Cause and Effect in Informational Text

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SWBAT identify cause and effect relationships.

Big Idea

What would cause you to love a shark? Cause and effect relationships that affect you!

Textual Features

10 minutes

I want my students to understand the relationship between cause and effect, and I was so excited when I found this high interest article in Scholastic Scope.  I really love this magazine, and I think it's an awesome resource for ELA teachers in search of informational and argumentative text.  You do have to subscribe, but for someone like me, who has very few resources, it is well worth it!

This lesson can be enacted with any text that features cause and effect relationships.  If you are searching for a text, check out  This website features high interest informational text written at a variety of lexiles.  The best part about it is that it is FREE!

With the Common Core shift, students are expected to read informational text 50% of the time, so I am always looking for appropriate and interesting texts for my students.  The lexile of this piece is 1050, which is around the target lexile for my students.  I usually try to choose text between 900-1000 at this point in the year.  

Before we read, I want to have my students glance through the text, and recognize some of it's key features.  

For example, the title of the article is "Saving the Great White Monster, " and I want students to think about what type of information will probably be presented in the text.  

I will also call their attention to the headings and discuss their purpose, as well as the pictures, graphics and captions.  

It seems evident to me to pay attention to all of those features, but I have come to realize that my sixth graders need to be reminded to look at them!


Paired Reading

20 minutes

I plan on pairing my students to read this article, in part because, the lexile is on the high end of our range.  Some of my students will struggle with some of the vocabulary like "apex" and "ruthlessly".  

I will do a quick review of cause and effect on the board before we begin.  I will ask the students to help me define these two terms, and I'll keep it posted while they read.  I think it is important for students to read with a purpose in mind so that they stay focused.  Today they will be reading for cause and effect relationships.   Anytime, they read something that seems to be a cause or effect, they will highlight it.

We will take a closer look at this in the next section of the lesson, but for now, I just want students to acknowledge that there is cause and effect relationship in certain parts of the text.  

Wall Chart

15 minutes

To really get a visual for how this text is set up, I want students to make a wall chart displaying the various causes and effects in this article.  I have set up a spot on my wall with cause and effect labels.  

I have students move back into their table groups, and I'll assign each table group a section on the text.  Each group will be responsible for finding as many cause and effect relationships with in the text and posting them on the chart.  Since this text has 5 sections, and I will have 7 groups, I will assign several groups the same section.  I am fine with repeated information because the more students see and hear it, the more likely they are to remember.  

I'll ask one representative from each group to read their statements from the chart.  We will then discuss which we think are most crucial to the overall meaning of the text.  

I will ask the class, "Which causes and effects are the most important?  Why do you think this?"

Writing about Cause and Effect

15 minutes

Now that students have looked at many of the cause and effect relationships in the text, I will have them transfer their learning to writing.  

First, I will pose the question:  What factors have caused the population of many shark species to shrink drastically and how does this affect humans?

Next, I will help the students break this question into two parts and brainstorm ideas.  For example, the first part of the question asks for factors that are causing a decreased shark population.  With their groups, students will brainstorm the ideas that they read about referring to the wall chart when necessary.  Then, they will do the same with the ways this could effect humans.  

After discussing this question thoroughly, I'll have each student answer it independently through writing. I am looking to see that they capture some of the cause and effect relationships from the text.  

Here are some student examples:

Sample #1

Sample #2


This activity supports Common Core because it requires the students to reference specific parts of the text in order to answer the question.  It also aids in helping students find a central idea of a text and the details that support it.