Cause and Effect Text Structure – How to Explain It

Cause and effect text structure explores relationships between events and what caused them. Let’s take a look at how to teach kids to identify and write in this format. In addition to the organization of ideas, they need to know about transition terms.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Cause and Effect Text Structure

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “Let’s continue organizing our ELA block,” she said, “Yesterday, we started talking about structures of nonfiction.”

Mr. Frank nodded. “Right,” he said. “We began with sequence. What will we discuss today?”

“Cause and effect text structure,” Ms. Sneed responded. “As we agreed, our students will learn to identify the format when reading. Additionally, they’ll write with it.”

“Alright! Let’s get started.”

Reading Cause and Effect Text Structure

In no time, Mr. Frank opened his laptop. Quickly, he found their informational text structures slideshow.

As his teaching partner looked on, he scrolled down. “When we teach cause and effect,” she said, “we ask kids to look for events and what caused them. In this case, we show them that events can be placed in a flow chart.”

“Next, we look at an example paragraph,” said Mr. Frank, scrolling further.

He clicked to reveal a mostly blank slide. “As I click through this, parts of the paragraph are revealed. First, kids see the cause. Then, for this paragraph, multiple effects.”

“I love this,” Ms. Sneed added. “Such a clear way of teaching this concept.”

When teaching kids about cause and effect text structure, begin a nonfiction paragraph and a simple graphic organizer.
Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Looking for Transition Terms

“The slideshow then explores transition terms,” Mr. Frank said. “First, it discusses what I’d like to call a red herring. This paragraph contains a date. That might lead kids to the faulty conclusion that this is a sequence paragraph. Second, it points out the word caused. This linking word provides evidence of the cause and effect text structure.”

Ms. Sneed thumbed through a folder in front of her. “This list of transitions is a part of the nonfiction text structures unit. Let me read the list of clues kids can look for:

  • cause,
  • effect,
  • because,
  • since,
  • in the event that,
  • if/then,
  • in case,
  • due to,
  • in order to,
  • as a result,
  • for this reason,
  • thus,
  • consequently, and
  • therefore”

“Wow,” said Mr. Frank. “That’s quite a list. Looking for words that are actually a part of the structure’s name will be super helpful.”

“Do you remember our idea from yesterday? We’ll generate a list like this with our students and put it on a big sheet of paper. Instant anchor chart!”

Now Mr. Frank grinned. “Your enthusiasm is contagious. Yep, this will be fun.”

To identify cause and effect text structure, kids should look for transitions that provide clues.

Using a Simple Organizer

Once again, Mr. Frank clicked around on his laptop. “Here it is.”

He turned his screen so Ms. Sneed could see it better. “This graphic organizer will help our kids take notes when they study the cause and effect text structure. Additionally, it will help them organize their ideas when they write in this format.”

Use this graphic organizer to help kids identify ideas in cause and effect text structure.

Writing Paragraphs with Cause and Effect Text Structure

“Hmm,” said Mr. Frank. “What topics should we use for writing with the cause and effect text structure?”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about this.”

Now Ms. Sneed turned to her laptop. In just a few seconds, she pulled up a file.

“How about a science connection?” She pointed to her screen. “When we study slow changes to Earth’s surface, kids analyze photos. Then they determine if the landscape shows evidence of weathering, erosion, and/or deposition. Instead of just asking them to explain, let’s ask for a cause-effect paragraph.”

Mr. Frank’s eyes lit up. “Great idea!”

Consider using a science connection when writing with cause and effect text structures. Here, for example, kids can write paragraphs explaining weathering, erosion, and deposition.

More Cross-Curricular Connections

“You know,” said Ms. Sneed, “we could ask kids to write with the cause and effect text structure many other times through the year. For example, I can think of many additional earth science connections.”

As she opened the geology folder on her desktop, she continued. “For instance, when we do this lesson on Earth’s spheres, kids could write entire paragraphs to explain.”

Another way kids can write cause-effect paragraphs in science is to describe interactions between Earth's spheres.

Her teaching partner nodded. “We could use this in our biography unit too. When kids write about a person who helped, they can do it with a cause-effect format. Actually, I can think of dozens of applications.”

Enjoy Teaching

Ms. Sneed sat back in her chair. Soon, that slow teacher smile spread across her lips. “Funny how – when you’re looking for it – opportunities to teach the cause and effect text structure are everywhere.”

“Hopefully we’ll have the same luck with writing projects for the next three types of informational text: description, compare and contrast, and problem and solution,” her teaching partner said. “Regardless, I know that the nonfiction text structures unit will help them identify each when reading.”

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