The University of Iowa

Effective Literacy Lesson: Teaching Identification of Cause and Effect Relationships in Texts

Student writing on graphic organizer

Students can be taught to use a graphic organizer to help them identify cause and effect relationships in text.


Posted on: April 27, 2021

Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of an ongoing series entitled “Effective Literacy Lessons.” In these posts, we provide a brief summary of the research basis for an approach to teaching reading or writing skills, and an example of how a teacher might “think aloud” to model what students should do in completing portions of the lesson. The intent of these posts is to provide teachers a starting point for designing their own effective literacy lessons.

Research Basis

We use cause and effect relationships during everyday conversations in the same way that authors use cause and effect relationships in the texts we read. Cause and effect is a type of text structure that can improve readers’ comprehension of informational texts and the relationships among the ideas contained in those texts (Williams et al., 2014). Identifying cause and effect relationships in literary texts can help readers better understand events that occur and the reasons why the events occur in the story. Explicit instruction in identifying text structures is beneficial for all types of readers, especially those who have or at risk for reading disabilities (Hebert et al., 2016).

Video Demonstration of Modeling the Skill for Students

This video provides a demonstration of how to model identifying cause and effect relationships in a passage. Teachers can use this as an example when planning their own lessons for explicitly teaching students to use text structures to improve their comprehension of text.

Supplemental Materials for Teachers

PDF iconCause and Effect Graphic Organizer

Students can be taught to use this graphic organizer to identify and record events that occur in a text (effect) and the reason why that event occurred (cause). 


Hebert, M., Bohaty, J. J., Nelson, J. R., & Brown, J. (2016). The effects of text structure instruction on expository reading comprehension: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108, 609–629.

Williams, J. P., Pollini, S., Nubla-Kung, A. M., Snyder, A. E., Garcia, A., Ordynans, J. G., & Atkins, J. G. (2014). An intervention to improve comprehension of cause/effect through expository text structure instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 1–17.