Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

6 Strategies for Teaching Cause and Effect [Grades 1–3]

By Paula Dugger, M. Ed., Guest Blogger 

How many times have you found yourself saying to your kids or remembering your parents saying, “Eat all your food so you won’t be hungry,” or “If you finish your homework, you can play”? For me, too many times. On the positive side, we are actually helping kids understand a relationship between two things. Believe it or not, we are demonstrating cause and effect—that an event is the result of another event.

Cause and effect is the link between two things where one is the result of the other. The relationship demonstrates an action and a reaction. The cause is why something happened, and the effect is what happened. In this blog, we are going to explore ways to teach children about cause-effect relationships using literacy strategies.

1. Create an Anchor Chart

Creating an anchor chart while introducing cause and effect will help reinforce the concept. It also offers a way to refer back to the information when reviewing or working independently throughout the year. Here is an example of a chart that can be used with elementary-aged readers.



2. Teach Word Clues to Young Striving Readers

There are certain words that can act as clues for readers when trying to locate cause-and-effect relationships in reading. A simple way to help young readers is to use the word because or so with statements to introduce the concept. Both words signify a cause-effect relationship and the phrases found on either side of the word are the cause and the effect.

3. Teach Word Clues to Upper Elementary Students

Certain words that can act as clues for experienced readers when locating cause and effect in reading, or creating cause-and-effect statements in writing. The coordinating conjunctions for and so, subordinating conjunctions because and since, along with prepositions so, if, and then, are signals of cause-effect relationships. The anchor chart below is especially beneficial for readers beginning in grades 3 and up.




4. Engage Students with a Cause and Effect Game

Allowing students to actively participate in learning greatly enhances the retention of information. By using real-life, everyday examples, students will be better able to make connections and comprehend concepts. The game below describes how students can demonstrate their knowledge of cause-effect relationships by participating in an activity.

Using sentence strips, the teacher creates different causes and effects that match. Every student is given a strip, and their goal is to find another student who is holding the match to either their cause or their effect. The game can be played over and over again by mixing up the strips. Here are a few examples.

There are several ways to extend or enhance this activity by allowing students to create their own cause-effect sentences:        

  1. Provide students with a cause and have them come up with different effects. Such as “If you break the rules then . . .” or “The houses were destroyed because . . .” accepting different answers when applicable.
  2. Use new or familiar leveled books to locate cause and effect relationships to create additional matching pairs.

    5. Create Graphic Organizers                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Generate a few causes of real-world events, and allow small groups of students to generate different effects using graphic organizers. For instance, as I write this blog (Sept. 2019), our state and others are in the midst of hurricane season. The newspapers and news outlets are filled with information and pictures detailing the catastrophic effects of hurricanes. Pictures and student drawings will bring meaning to these graphic organizers illustrating cause and effect.



    6. Use Guided Reading Leveled Books That Teach Science Concepts

    Science seeks to understand and explain the natural world. There are reasons why things such as erosion or the eruption of a volcano happen. Teaching cause and effect can help explain many scientific questions. It is also the foundation of the scientific method, which enables us to tell if a cause produces an observed effect.                                                                                                                                                                                 Hameray's fascinating science series, STEM Explorations (for grades 1–2), is designed to take young readers through the worlds of natural science and human inventions. These nonfiction books provide a wonderful way to help explain and understand the relationship between cause and effect in the natural world. For example, the charts below highlight two books, Light Energy and How Light Travels, from this series with samples of cause and effect that can be taught to young readers.

    I hope you will have time to explore additional books from the STEM Explorations series as a way to provide more opportunities for modeling cause-effect relationships. Don’t forget to come back soon for more ideas and tips to use in classrooms!

    Paula is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first-grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Paula on our blog.