Why Did That Happen? Cause and Effect Text Structure

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Objective

SWBAT identify the characteristics of the cause and effect text structure and understand why an author would use it.

Big Idea

What if an author wanted to write about the formation and destruction of tornadoes? Would a cause and effect structure relay the information the best?

Overview

In this lesson, students will review the cause and effect text structure. Since my students have been pretty knowledgeable about the structures as we've moved through them, I’ll briefly hit the structure with some direct instruction and practice. One thing that my students do struggle with is the difference between cause and effect and problem and solution. When we discussed these in the overview, this is one question that kept coming up. To help with this, the students will use their knowledge to analyze a cause/effect text about poverty in Africa and then have a similar problem/solution passage in a later lesson. After reading the two texts, we’ll dig deep to discuss why the author’s chose the particular structures and compare the two pieces. A really helpful resource I found is this document Text Structure Explained. There are sample paragraphs to use here as well. Especially when we get into the guided practice. I use something I purchased, but there are some great alternatives included in this document. 

Activating

5 minutes

To start today, I'll show students a series of Cause/Effect Pictures. I've included some here and also included them on a powerpoint. I use it with SMART notebook software, but I've included this way for download purposes.  I've left my kids’ writing on them so you can see their thoughts. Each picture is in a set of two. On one slide I show the picture as the cause and the kids have to think about possible effects and on the next slide that same picture is the effect and the students have to think of some possible causes. I tried to have a mix of fun and more serious pictures to appeal to their interests. As students discuss each picture, let them come up and jot down a few ideas. I always like having an idea of student thoughts saved from year to year.

I like starting concepts off with pictures because the kids can easily relate and connect to images. I try to bring their guard down before I throw more difficult tasks at them so they’re more willing to learn and participate. I'm not looking for correct answers here, I just want to prime the brain a bit. 

Instruction

15 minutes

I'll refer to structure slides from this free powerpoint.

I'll be handing out these  cause and effect structure notes so my students can put these in their interactive notebooks. We will use them as a reference as we work through the powerpoint slides on cause and effect.  

sometimes a writer wants to explain how one event leads to another and that this structure is cause and effect.

This is written on the powerpoint slide, and I usually draw an arrow from the words "one event" to "another" and ask the kids to do the same on their note page. This is also a good place to have the kids jot down what they know about cause and effect. They can fill these in on their notes. Usually they say things like a cause is something that happens, and the effect is what happens because of the cause.  Truly profound, I know, but the kids get it.

Do you  know of any signal words that let you know you might be reading a cause and effect structure? 

I like to use numbered heads to give students a second to chat.

1s tell 2s a word that you know and 2s agree/disagree and then share your word.

Now take a look at the slide about key words. Did you say any of these to your partner? Are there any more you think we should add? 

The last thing I like to do before jumping into some reading is to model my thinking with a short paragraph. It can get kind of "hokey" for my advanced readers, but my struggling kids still need to hear it; even that kid who just missed this part last year needs to hear it. Bring up the slide that includes the snowstorm paragraph. The students have this in their notes and should be making marks as you go. I've included a video of my modeled discussion with the kids on cause and effect.  Again, I'll call deliberate attention to things to show all readers my thoughts. I don't take much time on this, as students who really need to hear this modeling and thought process will get this time with me in small groups.

Remember, I can remember more of what I read by paying attention to these relationships. My brain can make better connections when the information gets organized in a meaningful way. Cause and effect is just one of those ways. 

To allow students time to process the information learned, ask students to work with a partner to consider/answer the following questions:

  • What types of books would authors write if they wanted to use this text structure?
  • What graphic organizers would an author use to plan this text structure?

I have students complete this on the notebook page adjacent to the notes. Students are also asked to do this in color since it's on the left (processing) side of their notebook. Here's an example of some student processing. While students are working, I like to visit students who usually struggle in reading. I pose questions to guide their thinking and help them come up with some texts to build background if necessary. This is just a spot for me to quick check before moving on in the lesson. I do this throughout my entire ELA block to check for misunderstandings and gain information that I use to create/modify the next day's lesson. 

You only have to give students a few minutes to do the processing. Then, discuss student responses to these questions and fill in a few acceptable responses on the board.You could also have the students come up to fill these in on the board. I'm usually looking for things like books about tornadoes, books about war, newspaper articles. Generally the students will draw an organizer that includes an arrow leading from one event to another. The idea isn't for the kiddos to memorize an organizer that we want them to use. I want my kids to think about the type of information and find a way THEY would organize it. We all see things differently, so as long as the organizer shows one event leading to another, I'm happy. 

