Cause and Effect: What CAUSED this EFFECT?

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SWBAT notice examples of Cause and Effect in books from their browsing boxes

Big Idea

Introducing the concept of Cause and Effect and how it can be applied to text to support comprehension.


Cause and Effect is the backbone of books and literature. In any great book, one event happens, which leads to another, then another, and so on until a story is woven and an emotional experience has occurred. As true as this is for narrative text, Cause and Effect is the driving force behind most informational text also. Any biography is a series of Cause and Effect leading to a historical figures greatest life moments. A book that teaches about animals offers example after example of Cause and Effect. A chemistry book is a chain of Cause and Effect situations. For these reasons and many more, it is important for students to understand this concept and apply it to enhance their comprehension. 

I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Cause and Effect Week – Introducing the Strategy. 



10 minutes

Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Cause and Effect this year, I use a math tool that the students love; dominoes. Before the lesson, I set up a series of about 10 dominoes and once we get started, I ask them what will happen when I knock the first one over. How do they know? They will likely say that the first one will knock the second one over, which will knock the third one over, which will knock the fourth one over, etc. I restate their thinking by saying that the first domino falling down CAUSES the second one to fall down, which CAUSES the third one to fall down, and so on, which is a great example of Cause and Effect.


Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Cause and Effect, which is when one event causes another one to happen. For example, beCAUSE we had a thunderstorm, the power went out.” Show them the Cause and Effect anchor chart. I tell them that there are examples of Cause and Effect all throughout any book and I want them to become more aware of it.   


Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I make a t-chart on the board (or projector). I write beCause on the left side of the t-chart and Effect on the right side. I give the first example to write down on the t-chart: beCAUSE I slept late last night (on the left), I am tired today (on the right). I give them a couple minutes of thinking time come up with their own examples of Cause and Effect.  I ask them to turn and share an example with their partners. After a few minutes, I tell the students to turn back and then call on a few to share their ideas. I add their examples to the t-chart.


Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Cause and Effect, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice examples of Cause and Effect while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that Cause and Effect can happen at any time throughout the book and should be happening constantly. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task. 

Guided Practice

45 minutes

Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading. 


Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share examples of Cause and Effect from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups.



5 minutes

Closing: At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice Cause and Effect in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Cause and Effect. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share what they noticed about Cause and Effect. After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Cause and Effect for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.