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Lesson Plan

From Quantitative to Qualitative: Writing Descriptions of Data From Tables

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From Quantitative to Qualitative: Writing Descriptions of Data From Tables

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kristen di Gennaro, Ed.D.

New York, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Academic writing tasks often require students to use words to describe quantitative data found in tables, charts, or graphs. This lesson plan integrates quantitative reasoning and critical thinking with opportunities for writing as students examine a table with numerical data and then analyze the content, language, and organization of a verbal description of the same data.  Students then write and evaluate their own descriptions of data from tables. The lesson's discourse-based approach to language choices aims to raise students' awareness about verb tense selection and reasons for shifting tenses.

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Student Ascriptions of Gender Table: Use this table to generate verbal descriptions of the quantitative data found in the table.

Sample Description of Student Ascriptions of Gender Table: Use this model for students to analyze the content, language, and organization of descriptions of tables.

Peer Review Worksheet for Describing Data in Tables: Use this worksheet for students to evaluate their classmates' and their own descriptions.

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Many teachers think that a focus on verb forms in writing necessarily decontextualizes language as students practice sentence-level drills. A discourse-based approach to language allows teachers and students to focus on the forms found in particular genres or tasks within a larger context, and thus connects various forms with their meanings and uses in authentic situations. This lesson is based on the observation that many students are often confused as to which verb forms to use when describing data, such as that provided in tables, especially when their descriptions are embedded into larger writing assignments. By closely examining the language of descriptions of tables, students come to realize that verb form selection is not random, but rather is based on the meanings and contexts in which they are writing.

Micchiche, Laura. R. “Making a case for rhetorical grammar.” College Composition and Communication 55.4 (2004): 716-737.


Kolln, Martha. “Rhetorical Grammar: A Modification Lesson.” English Journal 85.7 (1996): 25–31.

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