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Cause and Effect


Students need to appreciate the relationship of cause and effect in order to really understand and remember complex phenomena: novels, persuasive arguments, historical events, and series of related occurrences in nature, for example. Without understanding cause and effect, students are apt to learn and recall such complex phenomena as unrelated sequences of arbitrarily ordered events without seeing the important connections between them. With an understanding of cause and effect, these phenomena make sense to students and are more easily remembered.


Students who understand cause and effect gain a richer understanding of the logic and significance behind texts or events, and they have an easier time recalling the order of elements. Students who understand cause and effect do not have to struggle to remember the parts or order of texts or events, since they understand the rationale behind what occurred and in what order.

Content Area Adaptations 

Students must understand cause and effect whenever they are studying the development of an argument, or the passage of related events over time or in a text. For this reason, cause and effect is critical in history, and whenever students are studying a persuasive text. In science, students need an appreciation of cause and effect to study scientific processes, and an analysis of cause and effect should be integral to any lab report. In math, cause and effect is central to the study of statistics and data analysis, and can be incorporated into most multi-step mathematical processes and mathematical applications.

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Predicting
  • Synthesizing

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.5
  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.R.3
  • CCRA.R.8
  • CCRA.W.1
  • CCRA.W.2
  • CCRA.W.3
  • CCRA.W.9

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading

Iceberg Diagrams

Typically, there are numerous underlying causes that give rise to a specific event. Often these causes rest “beneath the surface” and can be difficult for students to “see.” The Iceberg teaching strategy can be used to help students gain awareness of the multiple factors that give rise to particular events. The visual image of an iceberg helps...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Scrambled Events

This activity helps students to understand a series of events while they read or listen to a presentation, and to remember these events in order afterwards.  As students listen or read, they look for important events printed on cards, and they put these cards in order as they identify them.  After students are done reading or listening, they...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation