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  • At first glance, some data displays in science can seem overwhelming. Both students and teachers may be unsure of how to approach the task of understanding and making sense of graphs.

    This activity uses a graph that displays the vertical structure of the atmosphere as the context for exploring and interpreting graphic representations. Students and teachers can transfer the approaches used to make sense of other types of graphic information.

    Learning to understand the symbols of science is an important part of communicating in science and forms part of the interpreting representations capability. Reading graphs can be treated as a comprehension exercise in both language and science literacies

    In this activity, students work step by step to interpret a scientific data display.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • use a series of steps to approach scientific data displays
    • locate appropriate information from the data display in order to answer questions
    • make sense of multiple datasets from within the single data display.

    Download the Word file and (optional) the PDF version of the Vertical structure of the atmosphere diagram (see links below).

    Related content

    The article Gaseous atmosphere provides a detailed explanation of atmospheric layers and temperature.

    Related activities

    Interpreting representations using climate data also helps students develop literacy and numeracy skills needed for reading and interpreting graphs.

    Using weather data challenges students to use long-term weather datasets to create and interpret graphs.

    Interpreting lake sediment data offers lots of opportunities (and helpful questions) to read and interpret graphic representations.

    Professional learning development

    Literacy through science explores shared strategies for making meaning while connecting the English and science strands.

    The Hub has professional development webinars:

      Published 8 November 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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