The ability to evaluate cause and effect relationships is a skill that appears in nearly all content standards. And it should because cause-and-effect lessons teach one of the most fundamental understandings a student must have in order to comprehend the world around us!
These 20 cause-and-effect activities cover a wide variety of content areas and can be easily adapted to different levels. They are all appropriate for upper-elementary or middle school students.
1. Creating Comic Strips
One of my favorite ways to check for understanding of complex skills is through a seemingly simple task: drawing! Beyond just doodling, drawing to show comprehension is a great way to engage students at multiple skill levels. Reluctant learners as well as intellectually gifted students all benefit from a creative outlet.
Learn More: Read Write Think
2. Developing Diagrams
This resource is geared toward the educator, but there are multiple examples of diagrams and charts that can be used to help students interpret the connections between events. These can all easily be adapted for K-12 students, and there are some great resources linked within.
Learn More: Mind Tools
3. Cause and Effect through Pictures
Using pictures, students can describe what happened before the image, or what will happen afterward. This activity is a great introduction to the skill and encourages kids to have fun with their predictions.
Learn More: Teaching With A Mountain View
4. Real Teachers Sharing Ideas
The best place to learn about successful classroom activities is directly from teachers! This resource isn't flashy, but it contains multiple teachers talking about real-life examples of activities that they have done, and is a great launching point for developing your own ideas.
Learn More: Pro Teacher
5. Cause and Effect with Informational Texts
This site is designed for upper elementary, but you can easily adapt it for your middle school students. The simple sentence matching idea showing a connection between events is great for your kinetic learners who need to be up and moving around!
Learn More: Upper Elementary Snapshots
6. Interactive Anchor Chart
The sticky-note idea in this resource is a great way for students to practice with their peers. While this resource is set up as a class poster, it can be easily modified to use as a gallery walk or in student groups, giving them ample opportunity to practice their skills.
Learn More: Teaching With A Mountain View
7. Teaching Cause and Effect in Science
After introducing events that have a single cause and effect, prompt students to think of multiple causes and multiple effects! This teacher has developed a variety of opportunities for students to experience events in real-time. Then, using the example diagrams, they can record their findings.
Learn More: Alyssa Teaches
8. Cause and Effect Chains
Once students have grasped the cause-and-effect relationship, these interactive chains help to add variety to their writing. These chains provide a visual for understanding that even though the cause must happen first, it doesn't have to be written first!
Learn More: The Owl Teacher
9. Graphic Organizer
Sometimes you just need a quick handout! Here is a simple ELA graphic organizer that can be paired with any text. Great for emergency sub plans or when another activity falls flat! This site does require email signup, but that's pretty standard nowadays.
Learn More: Teacher Vision
10. Getting Beyond the Basics
Scroll down on this site to get to the good stuff - how to get kids to go beyond the basics and flex those critical thinking skills. By changing a sentence so that it doesn't make sense, students will need to figure out how to fix it. This shows their understanding of the relationships between events and better overall comprehension.
Learn More: Teaching Made Practical
11. Cause and Effect Worksheets
If you just need to put a lesson together quickly, this site is a great repository of activities. You can sort by grade level, subject, etc. so you're sure to find something that will work with upper-elementary or middle school students.
Learn More: Education
12. Why Go Green? Complete Cause and Effect Lesson
13. Simple Online Quiz Game
What kid doesn't love online games? This is one of many internet activities targeting the cause and effect skill. This fun game could be a rewarding activity to help reinforce the basics of cause and effect. It could also serve as an introduction to the skill as well.
Learn More: Room Recess
14. Cause and Effect Game of Scoot
As a twist on a gallery walk, Scoot gets kids up and excited to see what's next! In this activity, students work on matching cause and effect task cards at each station. There's nothing like watching students compete to see who can learn the fastest!
Learn More: Foreman Teaches
15. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
Teaching middle school students concepts through children's books is a great way to start simple and build up. They might think they're too old for these stories, but it also sparks nostalgia and helps them recognize that there are multiple levels of understanding within well-written books.
Learn More: Scholastic
16. Lesson With Laughter: Silly Sentences
This cooperative learning activity encourages students to get silly! After reviewing the overall cause and effect concept, students work together to come up with humorous scenarios. Finish this off with a gallery walk to end your class on a note of laughter!
Learn More: Nurture Store
17. The IFF-2 Strategy
Understanding multiple causations, and multiple effects is a nuanced skill that middle school students often struggle with. This acronym spells out a strategy that can help them intentionally think about how to identify multiple causes and effects. This would make a great anchor chart or bookmark for frequent reference.
Learn More: The Learning Toolbox
18. Journey North
Journey North is a crowd-sourced citizen science program that tracks sightings of migrating animals and insects. In addition to encouraging students to observe the natural world, it also gets them involved. This resource is an overall guide to using Journey North as a long-term inquiry unit and incorporates multiple relevant skills.
Learn More: Journey North
19. Correlation and Causation
Targeting older middle school and high school students, this activity allows them to explore the more complex skill of correlation vs. causation by examining a fictitious town's battle with rising temperatures. There are many resources included, so spend some time perusing the site!
Learn More: Cal Academy