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Lesson Plan

Exploring Cause and Effect Using Expository Texts About Natural Disasters

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Exploring Cause and Effect Using Expository Texts About Natural Disasters

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 30- to 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Leliaert

Fishers, Indiana


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Access prior knowledge by identifying what they know about cause-and-effect relationships

  • Gain knowledge by defining cause and effect, learning key words that indicate cause-and-effect relationships in expository text, and reviewing a text containing these relationships during a whole-class exercise

  • Apply what they have learned about cause and effect and demonstrate comprehension of it by locating cause-and-effect relationships within expository text, recording these findings on two graphic organizers, and then using the organizers to write a paragraph

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Session 1

1. Activate prior knowledge about cause and effect by suggesting that a student (or pair of students) act out what happens when he or she eats too much too quickly or when he or she does not get enough sleep.

2. When the student is finished ask the class what the end result is (i.e., a stomachache); explain that this is the effect. Ask students to tell you what has caused this effect (i.e., shoveling in large amounts of food). Ask students what they think a cause-and-effect structure is, soliciting examples that you write on the board or chart paper. Additional discussion questions include: Where do they think they might see cause and effect? What type of book or text might contain this kind of structure?

3. Introduce the graphic organizer using either the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool or the organizer you prepared on chart paper. Discuss the importance of organizing ideas and concepts from informational text. Ask students questions such as:

  • How will creating this graphic organizer help us to understand what we read?

  • Will this graphic organizer help us to better remember the information?

  • How might we show cause-and-effect relationships on a graphic organizer?
4. As you begin to read Danger! Volcanoes by Seymour Simon aloud, model the thought process behind discovering cause-and-effect relationships. For example, say something like, "As I begin reading Danger! Volcanoes, I see that there are lots of interesting pictures of volcanoes in this book. I bet I will learn some new information about volcanoes when I read this book." After reading the second page of the book say, "I wonder what causes the volcano to erupt? I bet I will learn that when I read further." After reading the next page say, "I see a key word that makes me think there is a cause-and-effect relationship on this page. The word cause tells me that there is a cause-and-effect relationship described here. The eruption of the volcano can cause dangerous slides of lava, rock, ash, mud, and water.'"

5. After beginning the modeling, ask students to think about other cause-and-effect relationships they can find as you finish reading the book aloud to them.

6. Fill in the graphic organizer by guiding students to share the cause-and-effect relationships they heard while listening to the book. Ask guiding questions such as, "What happens after a volcano erupts?" and "Do different types of volcanoes act differently when they erupt?" This should spark some ideas about cause-and-effect relationships that you can then type into the web or write on the chart paper. If you are using the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool, print it when you are finished.

7. After completing the organizer, review the key words that signal a cause-and-effect relationship (e.g., if, so, so that, because of, as a result of, since, in order to, cause, and effect) Record this list on chart paper for future reference.

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Session 2

Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session will take place in the computer lab. You should display the graphic organizer and list of key words you completed with students during Session 1. You will also need to bring the texts you have assembled for students to read (see Preparation, Step 3).

1. Distribute the Cause-and-Effect Graphic Organizer Rubric and review it with students. Explain that you will use it to assess the organizers they create in their groups and that they will be using their graphic organizers to write paragraphs during Session 3.

2. Students should work in groups to read a different example of an expository text about natural disasters. For this lesson, it works very well to assign students in groups with a wide range of ability levels. This allows them to help one another discover cause-and-effect relationships. Groups of three or four work best to keep every student involved.

3. For the first reading of the books, groups should focus on discovering the cause-and-effect relationships within the text. The groups may then have a short discussion of their ideas.

4. As students read the text for a second time, they should record the cause-and-effect relationships they encounter in the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool. Groups should find at least four cause-and-effect relationships from their text.

5. Circulate while groups are working to provide support and answer questions as necessary.

6. Students should print out one copy of their organizer for each group member when they finish. Tell them that they will be using their graphic organizers to write a paragraph during Session 3.

7. After all groups complete their graphic organizers, return to the classroom to discuss the findings. Each group may share an example of a cause-and-effect relationship from their book. Ask students about the key words they found in their text. Questions for discussion include:

  • How many cause-and-effect relationships did you find in your book? Can you share one example?

  • What key words made you think that this was a cause-and-effect relationship?

  • How will these words help you to think about cause-and-effect relationship in books you read in the future?


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Session 3

1. Pass out and review the Sample Paragraph and the Cause-and-Effect Paragraph Rubric and review them with students.

2. Show students the Essay Map and have them use the tool to map out their paragraphs. Tell them to use the tool as follows:

  • They should write the first sentence of their paragraph in the Introduction box.

  • They should list the three cause-and-effect relationships in the boxes labeled Idea 1, Idea 2, and Idea 3.

  • If they want to write a supporting detail for each idea, they can do so in the appropriate boxes (this is not required).

  • They should write a concluding sentence in the Conclusion box. When they are done, they should print their maps.

3. Students should use the information on their graphic organizers to write clear paragraphs that include information about at least three cause-and-effect relationships from their expository text.

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  • Informally assess students' comprehension of cause and effect by observing the discussion during Session 1. If it seems that students do not fully understand cause and effect, are unable to find it in the text, or do not know what the keywords associated with this text structure are, you may want to work with them on another text before asking them to work in small groups.

  • Observe students while they work in small groups. Are they able to locate the cause-and-effect relationships in the texts they are reading? Collect the webs students create during Session 2 and use the Cause-and-Effect Graphic Organizer Rubric to assess them.

  • Assess students' paragraphs using the Cause-and-Effect Paragraph Rubric.


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