5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (2023)

5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (1)

What is Cause and Effect?

5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (2)

Understanding how cause and effect inform the organisation of a text enhances a student’s ability to fully comprehend what they have read. But, what exactly do we mean when we speak of cause and effect in relation to reading?

Cause is the driving force in the text. It is the reason that things happen. In essence, cause is the thing that makes other things happen. Effect refers to what results. It is what happened next in the text that results from a preceding cause.

To put it concisely, cause is the why something happened, and effect is the what happened. Cause and effect are important elements of a text that help the reader to follow a writer’s line of thought, regardless of whether that text is fiction or nonfiction.

The concept of cause-and-effect relationships is so prevalent in our everyday lives that students are usually quick to pick up on them. They may already display a good implicit understanding of the concepts in their reading and writing. However, the purpose of this article is to make that understanding explicit; to offer a range of strategies that will help students clearly identify the causes and effects that are woven throughout the fabric of the texts they will read.

A Word on Affect and Effect…

When teaching cause and effect, be sure to take the chance to reinforce the difference between the noun ‘effect’ and the verb ‘affect’. No matter how many times students are exposed to this distinction, a few will always manage to avoid learning it. Don’t allow your students to be affected by ignorance of the difference any longer!

5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (3)


Cause and effect in a piece of writing help the reader follow a coherent thread through the material. It also helps the writer engage in the writing process to organize and structure the information into a logical form, such as a cause-and-effect essay.

In fiction, cause and effect help maintain plausibility in plotlines. While things may appear to happen ‘out of a clear blue sky’ in real life, in fiction, there is almost always a reason (the cause) for the things that happen (the effect).

Whether fiction or nonfiction, cause and effect are arranged in such a manner as to show the connections between a result and the events that preceded it. It can be thought of as the ‘problem – solution’ order. It is not merely the staple of the English classroom either but has applications in areas as diverse as science, social studies, history, movies, and computer games etc.


5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (4)

ThisCAUSE AND EFFECT UNITincorporates several essentialELA SKILLSinto anENGAGING, NO PREPsequence of reading lessons. Covering…

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Signal Words and Phrases

Signal words, or transitions, are signposts that help guide the reader through the terrain of the writer’s thoughts. They help connect the ideas in a text or the events in a story. Often they do this by answering implicit questions. In the case of cause and effect, these are the What? of the effect and the Why? of the cause. Different signal words can be used to indicate each. For example:

Cause (The Why)

  • Because
  • Because of
  • Since
  • As a result of
  • As a consequence of
  • Now that

Effect (The What)

  • So
  • Therefore
  • This resulted in
  • Consequently
  • Hence
  • Accordingly
5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (5)


5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (6)

Graphic organizers can be a helpful tool to help students record the cause and effect of a reading passage. Displaying this information visually aides students in identifying and analysing the underlying causes and effects of a series of events or processes.

Two graphic organiser forms can be particularly useful in this role: The Cause and Effect Column Organizer and The Cause and Effect Chain. READ OUR GUIDE TO LITERACY GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS HERE

The Cause and Effect Column Organizer

This simple graphic organizer consists of two columns labelled cause and effect, respectively. Students can record the cause in the left-hand column and the corresponding effect opposite in the right-hand column. This allows students to see the cause and related effects quickly and can serve as a useful study tool to review material.


The Cause and Effect Chain is a simple graphic organizer consisting of a series of sequential boxes joined by arrows. Students record events in the boxes to display the relationships between them. As one event occurs we can trace the subsequent event it causes easily. In this way, students can also visually comprehend how effects themselves become causes.

Graphic Organizers for Complex Events

(Video) Top Activities for Teaching Cause and Effect

Graphic organizers can also be useful to display complex relationships between events where an event has more than one cause or effect. Students simply add more arrows and boxes to display the relationships between different events. As students become more experienced and sophisticated in their approach, they will be able to tailor individual graphic organizers to meet the needs of the specific reading material they are engaged with.


