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A major part of any story are the cause and effect relationships that occur, especially during the conflict and rising action. Whether examining the effects on the protagonist, or on the plot itself, a significant element in understanding literature is the relationship between actions or events and their outcomes, including choices and consequences.

What is Cause and Effect?

Causation, or cause and effect, is simply an action with a reaction. When an event occurs, its effect impacts the course of the story, often changing the character or later events of a story dramatically. Cause and effect are also very important to plot, moving the action forward.

Cause and Effect Lesson Plan

Grade Level: K-5


Although this short cause and effect lesson plan covers multiple age ranges, below are examples of the Common Core State Standards for Grade 5. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).


Students will be able to identify examples and explain the relationship between cause and effect in plot.

Cause and Effect Examples

Depicting Cause and Effect in Plot Example 1

A very important part of any story are the cause and effect relationships that come out of events in the plot. To get students predicting and problem-solving, they should demonstrate their understanding of chain reactions from a novel or short story. Creating a storyboard that depict the cause and effect of an action will greatly enhance their understanding of cause and effect relationships.

One activity uses a teacher-created storyboard template, where a cause is listed, and students must depict the event, or some examples of effect.

For example:

  • Stanley is hit by a pair of shoes
  • Stanley is arrested
  • Stanley finds Kissing Kate’s lipstick container
  • Stanley and Zero climb the mountain
  • Stanley and Zero eat the onions

Depicting Cause and Effect in Plot Example 2

Another way to teach cause and effect is to use prediction methods, by asking specific questions during reading when events occur that are either subtle or obtuse. For example, if reading a story that says, “The weather quickly got worse”, the teacher could ask the class to come up with effects of bad weather. With this method, students are predicting the possible outcome or effect of different events.

Cause: Stormy Weather

Effect: (Student-Generated Effects)

  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Thunder and lightning
  • Power goes out

Choices and Consequences

One of the rewards of reading is encountering many imagined situations and observing how characters react in those circumstances. This can provide not only entertainment, but also insights into human nature and great lessons for our own character. In this lesson plan, students can recount and explain the connection between literary characters' choices and the resulting consequences with a T-Chart activity.

In literature, characters’ choices and their consequences play a crucial role in both plot and character development. Sometimes there is a significant turning point that a character faces - or an impossible dilemma - which completely changes the course of the work. Understanding these important plot elements has many benefits for students, most importantly, recognizing both intended and unintended outcomes. Depicting these items in a T-Chart will help students visualize the order of events, as well as the cause and effect relationships of each action, decision, or choice made in the piece of literature.

Questions about Decisions in Literature

  1. What is a turning point?
  2. How do characters, events, and action drive a plot?
  3. Why is it important to know and follow a main character's choices and the consequences of those choices?
  4. Are consequences avoidable?
  5. Do you believe you always have control over the outcome of choices?

Choices and Consequences Example and Template

Make Cause and Effect Worksheets

If you're looking for another step or an alternative assignment, you can create cause and effect worksheets to use in your class! These worksheets can be customized and printed out for students to fill out with a pencil, or they can be completed in the Storyboard Creator like a digital worksheet. You can even create multiple versions for those students who might need a little extra help, and keep them on hand for future use! Find plenty of templates to work from or just start with a blank canvas.

Add a Presentation

Have students attach their storyboard to a paper that requires them giving an in-depth explanation of the deeper meaning of their chosen element throughout the story. To couple this assignment with a presentation, see our article on how to present a storyboard.

Related Activities

Check out these cause and effect activities from our guides on The Hunger Games, Charlotte's Web, and The Great Depression.

How to Teach Cause and Effect in Literature


Introduce Cause and Effect (Background)

Explain the concept of cause and effect in literature, highlighting the relationship between actions/events and their outcomes. Emphasize the significance of cause and effect in plot development and character progression. Provide examples and discuss how cause and effect drive the story forward.


Depict Cause and Effect in Plot (Activity 1)

Engage students in an activity where they create storyboards to depict cause and effect relationships in a novel or short story. Provide a template with listed causes, and students must illustrate the corresponding events or effects. Encourage students to think critically and consider the chain reactions resulting from each cause.


Explore Cause and Effect through Predictions (Activity 2)

During reading, pose specific questions to students when events occur that have cause and effect implications. For example, ask students to predict the effects of bad weather when the story mentions a storm. Encourage students to use their imagination and reasoning skills to anticipate possible outcomes based on the given cause.


Analyze Choices and Consequences (T-Chart Activity)

Discuss how characters' choices and their consequences shape the plot and character development in literature. Engage students in a T-Chart activity where they identify and explain the cause and effect relationships of characters' decisions. This activity helps students visualize the sequence of events and understand the intended and unintended outcomes.


Create Cause and Effect Worksheets (Extension)

To further reinforce understanding, create cause and effect worksheets that can be customized and printed or completed digitally using the Storyboard Creator. These worksheets can provide additional practice for students to identify cause and effect relationships in literature. Customize the worksheets based on the specific needs and abilities of the students.


Present Storyboards and Reflect (Optional)

Encourage students to attach their storyboards to a paper requiring an in-depth explanation of the deeper meaning of their chosen cause and effect elements throughout the story. To enhance their understanding and communication skills, consider having students present their storyboards and findings to the class. This fosters engagement, collaboration, and reflection on the cause and effect relationships within the literature studied.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cause and Effect

Why is cause and effect an important concept to teach and how are the worksheets useful for classroom activities?

Cause and effect worksheets are useful for classroom activities for several reasons. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, improve their comprehension and reasoning abilities, promote active learning, and enhance students’ ability to make connections between events and their consequences, further enhancing their problem-solving skills. Teaching cause and effect can further help students understand how things happen, how different events are related, and how to make predictions about future outcomes.

How can I effectively teach cause and effect to my students?

To teach cause and effect, it's important to use a variety of teaching strategies, including hands-on activities, visual aids, graphic organizers, and real-world examples. You can also encourage students to make connections between cause and effect in their own lives, and help them develop critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions. This will help them to connect the concept to their own knowledge and prior experiences which will help them to make connections and retain information.

How can I assess my students' understanding of cause and effect?

You can assess your students' understanding of cause and effect by asking them to identify cause and effect relationships in texts or real-world situations, completing cause-and-effect graphic organizers, or creating their own cause-and-effect scenarios. You can also observe their participation in class activities and ask them open-ended questions to check for understanding.

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