EL Support Lesson

Words That Show Cause and Effect

This lesson helps students recognize cause-and-effect relationships in fiction and nonfiction writing by identifying clue words. It can be used on its own or as a precursor to Cause and Effect with Comic Strips.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Cause and Effect with Comic Strips lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Cause and Effect with Comic Strips lesson plan.

Students will be able to identify the difference between cause and effect and create examples of cause-and-effect relationships in the form of comic strips.


Students will be able to identify cause-and-effect relationships with clue words using sentence frames.

(6 minutes)
  • Tell students about a day when many things went wrong. (For example, say "I didn't hear my alarm so I got to work late. Because I was rushing, I spilled coffee on my shirt. Then, I had to take time out of my day to clean my shirt and as a result, I didn't get to finish my work today.")
  • Explain that the events or occurrences on this day are connected. One event caused another event to happen. Tell students that today they will learn about cause-and-effect relationships in sentences and how to look for clue words to help them find these connections.
  • Ask students to think of a time when they've had a bad day similar to yours and ask them to recall the events that made it a bad day. Invite a few students to share their experiences. Point out any cause-and-effect relationships between the events of the day. Document their experiences on a piece of chart paper and leave up for the duration of the lesson.
(7 minutes)
  • Distribute a copy of the Glossary to each student and display the Vocabulary Cards on the document camera.
  • Read aloud the definition of the three vocabulary terms and describe the images provided. Ask students to share synonyms in their home language (L1) for the vocabulary words.
  • Create a T-chart and label the columns as cause and effect.
  • Show students one set of the printed images such as a picture of rain and a picture of a girl holding an umbrella.
  • Observe the images and model your thinking aloud. Show students how you categorize the images based on cause and effect. For example, you could say, "Because it started to rain, the girl opened her umbrella." Place the raining picture under "cause" and the picture of the girl with the umbrella under the word "effect."
  • Assign students into pairs and have each pair come up to the chart paper to categorize the remaining images. Ask students to describe their cause/effect pair of images in a sentence as you modeled.
  • Ask the other students to notice if they agree or disagree with their friends' categorization.
(15 minutes)
  • Hand out a copy of the Clue Words for Cause and Effect worksheet to students and project a teacher copy.
  • Read aloud the teaching box, emphasizing the importance of both events being connected. Explain that the effect could not have happened if the cause had not occurred first.
  • Point out that they will find cause-and-effect connections in all texts they read, both fiction and nonfiction. Tell students that it is important to be able to identify cause-and-effect events as they read because they are usually important parts of a story or informational text.
  • Inform students that there are clue words that help signal a cause-and-effect relationship. Read the clue words aloud and invite two students to read the sample sentences to their classmates. Reiterate the importance of the circled clue words that help us see the cause-and-effect connection. Mention a few non-examples such as, "I ate an apple. My sister drew a picture," and "The sky was clear. My mom told me to do my homework," and explain that each of these pairs of events are unrelated. One did not cause the other; one is not dependent upon the other.
  • Read the directions for the matching activity and model how to do the first sentence. Then have students independently match the remaining events in this section and circle the clue words. Review the answers once the class has completed this part.
  • Give students a few minutes to draw a sketch of one of the sample sentences showing cause and effect. Invite a few students to share their sketches with the whole class.
  • Assign students into partnerships and have them work together to complete the last section (Your turn!) of the worksheet. Specify that they must each write their own sentence and their partner must check if they approve of their sentence. Remind them they may use the examples they came up with on the chart paper from the Introduction section of the lesson.


  • Pair beginning ELs with intermediate or more advanced ELs for any partner activity.
  • Provide bilingual resources such as bilingual glossaries or dictionaries for students to use during the lesson.
  • Define any unknown words in the sentence level focus worksheet in both students' home language (L1) and L2.


  • Have students restate or rephrase directions or key learning points to their peers.
  • Encourage advanced ELs to write their own cause-and-effect sentences without the use of the sentence frames.
(4 minutes)
  • Write the following sentence on the board: "The cat was very hungry, so it gobbled up the food in a few seconds."
  • Hand out an index card to each student. Have them write their name and the sentence on it.
  • Instruct students to underline the cause and circle the effect. Also have them draw an arrow pointing to the clue word ("so").
(3 minutes)
  • Act out another example of cause and effect by doing something dramatic, such as pretending to trip because your shoelaces are undone. Invite students to describe the cause-and-effect relationship in the scenario you acted out. Reemphasize that it is important for students to understand cause-and-effect relationships because they are all around us, in real life and in stories or texts.
  • Ask students to act out a few other cause-and-effect occurrences that are clear and obvious. (Note: students may come up with the actions on their own or you could suggest some scenarios to them.) Invite the students to describe what they see.

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