Using Picture Books to Teach Cause and Effect
Explore books to teach cause and effect and help your students understand what they have read, the sequence of events & make connections.
Why Do We Need to Teach Cause and Effect?
Some children may struggle to recognise or describe the relationship between an action and its consequences, for example, an ice cream melting in hot weather. This is a simple, if messy, example however if children don’t understand cause and effect, they won’t appreciate that there are consequences to actions. This could be risky (running into a road) or illegal (stealing).
In literature, cause and effect makes a story entertaining. Without it, nothing would exciting would happen! The cause makes things happen, followed by the effects of those actions. Understanding cause and effect helps your students comprehend what they have read, the author’s meaning and the sequence of events.
I have listed steps we can take to effectively use picture books to teach cause and effect. Afterwards, you will find some fantastic picture book recommendations to explore.
Using Picture Books to Teach Cause and Effect
Picture books are a wonderful way to start a discussion about cause and effect because the illustrations support the meaning of the text. Using books to teach cause and effect is fun and meaningful and your students won’t even realise it is a lesson!
First, choose a book with clear cause and effect events. You can explore a list of suggestions below or visit the Cause and Effect Book List.
Start with a picture walk to open a discussion around the key cause and effect moments. Reinforce that CAUSE is why something happened and EFFECT is what happened.
When you read the story, highlight any cause and effect words. These words trigger an awareness that a cause and effect event is taking place. Example vocabulary includes as a result, next, finally, because, since, therefore, now that, so.
As you share the picture book model how to describe the plot, setting and characters and add dialogue. Initiate discussions by elaborating on what is happening and highlighting cause and effect and conflict and resolution.
Asking questions supports children’s comprehension of what they are reading and using the illustrations deepen their understanding. Here are a few questions to get you started with additional ones here.
- What is the character’s goal/mission?
- How will they achieve their goal?
- Why did the character make this choice?
- What are the effects of their actions?
- What is the character going to do next?
- How will their actions affect the story?
More Cause and Effect Activities
Illustrations help children further understand cause and effect as well as support their comprehension, prediction and inferring skills. Encourage your students to describe these events and the effect on the actions that follow.
- As they list each situation, write them on sentence strips. Refer back to the book to make sure you’ve checked all events.
- Mix up the sentence strips and as a class or in pairs arrange the facts in the order they took place. As you reread the sentences to check the order, ask the children to identify the cause and effect vocabulary.
- Cut up the sentence strip into the cause and the effect. Mix them up and ask the children to match the effect with the cause.
Use a cause and effect thinking map or graphic organiser for the students to record the events in more detail, along with their evidence. There are many styles of organisers for varying levels of understanding. You can download two free organisers from the Free Resource Library.
Picture Books to Teach Cause and Effect
These picture books are excellent for demonstrating cause and effect and critical thinking skills. Some have a clear sequence of events while others require further exploration to identify the cause and effect.
A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool
The Dog That Ate the World by Sandra Dieckmann
Fossil by Bill Thomson
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
The Visitor by Antje Damm
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
As your students answer questions, encourage them to support their answers by giving evidence. I am sure that you will have students who shrug their shoulders or say “because” when asked to more information.
The steps in this post are a great way to help students to not only understand cause and effect but also verbalise their understanding of it.
Remember to join the Free Resources Library to download a free cause and effect thinking map.
What are your favourite picture books for teaching cause and effect? Do you have any activtities that you use again and again? Hit the comments below and share with the community!
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