How to Teach (and Learn) Cause and Effect

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Cause and Effect How to Teach- Blog Post 2019

There are two ways to think about cause and effect:

  1. Cause and Effect is a Thinking Skill
  2. Cause and Effect is a Text Structure

When reading and writing, it’s important to think about the skill and the text structure.

Here’s a quick cause and effect video to explain.

A Cause and Effect Video for Students

Cause and Effect, Thinking Skill

Think about cause and effect. When a leaf rolls across a field, what causes it?

Cause = The Wind

When the wind blows, what is an effect?

Effect = Leaf Rolls Across a Field

In a text, this can show up different ways:

  • The leaf tumbled across a field because of the strong wind.
  • The wind blew a leaf all the way across a field.

Cause and Effect, Text Structure

When you write a text or a paragraph, you can structure (or organize) the sentences in ways that show cause and effect.

Cause = Too Many Plastic Bottles

Effect = Polluted Oceans

Here’s a paragraph that uses the cause and effect text structure:

Some of the things that humans use are not friendly to our planet. Plastic is an item that never goes away. When we use too many plastic bottles it can impact our oceans. Shorelines collect plastic bottles that are washed up by waves. Animals may consume pieces of broken plastic. Too much plastic can pollute our oceans.

What are Cause and Effect?

A cause is what makes something happen. It creates the effect.

How to Teach Cause and Effect - Teaching Resources for Teachers and Students
The Cause Comes First, Then the Effect

Sometimes there can be more than one cause.

How to Teach Cause and Effect - More than one cause for a single effect.
More Than One Cause

Think about this example of water spilling in the kitchen.

  • Cause: A glass of water was sitting on the edge of the countertop.
  • Cause: A boy bumped the countertop.
  • Effect: The water spilled.

If the boy didn’t bump the counter, the water wouldn’t have spilled. Also, if the water wasn’t on the edge, it wouldn’t have spilled.

Some effects have more than one cause.

Also, some causes create more than one effect.

How to Teach Cause and Effect - Sometimes a single action can create multiple effects.
More Than One Effect

Read this example to see how a single cause can create more than one effect.

  • Cause: The boy bumped the countertop.
  • Effect: The water spilled.
  • Effect: A cabinet cracked.

When Teaching Cause and Effect

Here’s one way to understand cause and effect:

Be sure that students understand that a cause is an action or event the makes something else (the effect) happen. If necessary, review simple cause and effect relationships such as, “If I knock that glass over (cause), the water will spill (effect).” – Scholastic

Here’s a free cause and effect worksheet for practice.

Cause and Effect Task Cards

Using quality resources can help. We’ve created this cause and effect task card bundle (grades 3-5) to help you teach cause and effect.

How to Teach Cause and Effect for Elementary Students
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TeamTom Education is dedicated to creating engaging teaching resources and strategies that make learning awesome!

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