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Teaching Cause and Effect in Literature

By Rebecca Ray

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A major part of any story are the cause and effect relationships that occur, especially during the conflict and rising action. Whether examining the effects on the protagonist, or on the plot itself, a significant element in understanding literature is the relationship between actions or events and their outcomes, including choices and consequences.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
Holes Cause & Effect

Example

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Our Recommended Cause and Effect Lesson Plan

What is Cause and Effect?

Causation or cause and effect definition is simply an action with a reaction. When an event occurs, its effect impacts the course of the story, often changing the character or later events of a story dramatically. Cause and effect are also very important to plot, moving the action forward.

Grade Level: K-5

Standards

Although this lesson covers multiple age ranges, below are examples of the Common Core State Standards for Grade 5. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.

Objectives

Students will be able to identify examples and explain the relationship between cause and effect in plot.

Cause and Effect Examples

Depicting Cause and Effect in Plot Example 1

A very important part of any story are the cause and effect relationships that come out of events in the plot. To get students predicting and problem-solving, they should demonstrate their understanding of chain reactions from a novel or short story. Creating a storyboard that depict the cause and effect of an action will greatly enhance their understanding of cause and effect relationships.

There are several ways that this can be taught in the classroom. We’ve given you the best options for use with Storyboard That.

One activity uses a teacher created storyboard template, where a cause is listed, and students must depict the event, or some examples of effect.

For Example:





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Depicting Cause and Effect in Plot Example 2

Another way to teach cause and effect is to use prediction methods, by asking specific questions during reading when events occur that are either subtle or obtuse. For example, if reading a story that says, “The weather quickly got worse”, the teacher could ask the class to come up with effects of bad weather. With this method, students are predicting the possible outcome or effect of different events.


Cause: Stormy Weather


Effect: (Student Generated Effects)


Choices and Consequences

One of the rewards of reading is encountering many imagined situations and observing how characters react in those circumstances. This can provide not only entertainment, but also insights into human nature and great lessons for our own character. In this lesson plan, students can recount and explain the connection between literary characters' choices and the resulting consequences with a T-Chart activity.

In literature, characters’ choices and their consequences play a crucial role in both plot and character development. Sometimes there is a significant turning point that a character faces - or an impossible dilemma - which completely changes the course of the work. Understanding these important plot elements has many benefits for students, most importantly, recognizing both intended and unintended outcomes. Depicting these items in a T-Chart, will help students visualize the order of events, as well as the cause and effect relationships of each action, decision, or choice made in the piece of literature.


Questions about Decisions in Literature

  1. What is a turning point?
  2. How do characters, events, and action drive a plot?
  3. Why is it important to know and follow a main character's choices and the consequences of those choices?
  4. Are consequences avoidable?
  5. Do you believe you always have control over the outcome of choices?

Template for Choices and Consequences T-Chart and Example





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Add a Presentation

Have students attach their storyboard to a paper that requires them giving an in-depth explanation of the deeper meaning of their chosen element throughout the story. To couple this assignment with a presentation, see our article on how to present a storyboard.


More Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer Activities


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•   (English) Teaching Cause and Effect within Plot   •   (Español) Causa y efecto de la enseñanza dentro de la trama   •   (Français) Enseigner la cause et l'effet dans le complot   •   (Deutsch) Lehre Ursache und Wirkung in der Handlung   •   (Italiana) L'insegnamento Causa ed effetto all'interno Plot   •   (Nederlands) Lesgeven Cause and Effect binnen Plot   •   (Português) Causa e efeito do ensino dentro do enredo   •   (עברית) הוראת סיבה ותוצאה בתוך מגרש   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) تعليم السبب والنتيجة ضمن مؤامرة   •   (हिन्दी) साजिश के भीतर कारण और प्रभाव शिक्षण   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Обучение Причина и следствие в пределах участка   •   (Dansk) Undervisning årsag og virkning inden Plot   •   (Svenska) Undervisning orsak och verkan inom Plot   •   (Suomi) Opetus syyn ja seurauksen sisällä Plot   •   (Norsk) Undervisning årsak og virkning innen Plot