To help students understand the difference of cause and effect, I begin by asking them. I want them to understand how cause and effect work and how it relates to their reading and understanding.
I begin with defining it for them. This is not a typical definition but rather a working one that we can use like a sentence stem for future activities and practice. Every action (cause) of a character creates a reaction (event) that leads to an outcome or something happening (effect). I also go on to label cause as the why and effect as the what or the what that happens.
I then begin by using similar prompts that I have attached to this section to practice cause and effect. The document contains about 15 easy cause and effect sentences. I try to model within my working definition how I might state these relationships.
I love to read picture books to my class to help teach reading skills. You are never to old to be read to or to look at pictures while you read. I have never had complaints from my students, instead they love when they see that I have a picture book in my hand. For this lesson, I read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro. With the change of the season upon us it seems to fit in nicely this time of year.
I read the whole book to them and model some of the reading strategies I have already taught. I model Looking at the Whole Word, Does it Make sense, and Check for Understanding.This book is also a good book to bring up inference. Throughout the story the lady keeps swallowing stuff but the reader has to infer they why. I at least mention what we are doing and explain briefly its inference.
Once I have read it through, I then go back to talk about what was happening as we went through the book. I explain that the story is just one giant cause and effect relationship. We start with swallowing the leaves and that the effect of it is swallowing a shirt. I flip through the pages as we discuss cause and effect.
The next activity is practicing while being creative and having some fun. Students are going to participate in game similar to telephone. Except in this game we creating a story about cause and effect relationships.
I will start the activity by saying an effect like "I had to walk home." The first student after me would give the cause, "because I missed the bus." Then that becomes the effect and the next students states the cause, "because I lost my lunch box." This keeps going around the room connecting relationships between cause and effect.
To follow up the game, I am then going to model a tool they can use to help them with cause and effect. I draw a box chart on the board. Over the first column I write CAUSE (why) and the second column EFFECT (what).
I start by filing the first box, under CAUSE, with one from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I start my year reading this to the class and am now going to use it to fill in the chart. A good one to start with is "Fudge won't eat his food." Students then help me fill in the effect. My class came up with: "so he began acting like a dog," "mom became worried," and "Dad finally stepped in and said 'Eat it or Wear it."
We might do one more together before they try one on their own. I have many students with special needs so we did one more box in the chart. I did this because sometimes a new skill is hard to understand when their are multiple steps. By modeling another box these students get a chance to see the expectations of the assignment again and it helps them to process the skill.
This time I chose, "Fudge ruined Peter's poster." Students then help me with the effect. In the last box of the chart I ask students to try to come up with an event from the story that a character did and then to chart the effect that resulted.
I have included what one student ended up with as her completed chart.