Where Do Pollutants Go: Creating Flow Maps for Cause and Effect Relationships

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SWBAT take notes on a science reading using a flow map to show cause and effect.

Big Idea

Notes can be taken in many forms. This lesson shows students that sometimes a flow map is more effective than listing ideas.


10 minutes

“Pollution is bad”. My students quickly and easily answer my questions about pollution with this general statement that they picked up somewhere in past conversation they have had or television shows they have seen. But why? How does is it actually effect our ecosystem and how can we explain what we learn in a logically way? This is the first of two lessons that support students in showing the cause and effect of pollutants on the environment by creating a flow map and using it to present information.

I start this lesson by telling students that we have been studying the characteristics of an ecosystem and now we want to know how it can be effected by a pollutant. They are going to create a cause and effect flow map using information they collect from an article.

I give them an example of a flow map based on eating too much candy. I write on the board, a phrase, “Eat too much candy” and then ask the students to brainstorm what happens soon after eating too much candy. I choose a student to share and write, “Get a stomach ache” next to the first phrase. I stop to tell the students that eating too much candy caused me to get a stomach ache and another way of saying that is the effect of eating too much candy is a stomach ache. I draw a rectangle around each phrase and connect it with a line. I continue the conversation by asking, “What happens next?” I continue to use students’ ideas to build the flow map until we have 6-8 boxes with information. 

Researching a Pollutant

15 minutes

After I’ve given an example of a cause and effect flow map, I ask students to create their own based on a short article about the pollutant their group is studying. In their science journals, or on a separate piece of paper, they are going to create a cause and effect flow map showing how a pollutant enters into the ecosystem and problems it causes.

The articles that students are using to build background knowledge and learn about the cause and effect of pollutants on the environment is a very complex article. It presents many causes and effects. By creating a flow map, students really focus on what specific effect is caused by what specific cause. It forces them to dissect the article and look closely at what information is in it.

I remind them to write their idea down first, then draw a rectangle around it to make sure all of their words fit inside the rectangles, then connect the rectangles in order to show that the first of the two connected rectangles caused the second rectangle.