Cause and Effect in a Student’s Life

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SWBAT write a short cause and effect personal narrative about a good day.

Big Idea

In this lesson your students will demonstrate they are well on their way to mastering the skill identifying the relationship between the character, and cause and effect.


Common Core Connection:

One very powerful indicator of a student’s mastery of a skill is through writing.  As noted in the range and content of student writing, students need to learn to use writing a way of demonstrating understanding of the subjects they are studying and convey real and imagined experience and events.  In this lesson students demonstrate their understanding of cause and effect and how it influences the character through W.1.3: write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Lesson Overview:

To wrap up this week’s introductory unit on cause and effect I reviewed what my students learned about cause and effect.  They also demonstrated through a writing assignment that they understood the relationship between cause and effect and how it relates to the character.


  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 1: All Together Now, Big Pig, by David McPhail
  • My Cause and Effect Story Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

I began the lesson by reminding my students that characters and events are related through cause and effect.  I then I had them whisper in their hands (Demonstration: Whisper to Me) what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story Big Pig.  Once they were finished I held up a student copy of Big Pig and them look at page 111 and 112 and think about how the two pictures were related.  I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to selected three students to share their thoughts with the class.  This took a little prodding on my part, however by asking:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the event?
  • What is the cause?
  • And, what was the effect? 

These three students were able to answer:

  • The characters are Tim and Nan.
  • The event is they went to the farm, it was also the cause. 
  • The effect was they found a hat, which they would not have done had they not gone to the farm. 

I agreed and pointed out that was the relationship, had they not gone to the farm they would not have found the hat or met Big Pig.

At this point I told my students today I would read a story and while I read they were to listen to the cause and effect events and how the character felt.  Then when after I read they would write their own story.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

Before I began reading I gave my students a stretch break because the story I was about to read was very long in the world of First grade.  Once they were settled back on their rugs squares I introduced Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by telling my students to listen for all the cause and effect events that happen to Alexander.  I then read the story through showing my students the pictures as I read, however every time I came the words,“terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”, I pointed to my students and they read those words with me.  This really increased their engagement and joy in listening to the story.

When I finished reading I gave my students a moment to think about some of the cause and effect events that happened to Alexander.  Then I used the magic cup to select three students to share with the class one event from the story.  When these three children finished sharing one favorite event that happened to Alexander, I knew the rest of the class also wanted to share with me, so I had them whisper to me their favorite cause and effect event that happened to Alexander.

When my students were finished sharing I had them stand up take a stretch and walk to their desks (Demonstration: Adding Movement) like they were having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Group Activity

15 minutes

Once my little ones were settled at their desks I displayed the My Cause and Effect Story Activity sheet on the Promethean board and pointed out it looked similar to the activity sheet we used earlier in the week.  However, this one was for them to use to create a story about a good day they had.  Knowing that this assignment would cause appreciation for many of my students- because of their lack of writing skills and/or life experience- I suggested that they write about a time they got a sticker or  school wide ‘Panther Card’.  This calmed my students because they all have received a sticker or golden ticket either from me or one of the other staff members. 

I then gave my students a moment to think about a time they go a sticker or Panther Card, as I verbally modeled, ‘I got a sticker from Ms. Collins because I ___’.

I then passed out their My Cause and Effect Story Activity Sheet and as they started working, I circled around and met briefly with each student to make sure they were on task and had gotten started.  Included is an example of a Proficient Student Work Sample.  This student is pretty clear about the cause and effect events that led to her getting a sticker.

At the end of 15 minutes I stopped the class so that we could go into the independent part of the lesson, where they would have time to finish their work.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

At this time my students re-grouped into their leveled reading groups where they rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through ELA activities.  Today during their journal time they used their cause and effect story activity sheet to write a short narrative in their journal.

I did not put a prompt on the Promethean board; however, I encouraged my students to begin with a hook.

I checked each student journal as my students rotated through my differentiated reading group.  This student example Basic Student Journal Sample demonstrates how the student began with a hook and ended with a closing.  Not to mention she has her cause and effect events in order.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students told me why cause and effect are important to the character/s in a story.