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To reinforce the idea that good readers ask themselves why a change happened in a text, we practiced thinking about effects and writing "Why did...?" questions. We took our changes, in the past tense, and wrote them verbatim into questions. Then I asked the students to reflect, constructively, on what sounded wrong about the questions. They thought about the rule that "Did steals the past tense" from the other verb nearby. They all worked together to change the other verb from the past to present tense and rewrote their own question to guide them to the cause in the text. Here are some of our questions, about the book Big Al by Andrew Clements, that we wrote together (and students' independent answers):
Why did Big Al (had) have friends at the end of the story? Big Al had a lot of friends because he saved the fishes.
Why did Big Al (got) get stuck in the net? Why did the fish (got) get caught?
Why didn't Big Al (had) have friends? Big Al didn't have friends because he was big and scary...with sharp teeth.
Why did Big Al (saved) save the fish? Big Al saved the fish because he is nice and they could be his friends.
Why did Big Al (hid) hide in the sand? Big Al wanted to look smaller so the fish won't be scared so he hid under the sand.
Why did Big Al (wore) wear a disguise? Big Al wore a disguise because he wanted to be the fishes friends.
Why did the fish and Big Al (became) become friends?
Cause and Effect Lesson Extension: I chose to continue my students' practice with cause and effect by having them consider changes that happened in the week's comprehension text and talking with a partner to determine the cause. An additional language goal, besides the use of connecting words to link the cause and effect, was the use of present tense verbs in questions with did. I framed it in a way that's comprehensible for second graders: did is a robber who steals the past tense from verbs. So students discussed with their partner how to ask themselves about the reason for the effects (changes) in the text with a question.
Examples of student work: This helped me to informally assess which students already knew (or knew what sounded right) about the tense change with use of did and those for whom it was a new concept. They loved the structure of the paper because it was very clear for them how to organize their ideas! And I appreciated that I could use a highly familiar text for the lesson, so no vocabulary instruction or building background was needed, but there was authentic content.
We will continue to use their framework next week, using a different text. My assessment, which I will start the following week, will involve giving students a text at their level and asking them to identify a change independently, write the why question they should ask themselves, identifying the cause, and writing both together in a sentence with the connecting word of their choice. I will need to take away some of my scaffolding next week: students will need to find the changes on their own and remember how to use the connecting words without the organizer.
Content Goal: Students will become familiar with the meaning of the words cause and effect. They will be able to identify the cause in a cause/effect pair by thinking about what happened first and identify the effect as the change it caused. Students will begin to practice rereading a text to find the cause of a change, a reading strategy which they will eventually be expected to use independently.
Language Goal: Students will be able to use conjunctions and phrases to connect the cause and effect into one sentence (then, therefore, and that's why, because), understanding how to sequence their sentence when using each word. Students will discuss events in the text using past tense verbs.
Purpose: Students need language to orally express causation they find in text and this lesson will provide them with practice identifying and discussing cause and effect.
Part 1: Introduction of cause and effect; building background with a cause and effect situation and connecting words that can be used to connect them into one sentence; modeling the practice activity in which students will receive two cards and must identify the cause and effect and use connectingwords to express them in a complete sentence. Part 2: Guided practice identifying cause and effect and using connecting words to express them in a complete sentence. Part 3: Continued guided practice and sharing aloud with small group. Part 4: Extension activity introduction- Students will be provided with a change that took place in a familiar text and will practice rereading to find the cause. (Students will express a little silliness, too!) Part 5: Modeling of extension activity and independent practice. Part 6: A student demonstrates understanding through rereading a text to identify the cause of a change in the story and is able to express the cause and effect in a complete sentence using because.
Reflection: The initial practice activity was a useful informal assessment of each child's ability to identify a cause and effect and use the conjunctions/phrases correctly in speech. I wish I had made examples of both effects and causes from familiar text. I feel like the students would have benefited from continued practice identifying which of the pair happened first and finding both in the text. I feel that although students were listening and engaged during teacher instruction, I could have incorporated more pair and independent practice time.
In a future lesson, I will read a new text with students and model stopping at a change in the story and rereading to find the cause together. And then next week, I will extend the students' language goals to making predictions using cause and effect and the future tense (will) or conditional (might, would, could) adding the sentence structure "If...then..."
Extension and Further Reflection: Today we started a new text, revisiting the meaning of cause and effect, but using different language to make predictions. Every time something happened that could cause a change, I identified that it was a cause and students used the "If...then (might, could, would)" structure to predict the effect. They practiced metacognition when I explained to them that many students say "Maybe the character will..." or "Probably he or she will..." but might, could, and would are words that express "maybe" in a new and better way for school. When they used "maybe," they paused and tried to rephrase themselves, authentically adding to their language for speaking and writing about conditional events. I wrote down all of their self-identified causes and effects on a poster that showed the sentence structure they could use. In the next lesson, I will remove the causes and we will practice the reading strategy of rereading a text to find out why a change took place. This will also give them continued practice with their initial language goal of using connecting words to speak about cause and effect in complete sentences using past tense verbs.