Learning how to identify cause and effect relationships isn't only a reading skill for students, it's important in their lives every day! Without the ability to distinguish why things happen, students are at risk not only socially, but academically as well. They need to know that actions have consequences that can be either beneficial or very negative. Teaching students how to identify cause and effect in literature is the perfect way to link this understanding to their everyday lives. Without this ability, many students are oblivious as to why consequences come back to bite them.
In reading, understanding cause and effect relationships helps students not only remember what they have read, but helps them make connections between characters and events. That's all about comprehension!
What to do:
1. Make a habit of asking why things happen, not only as students read, but in the classroom as well. Why wasn't there enough time to play the game? Why was there enough time to play the game? The day is full of opportunities.
2. Ask students to justify their answers to "why" questions. Find evidence in the text, list reasons things happened at school the way they did.
3. Play the "Why Did It Happen?" game. Download the freebie at the bottom of this page. Pull out one or two of the cards during the day, and list on the board events that could have caused it to happen. Most are very open ended. They are a perfect filler for that extra five minutes you get every now and then. You can make your own "Why Did It Happen?" game with any book your students are reading (or you are reading to them). List things that happened in the story and ask students to remember what caused the event to happen. These cards can also be used as a story starter in writing.
4. Make sure students understand the vocabulary involved with cause and effect. Words like "influence", "as a result", and "consequence" are words that need to show up in every student's vocabulary. Signal words like "first", "second", "next" and "finally" also need special attention, as well as the words "because", "since", "therefore", "consequently" and "therefore". Students need to know that these words signal a cause/effect connection.
5. Show students how to use graphic organizers and flowcharts to help guide students into understanding the cause and effect of a particular event. To help students understand that a cause can have multiple effects, use 4th cause/effect page below.
Thanks to Graphics From the Pond http://frompond.blogspot.com for the frame used on two of the worksheets, and Ron Leishman http://www.toonclipart.com for the graphics!
The first two pages in this free download are "Why Did It Happen?" cards. Choose one or two a day and brainstorm with students the causes of each event. Discuss with students which cause is the most likely. These cards can also be used as story starters. Write a story that shows the causes of the event. The second two pages are cause/effect sheets that can be used when students are reading to find specific cause and effect relationships. Note that the last page allows students to list multiple outcomes from one cause. They are perfect for guided reading. Click on the link below the pictures to download your freebie from Google.doc
Do you have a special way to teach cause and effect? If so please share it in the comments section below!