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Why Does It Always Rain on Me? Capability: Interpret representations NoS achievement aims: Communicating in science Contextual strands: Planet Earth and beyond Level : 3,4

Author: Anna Martin. Why does it always rain on me? Watching the weather. Connected, Level 3, 2012, pages 21–23

This resource illustrates how a Connected article can be used to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to make sense of representations in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Communicating in science

Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and other’s ideas.

L3 & 4:

Engage with a range of science texts and begin to question the purposes for which these texts are constructed.

Planet Earth and Beyond


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Interacting systems

Investigate and understand that the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere are connected via a complex web of processes.

L3 & 4:

Investigate the water cycle and its effects on climate, landforms and life.

Learning focus

Students explore what different representations show and why that particular representation was used.

Learning activity

This article is about rain patterns in Wellington, and promotes the idea that we need data over a period of time before we can start claiming trends in the rainfall patterns.  The article itself gives plenty of pointers for the sorts of questions to ask students.

Adapting the resource

This activity could be carried out before reading the article to focus on the ideas that:

  • a data set tells a story, and that it is important to understand what that story is
  •  the writer chooses the best way to show the data to tell their story.

You will need:

Cards of the table and three graphs without titles if working in groups, or display blown up versions if working with the whole class.

Cards with the four titles.

  1. Ask students to put in order of the least amount of time the table and graphs cover to the most.
    • How do you know?
    • What don't we know?
  2. Give out cards with the titles and ask students to match to the right graph.
    • How did you decide which title goes with which table or graph?
    • What extra information do the titles give?
  3. Look at the two bar graphs.
    • What story is each telling?
    • What can you see easily? [The pattern.]
    • What can’t you tell from the graphs? [Examples: how much of the day it rained, if it was cold, if it was rainier than the week before, what the next week's rain might be, if the middle of September every year has about the same rainfall, what the weather was like in other places.]
    • Why do you think the writer chose to use a bar graph here?
  4. Look at the table.
    • What story is it telling?
    • What can you see easily? [Lots of detail.]
    • What can’t you easily see? [The pattern.]
    • Why do you think the writer chose to use a table here?
  5. Look at the line graph.
    • What story is it telling?
    • What can you see easily? [Comparison between the years.]
    • What can’t you easily see? [Rainfall for individual days and months, i.e., the detail.]
    • Why do you think the writer chose to use a line graph here?

Read and discuss the article to confirm students' ideas.  

What’s important here?

Scientists represent their ideas in a variety of ways, including using graphs and tables. Graphs are useful for illustrating patterns, while tables are useful for organising data. Like any other visual representation, it is important to understand the context of the data shown in tables and graphs otherwise conclusions drawn can be misleading.

Being familiar with the literacy practices of science supports citizens to think in new ways and provides a foundation to critically interact with articles about science in the media and to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

  • Can students recognise the purpose for which a table or graph is used?
  • Can they identify what the table or graph highlights and what it doesn’t show clearly, or leaves out?
  • Can they recognise the limits of the conclusions that can be drawn from a particular graph or table?  Can they recognise which questions can be answered and which can't?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in gathering and interpreting data see  Progressions .

Exploring further

Bat Maths (Connected 1, 2002, pages 24-25) follows another article, The Bat DetectiveTo illustrate the importance of context, give the bar graph on page 25 to the students to try and make sense of before reading the articles. Ask: What's missing? What else do we need to know?  Revisit the graph after reading the articles, and discuss how the background information helped position the data.

In Figure It Out: Statistics, Level 3-4 (2001) there is an activity called Bean Climbing. The questions that go with the graph on page 10 help students look at the patterns of the data.

Graphs published in newspapers, etc., are often good for conversations about the patterns shown, and what the graph does and does not show.

A teacher resource can be found in the support material of the Assessment Resource Banks:  Tables and graphs

Other resources for this capability

Watch Me! (L1) Ready to Read series 2009, Guided Reading level: yellow

Seeds (L1 & 2) Connected 1, 1999

Light and Colour: Our Vision of the World (L1 & 2) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 10

Standing Up: Skeletons and Frameworks (L1 & 2) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 51

An Interview with a Glass of Water (L3 & 4) Connected 2, 2002

Ferns (L3 & 4) Connected 3, 2002

Spring is a Season: How Living Things Respond to Seasonal Changes (L3 & 4) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 44

The Air around Us: Exploring the Substance We Live in (L4) Building Science Concepts, Booklet 30

Catch My Drift (L4 & 5) Connected, Level 4, 2012

Bioaccumulation interactive (L5) Science Learning Hub

The elements: element analyser interactive (L5) Digistore on TKI

Garden Bird Survey: Participants’ Stories (L5) Landcare Research webpage

The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (L5) GNS Science webpage

Key words

Connected, rain, graphs