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  • Writer's pictureSaresha Zentner

Teaching Cause and Effect through Guided Reading in Upper Elementary

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

I hope your school year is off to a great start! If you are here, that means you are starting your small groups and looking for some ideas and inspiration!

I have found so much student growth through small group guided reading. If you want to learn more about how to implement guided reading, you can click here!

Cause and Effect is an important part of reading comprehension. Students need to be able to know what happened and why. They need to be able to understand the cause of important events in a story.

Here are some things I use to help teach cause and effect during my reading block:

Start off with a Model Lesson and Shared Reading

The first 15-20 minutes of my reading block always start with shared reading between me and my students. This can be reading a picture book, reading an excerpt of a novel, passing out a short story for students to read with partners, or giving students a short story to read indecently to discuss together. I really try to strive for the I Do, We Do, You Do instructional strategy during this time.

Here are some picture book ideas for modeling finding cause and effect relationships during shared reading:

  • Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince

  • Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum School Day by Jennifer George

  • The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick

  • Dirt Cheap by Mark Hoffman

Covers of Cause and Effect Picture Books
Picture Book Ideas for Cause and Effect

Keep in mind that you do not need to purchase these! Don't forget about your school library, local library, or finding a read aloud of the story on YouTube!

Click the link below to download this free cause and effect page. Students can use this to record cause and effect relationships they find as you read the picture books during shared reading time.

Cause and Effect Worksheet
Cause and Effect Recording Page for Shared Reading

Cause and Effect
Download PDF • 15KB

Set Up Guided Reading Sessions for Success

First of all, you want to try to select a book or short story that has cause and effect relationships for your students to find.

If you don't have a book room at your school, you can find books for cause and effect here or here.

Next, I find it very helpful to use these guided reading notes for students. It helps me stay on track and include all of the parts of guided reading.

I print these pages and have students glue them into their notebook. They are used to this process and now it only takes a couple minutes the first day and then we are ready to go!

Using these notes, students will record their predictions about the story, vocabulary words and definitions, and cause and effect relationships.

They will answer questions that fit with any story and discuss their answers.

The part I like the best about having these notes ready to go is that I have WAY less to prep and can focus on listening to my students read, confer with them, and get a better picture about their reading comprehension.

Independent Practice

When my students are not at my small group table, they are usually doing independent activities (independent reading, word study practice, writing, etc.), but sometimes I like to add in an activity for the comprehension skill of the week.

Here are some websites for online cause and effect practice for students to work on independently:


When you get to the end of the week or the unit, you may be wondering 'Do my students understand? Are we ready to move on?'

With my guided reading notes is a cause-and-effect assessment and answer key. These have been lifesavers to see where my students are at the end of the unit.

The last thing in the guided reading notes is a proficiency scale/rubric. This takes into account each student's work throughout the unit.

Need Support?

If you feel like you need more support when teaching cause and effect during guided reading, I've got you covered.

This cause and effect unit includes FAQ's, teacher directions, student pages for before, during, and after reading, an assessment, answer key, and proficiency scale.

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