How to Use Picture Books
to Teach Cause & Effect
Picture Books Are Not Written to Teach Reading
I have to admit I wasn’t all that surprised to find the Cause and Effect Book List page is the most popular on this website. So I thought I would expand on the subject further by looking at how we can use picture books to teach this complex topic.
I have listed steps we can take to effectively use picture books to teach cause and effect. You will also find 15 fantastic picture book recommendations at the end of this post. Also, read the post on Fun and Educational Activities to Teach Cause and Effect.
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 they don’t figure out 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 take place! The cause makes events happen, followed by the effects of those actions. Understanding cause and effect helps children figure out what they have read and the connections between events. It helps them understand the sequence of events and the author’s meaning. All important reading skills!
How to Use Picture Books to Teach Cause and Effect
Picture books are perfect to start a conversation about a topic or concept, in this case cause and effect. Using picture books to teach cause and effect is fun and meaningful. Your students won’t even realise it is a lesson! The following activities support a deeper understanding of how one action affects the next.
- Choose a book with cause and effect events. See the suggestions below or visit the Cause and Effect Book List.
- A picture walk opens 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 words to show the connection between events. 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.
- Illustrations help children further understand cause and effect as well as support comprehension, prediction and inferring.
- Encourage the students to describe these events and the effect on the following actions. 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 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.
Using Picture Books at Home or in the Classroom
As you share the 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 teaches children to comprehend what they are reading and use the illustrations to deepen their understanding.
Here are a few questions to get you started with additional ones here.
- Tell me about the characters. What are their emotions?
- What is the character thinking? How do you know?
- What is the character’s goal/mission? How will they achieve their goal?
- Why did the character make this choice? Could they have made a better choice?
- What is the character going to do next? How will their actions affect the story?
15 Picture Books to
Teach Cause and Effect
These recommended 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.
Some books link back to resources on Children’s Library lady where you will find further information and lesson plans. Look out for the green “Resources’ banner on the book cover.
A Bad Case of Stripes
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool
The Dog That Ate the World by Sandra Dieckmann
The Lumberjack’s Beard
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When teaching cause and effect always check for understanding. As the students answer questions, encourage them to support their answers by giving evidence. Through my teaching career, I found when asking a student to explain why something had happened they would say “because” but couldn’t give any evidence. These steps are a great way to help students to not only understand cause and effect but also verbalise it.
It is necessary to give children the time to identify and describe cause and effect in books. By analysing picture books in-depth using the steps above children will build up their understanding. We want the concept to be intuitive.
What are your favourite picture books for teaching cause and effect? Hit the comments below and share with the community!