watch TV, talk to family, read papers from class, write sentences in English
How much sleep do you get at night: 9 or more hours, 8 hours, 7 hours, 6 hours, 5 or fewer hours

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