Fiction Comprehension: Cause and Effect
Students will be able to recognize cause and effect relationships and how they relate to the story when reading fiction.
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Draw students in by telling a brief story about a bad day -- make something up if necessary (e.g. I forgot to set my alarm and I woke up late, I spilled coffee on my favorite shirt and I had to change into something else, I ran over some nails on the road and I got a flat tire, it started to rain and I didn’t have my umbrella so I got all wet, I put too much salt on my lunch and it didn’t taste good).
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (10 minutes)
- Explain that in the story of your bad day, there were some things that led to other things happening. Then define cause and effect. For example, when I did something that made something else happen as a result, that is called the cause. The thing that happened because of the cause is called an effect.
- Write CAUSE and EFFECT at the top of the chart paper and make a T-chart.
- Provide an example from your story. An example might be that forgetting to set your alarm caused you to get up late (the effect).
- On the T-chart, write I forgot to set my alarm under CAUSE. Draw an arrow and write I woke up late under EFFECT (I forgot to set my alarm → I woke up late).
- Ask: Can anyone else think of an example of cause and effect from my story?
- As students recall key points about the story, help them categorize them as cause or effect. Support students in creating a paired set of events (cause → effect) by asking guiding questions, like “what caused that to happen?” or “what happened after I did that?”. Prompt students as needed.
- Write student responses on the T-chart.
- Display the T-chart for the duration of the lesson.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (15 minutes)
- Explain: Now, we’re going to read a short story together and, as we read, we are going to look for examples of cause and effect.
- Display the story Pop Quiz Blues, using a projector.
- Read the story aloud.
- When story is finished, have students signal if they noticed examples of cause and effect (e.g. “Show me a thumbs up if you noticed any examples of cause and effect in the story.”)
- Explain that you are going to read again and identify specific examples of cause and effect (e.g.”Now we are going to read the story again, but this time, we are going to highlight the causes in pink and the effects in yellow. As I read, raise your hand if you notice an example of cause or effect.”)
- Optional: Underline the examples of cause and circle effect if highlighters are not available.
- Read the story again and stop to highlight examples of cause and effect as students raise their hands. When the story is finished, and if needed, probe students to find any examples they missed (e.g. “are there any other examples of cause or effect that we missed?”)
- Record the examples of cause and effect from the story on your displayed T-chart.
- Have students check in with a partner to come up with their own definition of cause and effect. Circulate the room as they talk. Then have one or two students share their definitions (e.g. the reason something happens is the cause, the result is the effect).
Independent Working Time (15 minutes)
- Explain: Now you are going to read a story on your own. As you read, you should look for examples of cause and effect.
- Encourage students to read through the story once before going back and identifying the examples of cause and effect. Remind them: Sometimes the cause and its effect are not right next to each other in a story, so in some instances you’ll need to read the whole story and go back to find the examples.
- Hand out the cause and effect worksheet.
- Circulate the room as students work and offer support as needed.
- Review the worksheet when students are finished.
- For students who need more scaffolding, read the story verbally to them during independent practice or have them work with a partner or small group to complete their T-chart.
- Provide a T-chart with some causes and some effects pre-filled so that students need to find one or the other.
- For an extra challenge, have students write their own story about a bad day, underlining causes and circling effects.
Assessment (5 minutes)
- Hand out two sticky notes to each student. Have them write their name on the back of the sticky notes.
- Instruct them to write their own example of cause and effect from their life so that cause is on one sticky note and effect is on the other. (e.g. I forgot my jacket in the classroom → I was cold during recess). Optional: color code the sticky notes to match the highlighting from earlier in the lesson (e.g. pink for cause and yellow for effect).
- Invite students to come place their sticky notes on a new T-chart labeled CAUSE and EFFECT.
- Scan the student responses on the T-chart to check for understanding and make a note of which students will need additional support.
Review and Closing (10 minutes)
- Teach students the cause and effect song, then sing it together as a class (see Resources for YouTube video link and lyrics).
- Provide a cause and take student ideas of possible effects. For example: I missed a day of school, or I told a classmate they couldn’t play with me and my friends.