5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (8)

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what is a cause and effect? And how to teach it.

5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (9)

Teaching cause and effect begins with defining both terms clearly for the students. Once that is done, students should then be offered ample opportunity to practice this strategy in discrete lessons. These practice sessions should utilize a wide range of reading material in a variety of genres and of various complexities.

The following is a useful template to follow when planning cause and effect focussed lessons in a whole class context.

  1. First, provide students with an overview of the story detailing the main events. Then, introduce the appropriate graphic organizer for the reading material chosen.
  2. While reading a text with the class, have students identify the key events or actions in the story.
  3. Next, students work to determine whether each event or action is a cause or an effect.
  4. Finally, students record each event or action on the graphic organizer.

Depending on the student’s ability and the text’s sophistication, you may find it appropriate to make links with inference strategies here too.

As a post-reading activity, you may also wish the students to form smaller groups to compare their findings and discuss the reasons for their decisions.

If X, Then Y: Some More Activities for Teaching Cause and Effect

As with all the various reading comprehension strategies, becoming skilled in this area takes time and practice – lots of practice! The following activities will help students practice their cause-and-effect chops. While it is important to provide opportunities for students to learn about cause and effect in discrete lessons, further opportunities to reinforce their understanding will arise in all sorts of lessons. Be sure to take advantage of those opportunities too.

(Video) Cause and Effect | Reading Strategies | EasyTeaching

Cause & Effect Cards Activity

Write a series of causes and their related effects on playing-card-sized paper. You can select the causes and effects you use for this activity from a recent story you have worked on together or a process students have been studying in class, reinforcing that learning and the cause and effect reading comprehension strategy itself.

Shuffle the deck of cause and effect cards and then, in groups, have the students play the popular card game ‘Snap’ where a student wins a hand by recognising a matching pair of cause and effect cards and claims them by shouting “Snap!” This simple activity will help students recognize the relationships between events quickly and can be easily differentiated for the varying abilities in the class too. To save on prep time, why not ask students to fill out the cause and effect cards from the information they recorded on their graphic organizers from a previous activity?

Signalling Cause and Effect Activity

This activity works very well for identifying the cause and effect within a single sentence or a few connected sentences. Students find the cause and the effect within a sentence in a reading passage or from a list of example sentences provided by the teacher. Students then record each sentence’s cause and effect onto a worksheet (or underline them in the text). They can also identify signal words and phrases that connect the two and record those on their worksheet.

This activity is effective in helping students recognize the patterns of cause and effect as they are displayed in various sentence structures. It offers students opportunities to familiarize themselves with the various possible transitions in cause-and-effect sentences. This activity can be easily adapted for use with paragraphs and longer extracts too.

In Effect…

5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (10)

There is no doubt that students must develop their skills in applying this essential reading comprehension strategy to a wide variety of reading material if they are to become effective readers. To do this, they must clearly understand how the concepts of cause and effect are defined in a range of contexts. This can only be achieved through practice. Students should gain experience in identifying the events in a story and then learn to categorize them as either cause or effect. This will not always be a straightforward classification and may require students to draw on other reading strategies to perform this successfully, particularly the skill of inference.

Students should also be encouraged to further understand how cause and effect not only enhance our understanding of a text but allows for information to be organized strategically in a coherent manner that will help with later recall. This understanding can be leveraged as a useful study skill that will reap considerable benefits for the student in all other areas of their studies and beyond. Now, that’s an attractive side-effect for sure!

cause and effect anchor charts and cause and effect diagrams like this are great classroom resources to tap into before writing a how to write a cause and effect essay and understanding a cause-and-effect relationship.


5 Fun Ways to Teach Cause and Effect in Reading and Writing (11)


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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing, can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.


How do you teach cause and effect 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.

How do you teach cause and effect text structure? ›

For cause and effect text, teachers should teach and model for students how to find out what happened and why. The teacher would first teach students the guiding questions of what, “What hap- pened?” and then follow up with why, “Why did it happen?” Asking what happened will support students to identify the effect.

