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How to Teach Cause and Effect in Your Classroom

Teaching students how to locate cause and effect in the text can help them learn how to analyze relationships between people, events, and ideas. To begin, introduce cause and effect to students using very simple stories. Familiar tales such as The Three Little Pigs can provide a great starting point. After reading the book, ask students, What caused the wolf to blow down the first little pig’s house? (They’ll be able to tell you that the little pig did not let him come in).

Once students read at level N or higher, you can begin to ask them to think of their own What caused questions. Prepare your lesson by writing What caused on some sticky notes, then placing one on a few pages in each student’s book. After they finish reading a page, ask students to write a What caused question on the sticky note.

The video below shows a lesson from the Literacy Footprints Third Grade guided reading system. Here you’ll see Jan Richardson working with a group of third graders in North Carolina using Trains, a level N book. This was the first time these students worked with cause and effect in their guided reading lesson. Notice how Jan models the cause-effect strategy on the first page. As students read, Jan supported them and had them create their own What caused questions on their sticky notes. As you can see, encouraging students to use this strategy as they read really helped. Each student had a better understanding of the text, which had many new or unfamiliar concepts.

For more about teaching cause and effect, see page 276 of Jan’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. To learn more about the Literacy Footprints Third Grade kit, visit literacyfootprints.com.