Guided Practice

10 minutes

At this point, the students will try out their skills on a small paragraph that I purchased from teachers pay teachers. You can use any paragraph though. I just liked these because they are all on similar topics, but are written in different structures. That makes it easier for me to discuss the author's reasons for choosing certain structures later. 

Take out your colored pencils to be ready to hunt for cause and effect relationships that you may find today. We'll first read through a small passage once without making any marks just to get the overall feel of the paragraph. Then we'll return to the text to begin marking. Hmmmm... the first main idea sentence definitely sums up the big idea of the text. I'll color code the main idea in green just like we do in writing.  

Generally, I model my expectations for a sentence or two, fill in one part of the cause and effect graphic organizer and then I let the students try the rest in pairs. That is what I'll do for this lesson. If I move around the room and see the students struggling with this, then I'll call the group back together and work through it some more together.

Some common misconceptions I see are  1.) confusing the cause and the effect and 2.) thinking the cause and effect will be near each other in the text. For example, part of my paragraph reads, "First, many people do not spay or neuter their pets. Also, many people still buy their animals from breeders instead of adopting homeless animals." Students might say the cause is people don't spay their pets and the effect is people buy their animals from breeders. I'll spend time here asking students to plop those ideas in a graphic organizer and explain to me how one causes the other to happen. Many times the students realize the mistake right away. I notice my students grasp the relationship better when it's pulled out of the text and added to the graphic organizer.

In the paragraph I used, the relationships are not set up the same way the modeled paragraph was. I wanted to make sure our guided practice was a little more difficult. I choose text that is easy to read, but the relationships aren't as easy to put together. You can use any short paragraph though. If you feel like you'd like to do this first with a longer passage, feel free. My students need to see things scaffolded, so I start small to teach the general concept, and then let them apply all knowledge to longer text either independently or in small groups. 

Independent Practice and Small groups

25 minutes

For the remainder of this lesson, students will apply their knowledge to a longer piece of text. This text is important also, because it will be used in a later lesson to compare and contrast cause/effect and problem/solution. This is where my students have struggled in particular. When given two texts and asked which is cause/effect and which is problem/solution a good portion of my class had these mixed up and with good reason. I start this part of the lesson off by saying,

Cause/effect is closely related to problem/solution. In fact, they're cousins. Most cause and effect structures do include problems and possibly solutions. The key to making sure we have a cause and effect piece is to look for those clue words. Most times a cause and effect piece will have lots of those words and they usually lack any solutions to the cause/effect relationships.

I'l hand out the "The Effects of Poverty in Africa"article and have the students place this in their interactive notebook. My students will need to take out a yellow and red colored pencil. I also ask them to take out green just to show me where the main idea is. This is a skill my students work with throughout the year, and I try to infuse finding the main idea in everything that I do.

We will start off working together to review the directions and expectations for this task but then we will break into small groups to complete the assignment.  You will make your own graphic organizer to keep track of your thinking.

A pre-made organizer with lock them into a certain amount of relationships and this article is filled with them.  Here are some samples from my class. 

I was looking for students to understand that poverty in Africa has lots of effects such as disease, high mortality rates, little education, etc. I also wanted students to see that those effects become causes that spawn new effects.

While my students were reading, I met with a small group to get them started.I meet with these particular students often. They were struggling when they started 5th grade, so I give them as much extra guidance as I can. I modeled my thinking with them and then we ultimately came up with these pages. This group is also a group that I meet with for RTI. They are 6 students that struggle mostly with focus and how to systematically read text. 

Closure

10 minutes

Students will move around the room and "Give one get one" to review the cause and effect charts that other students have made. I explain this strategy in my Guided Discussion section of my Hero or Not lesson. You can give students about 2 minutes to do this and then call students back together. I want to be able to go over the notebook pages that I created with the small group or review the thoughts my other students had while working. For this lesson, I'll be showing the whole class what my small group worked on and then let them add to our page. This is also a time where you can call attention to difficult vocabulary. I say something like,  

Now I just know you used those question marks well in this read, so who has some words to share?

 If no one volunteers, I pick sticks and call on students to give me the definition of the most difficult words. Then I say something like, if you're not sure of the definition, please make sure you're marking your text. Usually a scurry of marking begins so students avoid me calling on them to give the next definition. 

If time permits, you can give students the Cause and Effect Check for Understanding. I may have to do this as a morning work activity or homework, as the lesson was pretty packed today. You could also put a check for understanding in workstations as well.