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Eric Chow
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Telling the Story with Graphics

Telling the Story with Graphics

Eric Chow
Phillip & Sala Burton Academic High School
San Francisco, Calif.

TITLE: Telling the Story with Graphics

I. Overview and Rationale

In publishing, students need to understand the power of graphs and charts to communicate complex information. They also need to be able to produce clear and accurate charts for artistic and journalistic purposes.

II. Goals for Understanding

• Use charts and graphs to supplement a news story or serve as a stand-alone piece
• Manage databases
• Use the appropriate graph/chart/table to communicate information
• Interpret, analyze and evaluate the use of infographics
• Create charts and graphs to influence reader opinion
• Use online tools to enhance and publish databases
• Write a news story based on databases and other sources

III. Essential Questions

• Does the chart or graph present accurate and comprehensible information for the readers to come to their own conclusions?
• Does the chart maintain the ethics of journalism?
• How do the graphs and charts in a publication reflect the focus of a publication?

IV. Critical Engagement Questions

• How do you communicate numerical information on a chart/graph?
• Does the information in the chart communicate an objective but compelling fact or observation?
• Are the sources reliable and current?
• Is the presentation of the data manipulated to persuade one way or other?

V. Overviews and Timeline

Activity 1 – Establish Standards for Graphs/Charts (one 50-minute class)

• What do students already know about creating graphs/charts
• Look at models of graphs and charts in print and online. Use some of the examples from Tim Harrower’s book The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, pp.190-193
• Discuss when a story needs graphics to contain information
• Discuss when to use different types of graphs/charts/tables
• Discuss how charts can be misleading (see Harrower, p.195)
• Explore ways to make charts more visually appealing without distracting from facts
• Students will create a rubric for what constitutes strong graphs/charts

Examples of standards:
• Information is clear and attractive
• Information is provocative and has the appearance of objectivity
• Includes an appropriate title
• Includes symbols and labels
• Appropriately cites sources

Activity 2 – Create a survey (one 50-minute class + lab time)

  • Brainstorm topics that the student body is talking about – use the brainstorming technique so that some topics can form a common theme for publication
  • In teams of two-three, create questions to compile data for graph/chart
  • Discuss how the questions should generate responses that could be input into a database (i.e. yes/no, multiple choice)

Activity 3 – Conduct surveys

• Student teams gather data from their surveys
• Option: use http://surveymonkey.com

Activity 4 – Compile data, develop graphs/charts and write the story (1-2 lab sessions)

• Enter the data into a database/spreadsheet application
• Develop graphs/charts

Activity 5 – Peer Feedback Session (one 50-minute class)

• Each group presents their chart and ideas for stories
• Use the class-created rubrics to evaluate each team’s chart

Activity 6 – Revise chart and write story

• Edit the chart/graph and revise/edit the news story for publication
• Write the news story
• Some groups may find that their data requires more investigation before it can be a story. Or some groups may find that the data could stand alone to tell the story.

VI. Assessment

Assessment includes: chart/graph, database, news article, list of cited sources.

Follow-up lessons/activities: Mining data. Writing a news story from data. Animating graphs for the web Print resources: Harrower, Tim, The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, Sixth Edition. Pp.174-178, 190-198

VII. Online resources

Print resources:
Harrower, Tim, The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, Sixth Edition. Pp.174-178, 190-198

Online resources
Step-by-step guide to creating Excel charts

Tutorial on creating Excel charts

Microsoft blog with tips on how to make professional charts/graphs

Create charts using Adobe Illustrator

Online course on working with graphs, charts and tables

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