I learned a lesson while teaching a math lesson on bar graphs yesterday. We were working through a page together and I was asking for responses to the questions in the book. Which food was the most popular? How many more boys than girls liked pizza? How many students were surveyed? Most students were struggling to stay focused, so I decided to follow advice I have read on others' blogs - ask open-ended questions. I said, "What can you tell be about this graph." Hands I hadn't seen raised in two days shot up, and all of the responses were good! The students were now looking at and interpreting the graphs by themselves and they were seeing things I had not noticed. It was great!
If I had my own class, my next step would be to let them use a website I discovered this week to create their own visualizations. At http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/ , they can see relationships among data points, compare a set of values, track rises and falls over time, see the parts of a whole, analyze a text, and see the world. What a way to learn!