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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.

What is Cause and Effect?

Causation, or cause and effect, 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.

Cause and Effect Lesson Plan

Grade Level: K-5


Although this short cause and effect lesson plan 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.

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).


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.

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:

  • Stanley is hit by a pair of shoes
  • Stanley is arrested
  • Stanley finds Kissing Kate’s lipstick container
  • Stanley and Zero climb the mountain
  • Stanley and Zero eat the onions

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)

  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Thunder and lightning
  • Power goes out

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?

Choices and Consequences Example and Template

Make Cause and Effect Worksheets

If you're looking for another step or an alternative assignment, you can create cause and effect worksheets to use in your class! These worksheets can be customized and printed out for students to fill out with a pencil, or they can be completed in the Storyboard Creator like a digital worksheet. You can even create multiple versions for those students who might need a little extra help, and keep them on hand for future use! Find plenty of templates to work from or just start with a blank canvas.

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.

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