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Modifications of a Reading Lesson: Understanding Cause and Effect

written by: Barbara • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

In teaching students with special needs how to understand cause and effect when reading a story, article or short passage, teachers need only say “Cause makes something happen and effect is the result of what happened." We'll look at a modified lesson plan which focuses on a short passage.

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    All students can understand cause and effect in real life terms. If you spend the money you earned mowing the lawns on an iPod, you won’t have any left for school supplies, or if you eat dessert at lunchtime, there won’t be any left at dinner. By creating an understanding that cause creates a happening and effect shows the result of what happened; teachers can apply the learning to any reading lesson.

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    The Mission

    Reading Passage: Have students read the following passage and answer the cause and effect questions that follow.

    As Samantha pulled into the parking lot of the school, she had a strange feeling of apprehension. The building was dark underneath the moonlight carving a niche of light alongside the empty parking spaces. Trevor was supposed to meet her at 11:00pm sharp. Samantha glanced at the illumination of her watch face and saw the short hand skip minutes past the eleven.

    “Ah, Trevor, you’re late," she said into the darkened interior of her family’s silver SUV Sedan.

    She pulled out her BlackBerry and texted into the square box, “Wr r u?" Moments later, she heard the peel of brakes and saw puffs of smoke as Trevor accelerated into the parking lot and stopped just inches away from her SUV. Samantha jumped out of her car and ran over to Trevor.

    “Are you crazy…we don’t have time for antics..let’s go," she screamed in a hush towards his open window.

    “PJ what’s the rush..we have all night," Trevor laughed behind the slamming of his Jeep door.

    “No, we don’t…so c’mon." Samantha grabbed his hand and let go quickly..she needed to focus on the task at hand. Samantha brushed off a drop of rain from her hand as others followed coating her skin with a liquid moisturizer of raindrops.

    The light rain brought a thin sliver of cloud cover across the curvature of the moon as they hurried towards a door in the corner of the brick building. Samantha slid the length of a bronze key into the lock as Trevor pulled on the rain drenched door handle.

    “Okay, PJ, you ready for this?"

    “No, but let’s go. Security will do a drive by at 12:10am, so we don’t have a lot of time," Samantha answered ignoring how annoyed she was at Trevor calling her PJ, when her name was Samantha Jean and how much trouble they both would be in if they got caught. She needed him tonight, so she continued down the steel stairs towards an interior illuminated by the dangling of a lone bulb. (*Original content by author)

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    Lesson and Questions

    Understanding Vocabulary: Have students use a dictionary to define the following terms from the passage.

    • Apprehension
    • Niche
    • Accelerated
    • Illuminated

    Understanding Cause and Effect: In the reading passage, the author includes specific details to create an understanding of what's happening in the story. Write a brief reflection on what you read as a cause and effect relationship in the story.

    Additional Activities: Answer the following questions from the reading passage:

    1. In the reading passage, Samantha is waiting for Trevor to arrive in the parking lot of the school. What can you identify as the cause of why she's waiting? What can you identify as the effect if Trevor doesn't show up?

    2. What is happening in the reading passage (create a list)?

    3. What do you think will happen to Samantha and Trevor if they carry out their mission?

    4. Create a bubble mapping of the cause and effect relationships happening in the story.

    Given the range of reflections, questions and learning opportunities for students to create and process their own understanding of the reading passage, this is a lesson that teachers can use to create a wealth of modifications for students with reading difficulties and those who need continuous challenge to experience their own success and access in reading.