What is an example of cause and effect reading? ›

Cause and effect is a common way to organize information in a text.
  • It had begun to rain, so Sadio and Yusuf had to run inside. ...
  • Since it was so chilly and damp outside, Ahmed built a big fire in his fireplace. ...
  • Ernestina was getting very angry and frustrated because none of her good ideas were being recognized at work.
Feb 6, 2015

What are the 5 examples of cause and effect? ›

Examples of Cause and Effect
  • Cause: We received seven inches of rain in four hours. ...
  • Cause: I never brush my teeth. ...
  • Cause: I've smoked cigarettes daily for 20 years. ...
  • Cause: Many buffalo were killed. ...
  • Cause: The streets were snow-packed and icy. ...
  • Cause: He broke his arm. ...
  • Cause: The boss was busy.

What are fun ways to teach? ›

How to Have More Fun Teaching
  • Discover new things together. ...
  • Incorporate mystery into your lessons. ...
  • Be goofy; show you care. ...
  • Participate in projects. ...
  • Avoid “going through the motions.” ...
  • Flip your lessons. ...
  • Review–but don't repeat–material. ...
  • Share your passions.
Oct 10, 2015

What is an example of cause and effect lesson? ›

For example: Maddie didn't want to go to school because she was being bullied. The cause is she was being bullied. The effect is Maddie didn't want to go to school. In Nonfiction: They are used to explain many social studies and science concepts.

How do you explain cause and effect in writing? ›

Follow these six steps to write a cause-and-effect paper.
  1. Brainstorm Essay Topics. ...
  2. Establish a Thesis. ...
  3. Arrange Your Main Points Into Body Paragraphs. ...
  4. Write a First Draft. ...
  5. Review Your Work for Clarity and Logic. ...
  6. Write a Final Draft.
Jun 7, 2021

What is an example of cause and effect writing? ›

Cause and effect sentences can present the cause first and follow it with the effect, or present the effect first and follow it with the cause. I ate tons of junk food, so now I feel sick. I feel sick because I ate tons of junk food.

How would you help a child learn about cause and effect? ›

Ask toddlers to help push elevator buttons, or pull bus cords, and talk about what happens when they do. With older children, ask children to predict causes and effects. For example, “what will happen if we push the tower?” Then talk about what actually happened, “what caused the tower to fall over?”

What would be a good topic for cause and effect text? ›

What are some of the effects of bullying? How does economic status affect quality of health care? What are some of the causes of homelessness? Explain the effects of ignorance on discrimination.

What are the 3 basic types of cause and effects diagram? ›

There are three types of cause-and-effect diagrams:
  • Cause enumeration diagram — A graphic diagram used to list all the possible causes of a problem.
  • Dispersion analysis diagram — A diagram used to analyze the causes of variability in a process.
  • Process analysis diagram — A flow diagram used to study quality problems.
Dec 18, 2021

What is cause and effect in reading and writing skills? ›

There are two organizational patterns that can be used in cause and effect writing: cause and effect, which means the passage is organized to show specific causes or effects or both, and emphatic, which means the passage is organized in order of emphasis or importance.

How do you explain cause and effect to students? ›

The clearest way I explain cause and effect to students is as follows: Cause is what makes something happen, and effect is what happens.

What is cause and effect for 5th graders? ›

Cause and effect refers to the relationship between two events or occurrences. To put it simply, it is when one thing causes something else to happen. A cause is WHY something happens. An effect is WHAT happened as a result of something else.

What is cause and effect for 3rd graders? ›

Students can write a cause-and-effect story (fiction or nonfiction) using the following signal words: because, if, then, since, so, causes. After students write their stories, have them exchange with a partner. The partner should identify the signal words and the causes and effects in the story.

