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Cause & Effect: Making It Memorable!

I was in third grade when I fell head over heels in love with school.  I can still remember where my desk was, what my teacher looked like, and who I sat by.  I fell in love with school for two reasons: 
Reason 1) My teacher, Mrs. Whiteman, who got to know me not just as a name on her roster or a score on a standardized test – but as an incredibly shy, eight year old girl, who loved books, writing, and words. She knew I got so anxious about spelling tests, (I was a bit of a perfectionist) that she would grade my test early and let me peek at it before we left for school on Fridays so that I wouldn’t be anxiously waiting for it over the weekend. (Mrs. Whiteman – if you are out there, thank you a billion times!)
Reason 2) She made learning not just exciting but memorable.  She brought lessons to life and as a result, I still remember many of them.  When we read Mr. Popper’s Penguins, our classroom was transformed  with white construction paper glaciers.  I still remember those white paper glaciers all over our room.  
My point to this trip down memory lane? 
I still remember it.
 Ultimately, isn’t that what we want for all of our students? We want learning to be so vivid in their minds that they feel they always have something to hold onto.
Reading strategies are so abstract for young learners.  We are asking them to infer, engage in questioning, and activate their schema.  What an abstract concept for their little brains! In math, we use manipulatives to make their mathematical understanding concrete.  We need to remember that reading strategies are no different!
When my students came in last week, this is what they saw at our carpet area:

Our classroom was buzzing with noise (GOOD noise!)
“Who’s birthday is it?”
“What are the balloons for?”
“Ummm…Miss DeCarbo…there are balloons on our chart.”
“Why are there eggs?”
“Are we EATING those eggs?”
“I bet we’re making scrambled eggs.”
“I hate scrambled eggs.”
I did not tell them what the balloons and eggs were for.  I simply said, “Those are for our new reading strategy. I can’t WAIT to share it with you after lunch!”  That was all it took for an excitement for learning to occur in my students.  Sometimes, those little objects are all you need to hook them!”
Relate It To Real Life:
During our lesson, we used our anchor chart to discuss what the terms “cause” and “effect” meant.  We talked about real life examples.  I used Kristen Smith’s Cause and Effect Resource pack for the pictures we discussed on our anchor chart. I also started our FUN activity with the balloon!
Make It Concrete
We discussed what would happen when I poked the balloon with my sharp pencil. Of course, they told me the balloon would pop. “Why will my balloon pop?” I asked. They were already identifying and restating the cause and effect in the balloon scenario.  After lots of squeals of excitement and one big “AHHH!!!!!!!!” moment when it popped, they were starting to see, hear, and understand what cause and effect looked like in real life.
We repeated this same idea with an egg.  We discussed what we knew would happen and I related this back to their ability to make inferences and use their schema.  This time, our effect was MESSY! We used our thinking stems: “Miss DeCarbo dropped the egg. As a result, it hit the floor and cracked.”  We even broke that down into two different cause and effect scenarios:  “Miss DeCarbo dropped the egg. As a result, it hit the floor.”  and “Because the egg hit the floor, the egg cracked open.”  Ahh…now we were digging deeper!

 Make It Hands-On 
After we discussed real life examples and made it concrete, it was time to put cause and effect into practice! I created a simple “Cause and Effect Scavenger Hunt” that took my kids around our classroom.  It didn’t take us long – about 10 minutes, and you could easily write out your own scavenger hunt on index cards.  I don’t have a pre-made scavenger hunt to share with you for a reason….the power in this activity was that it was personalized. Every student in my room was able to activate his or her schema on an equal playing field because they all know our classroom routines.  

Let’s take a “walk” through our cause and effect scavenger hunt!
I handed the first clue to one of my kiddos and she read it aloud. The kids had to turn and talk and decide what the cause was for this clue.  
 My kids replied to this clue with, “Brooke had to plug the iPad into the wall BECAUSE it was almost dead.”  Then, they checked that spot in the room to see if they were right.  If they were – they would find the next clue. 😉
 Here was the next clue:
 This response went something like this:  
“Amy’s name is beside Mrs. Wagers’ name for Daily 5. As a result, she will head to the back reading table for small groups.”
LOOK! Another clue! 
 Amy got to read the next clue to the class:
 We had a couple ideas of causes for this clue: “Avery asked a friend for help at the computers BECAUSE he forgot how to play his math game,” and, “Avery asked a friend for help at the computers BECAUSE his computer froze and he asked the Technology Coach.”
 Ding! Ding! Ding! They were right! Here’s the last clue: 

 It can sometimes by noisy in our hallway during our reading lessons as the older grades are going to lunch. When they read this clue, my students knew from their schema that I often ask one of them to please shut the door when it gets distracting. They turned and talked about the clue and came up with, “The class is at the carpet and it is loud in the hallway. Mrs. Wagers asks Brooklynn to help. As a result, she shuts the door.”

When she got to the door, she found the card that said: 
Congratulations! You completed the cause & effect scavenger hunt!
(Cue cheering and happy clapping in my classroom!)
We even repeated the scavenger hunt activity the following day with new clues!

 Apply It To Text:
After hearing, seeing, and doing various cause and effect activities, it was time to apply this reading strategy to text in our reading groups.  We used red and blue crayons to code the text with C for cause and E for effect.  

Learning needs to be fun and hands-on in order to be memorable for our students.  We want to give them learning activities that they can hold onto and participate in.  I hope you enjoyed learning about this lesson and were able to take away an idea or two for your own classroom. 
As always, thank you for letting me open my “Classroom Door” to you and thanks for stopping in to visit!

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  1. Okay that wasn't really ALL I wanted to say. You know I'm not a gal of few words. LOL! Christina, I love every single bit of this!! I totally agree- make it memorable! It's posts like this that remind me why I LOVE reading blogs. This post is downright inspiring. Makes me want to race back to school to do something memorable. 🙂 Thank you for such a wonderful post full of great ideas!

  2. I love all of these ideas. Thanks for the inspiration! I totally agree with your point that we need to find a way to make reading and comprehension strategies concrete for kids, but what a challenge that is! Thanks for some GREAT ideas on how to get started!
    First Grade Bangs

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