Standard Lesson

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
Author
Publisher
ILA
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Overview

Expository texts are a key component of literacy but often do not get introduced to students until the later grades. This lesson helps third- through fifth-grade students explore the nature and structure of expository texts that focus on cause and effect. Students begin by activating prior knowledge about cause and effect; the teacher then models discovering these relationships in a text and recording in a graphic organizer what the relationships that the class finds. Students work in small groups to apply what they learned using related books and then write paragraphs outlining the cause-and-effect relationships they have found.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Students need more exposure to expository text along with explicit instruction that helps them understand the features and structure of this type of writing.

  • There is a wide range of informational books written for children; many of these books are appropriate for teaching expository text structure.

  • Among the text structures these texts can teach are description, sequence, comparison and contrast, problem and solution, and cause and effect.

  • Teachers should model how to find these text structures before asking students to discover them independently or in small groups.

 

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Danger! Volcanoes by Seymour Simon (SeaStar Books; 2002)

  • Computer with Internet access

  • LCD projector

Printouts

Preparation

1. Before completing this lesson, students should have background information about what expository texts are, how they are structured, and how they are different from fiction. You might want to prepare students by conducting the following lessons:

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with an expository text that uses a cause-and-effect structure. This lesson uses Danger! Volcanoes by Seymour Simon. Familiarize yourself with the structure of the text and locate key words that signal cause-and-effect relationships. These words include cause, effect, because, if, and then.

3. Obtain copies of additional books that use a cause-and-effect structure. The Natural Disaster Booklist includes books that relate to the theme of this lesson. If you are using a book other than Danger! Volcanoes, you will want to find books that deal with a similar topic.

4. Visit the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool and the Essay Map and familiarize yourself with their use so you can explain them to students. You will be creating a cause-and-effect map for Danger! Volcanoes (see the Sample Graphic Organizer for Danger! Volcanoes). If you have a classroom computer with Internet access and an LCD projector available, arrange to use them during Session 1. If not, create a blank cause-and-effect map on chart paper (see Blank Graphic Organizer).

5. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve two 30- to 45-minute sessions in your school's computer lab (see Sessions 2 and 3). Bookmark the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool and the Essay Map on your classroom or lab computers.

6. Make a copy of the Cause-and-Effect Graphic Organizer Rubric, Cause-and-Effect Paragraph Rubric, and Sample Paragraph for each student.

Student Objectives

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

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.

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?

 

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.

Extensions

Student Assessment / Reflections

 

  • 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.

 

Jennifer Powell
K-12 Teacher
I am the Gifted Educational Assistant, I teach all subjects to gifted students in grades 2-8, I write individualized learning plans and lessons for 9 students. I would like to see the correlations to other content areas. For this lesson it would be Science!

Thank you,
Jennifer Powell

P.S. I use Read Write Think weekly for reading and language arts lessons for my students.
Kaylee Olney, RWT Staff
Administrator
Thanks for your suggestion, Jennifer. We chose to align ReadWriteThink.org lessons only to ELA standards because the primary objectives of our lessons are always related to reading and the English language arts. IRA and NCTE are not experts in the field of science education, and we fear we would be overstepping ourselves if we claimed science alignments.

If you're looking for lessons relating to science standards, I encourage you to visit our Thinkinfity partner ScienceNetLinks (http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/). A search at http://Thinkfinity.org will also turn up standards-based lesson plans for a variety of content area subjects, including math, geography, the arts, and humanities.
Lisa Waddill
K-12 Teacher
I used this lesson twice: once with my class, and once in Saturday School. Both times it went over very well! I substituted an article about Yellowstone Wildfires as my students could make connections with our recent wildfire in Bastrop, Texas. Then, I extended it to individual practice using a recent Scholastic News article from their September 19th edition, "Hide and Sneak," by Laura Modigliani. They were able to do a fantastic job. Thank you for the great lesson!
Lisa Waddill
K-12 Teacher
I used this lesson twice: once with my class, and once in Saturday School. Both times it went over very well! I substituted an article about Yellowstone Wildfires as my students could make connections with our recent wildfire in Bastrop, Texas. Then, I extended it to individual practice using a recent Scholastic News article from their September 19th edition, "Hide and Sneak," by Laura Modigliani. They were able to do a fantastic job. Thank you for the great lesson!
Jennifer Powell
K-12 Teacher
I am the Gifted Educational Assistant, I teach all subjects to gifted students in grades 2-8, I write individualized learning plans and lessons for 9 students. I would like to see the correlations to other content areas. For this lesson it would be Science!

Thank you,
Jennifer Powell

P.S. I use Read Write Think weekly for reading and language arts lessons for my students.
Kaylee Olney, RWT Staff
Administrator
Thanks for your suggestion, Jennifer. We chose to align ReadWriteThink.org lessons only to ELA standards because the primary objectives of our lessons are always related to reading and the English language arts. IRA and NCTE are not experts in the field of science education, and we fear we would be overstepping ourselves if we claimed science alignments.

If you're looking for lessons relating to science standards, I encourage you to visit our Thinkinfity partner ScienceNetLinks (http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/). A search at http://Thinkfinity.org will also turn up standards-based lesson plans for a variety of content area subjects, including math, geography, the arts, and humanities.
Lisa Waddill
K-12 Teacher
I used this lesson twice: once with my class, and once in Saturday School. Both times it went over very well! I substituted an article about Yellowstone Wildfires as my students could make connections with our recent wildfire in Bastrop, Texas. Then, I extended it to individual practice using a recent Scholastic News article from their September 19th edition, "Hide and Sneak," by Laura Modigliani. They were able to do a fantastic job. Thank you for the great lesson!
Jennifer Powell
K-12 Teacher
I am the Gifted Educational Assistant, I teach all subjects to gifted students in grades 2-8, I write individualized learning plans and lessons for 9 students. I would like to see the correlations to other content areas. For this lesson it would be Science!

Thank you,
Jennifer Powell

P.S. I use Read Write Think weekly for reading and language arts lessons for my students.
Kaylee Olney, RWT Staff
Administrator
Thanks for your suggestion, Jennifer. We chose to align ReadWriteThink.org lessons only to ELA standards because the primary objectives of our lessons are always related to reading and the English language arts. IRA and NCTE are not experts in the field of science education, and we fear we would be overstepping ourselves if we claimed science alignments.

If you're looking for lessons relating to science standards, I encourage you to visit our Thinkinfity partner ScienceNetLinks (http://www.sciencenetlinks.com/). A search at http://Thinkfinity.org will also turn up standards-based lesson plans for a variety of content area subjects, including math, geography, the arts, and humanities.

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