How do you make a reading lesson fun? ›

10 Easy Ways to Make Teaching Reading So It's Fun and Engaging For Students
  1. Here is a list of 10 ways you can make your reading block more fun!
  2. Set Monthly Reading Challenges.
  3. Teach Students to Give Book Talks.
  4. Play Games.
  5. Incorporate More Choice.
  6. Let Students Take Some Inspired Action.
  7. Explore More Reading Genres.

What are the 5 learning activities? ›

  • Content Focus (and Interaction) Whether the learning outcomes for a session or module include declarative or functioning knowledge, almost all of them will be supported in some way by the presentation of information to students. ...
  • Interactivity (with Others) Focus. ...
  • Critical Thinking. ...
  • Production. ...
  • Problem Solving. ...
  • Reflection.

What is a fun way to teach reading comprehension? ›

Playing the imitation game is a great and fun way to teach reading that doesn't require any additional materials. If you want to give this activity a go, when you're reading with your child, change up your voice and then ask them to imitate you while reading the same sentence you just read.

What is an example of cause and effect for children? ›

At around 18 months of age, children combine simple actions to cause things to happen or change the way they interact with objects and people in order to see how it changes the outcome. For example, the child may: Try to wind the handle of a pop-up toy after not being able to open the top.

What is cause-and-effect explained for kids? ›

In a cause and effect relationship, one event causes another to happen. The cause is why it happened, and the effect is what happened. You can look for signal words to identify cause and effect in text.

What are the two types of cause and effect? ›

Cause and Effect
  • Single cause-multiple effect: namely, that one action has several ramifications.
  • Multiple cause-single effect: conversely, that there are several reasons (usually with varying degrees of causation) for one result.

How do you explain cause and effect to a child? ›

A simple way to explain cause and effect is that one event triggers another event to happen. The cause is why it happened, and the effect is what happened. What is this? You can explain this using real life situations and examples, in science experiments, or reading texts and stories.

How do I explain cause and effect? ›

What Does Cause and Effect Mean? Cause and effect means that things happen because something prompted them to happen. A cause is why something happens. An effect is what happened.

How do you teach preschoolers cause and effect? ›

Begin by reading a story together or doing a science experiment with a clear cause-effect outcome (like the Dancing Raisin Experiment). Then discuss the concept of cause and effect with your child. Ask them if they have ever heard the phrase before and, if so, see if they can explain what it means.

What are the 3 types of cause and effect? ›

Two teaching strategies are often effective in teaching students to recognize and understand the cause/effect text structure: teaching signal words (because, so, and since) and teaching the three types of cause/effect relationships (stated, unstated, and sequential).

What is a good example of cause and effect? ›

For example, a man offends his neighbor by insulting him (the cause). His neighbor becomes angry (the effect and the next cause) and he in turn tells his friends (the next effect and cause). His friends also become angry (another effect and cause) and tell their friends (another effect and cause).

What is an example of cause and effect in the classroom? ›

For example: Maddie didn't want to go to school because she was being bullied. The cause is she was being bullied. The effect is Maddie didn't want to go to school. In Nonfiction: They are used to explain many social studies and science concepts.

What is cause and effect activities for toddlers? ›

Developing cause and effect is an important stage in a child's play, learning and social communication development. This kind of play helps the child to learn that their actions can cause something to happen. When a child pushes a ball down a hole the ball falls, when the child pulls an adult they come.

What is the most effective way to help a child learn new behavior? ›

New skills can encourage good behaviour in children. You can help children learn new skills with modelling, instructions and step-by-step guidance. Practice, repetition, praise and encouragement are key to learning new skills.

What is an easy cause and effect example? ›

If you disobeyed your mother, you didn't get dessert. If you failed to study for a test, you got a bad grade. These cause-and-effect relationships are simple and straightforward.

What are the four commonly used categories of cause and effect? ›

Decide on the categories of causes for the effect. Useful categories of causes in a classic fishbone diagram include Materials, Methods, Equipment, Environment, and People. Another way to think of categories is in terms of causes at each major step in the process.


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