Analyze Cause and Effect

Analyzing for cause and effect requires students to go beyond simply summarizing information. Background information is an essential first step, but students must also make connections between and among events, actions or items of information.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “cause and effect.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

Current Curriculum

explain impact of _____ on ______

describe influence of _____ on ______

modify/adapt ____ for the purpose of ______

analyze changes as a result of ______

determine effect of ____ on _______

 

New Curriculum

The following list is a sampling of outcomes from the new curriculum that require students to engage in analysis.

Social Studies 2
Students describe how fairness can affect interactions with one another.

English Language Arts 4  
Students explain how language has the power to influence themselves and one another.

Science 4  
Students explore and analyze how plants and animals have adapted to environmental change over time.

Art 4  
Students analyze and apply artistic choice for the expression and communication of ideas and experiences. 

Math 2  
Students design and test a simple process that achieves a desired outcome.

Wellness 4  
Students describe the cause-and-effect relationship between engagement in physical activity and motivation.

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of analyzing cause and effect. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

Teaching the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect 'through the Lens of Assessment'

The skill of analyzing cause and effect recurs throughout the grades and subject areas. As such, it is worth spending time to help students develop this skill.  

We can’t always assume that students understand what ‘analyzing cause and effect’ means. Support and feedback are integral to helping students develop this skill over time. Eventually, students will be able to internalize this skill so it becomes part of their repertoire of critical thinking skills.  

While the following instructional strategies have been described within the context of a Grade 5 English Language Arts outcome, they can be easily adapted to other grade and subject areas.

Keep the Task on Track

When designing instruction and assessment, it is important to be clear about what the outcome is asking. Many engaging ideas for student tasks are available on the web; however, teachers need to ensure that the tasks involve students in the skills the outcomes require, and not just the topic of study. 

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Keep the Task on Track

Keep the Task on Track

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Let’s Talk about It

Revisit the outcomes in your grade or subject for an upcoming unit. Where do you find examples of analyzing cause and effect? How well does the student task or product you have planned allow the students to demonstrate their skill with analyzing cause and effect? Make a note of things that you think might require adjustment.

Plan Effective Questions and Support with Graphic Organizers

Take time to plan clarifying questions to help guide students to be successful in meeting the learning goal.
 
Graphic organizers can help students focus on the background information that is required in order for them to engage in the analysis. 

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Providing Support

Providing Support

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Let’s Talk about It

What clarifying questions could you pose to help students focus their responses on analysis rather than simply retelling information? 
How might you modify or develop a graphic organizer to assist students with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Rethink the Student Product

The focus now shifts from a specific product to the process of thinking. 
 

Let’s Talk about It

How might you modify or develop a task that would allow students to demonstrate their ability with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Assessing the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect

When a careful examination of the outcomes has guided instructional planning, the links between instruction and formative assessment can be seamless. It follows that assessment tools, both formative and summative, also must be focused on the desired end goal. 

The following examples of assessing the skill of analyzing cause and effect can be easily adapted to other grades and subjects.

Focus First on Feedback

While students are learning a skill, it is essential that they have feedback on their work while there is still time for them to make improvements. These two sample feedback tools provide a structure for students to engage in conversation and provide feedback to their peers about the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

These tools can be adapted for other grades or subjects. 
 

Grade 7: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Histrical Context 
Plains of Abraham Revisited 

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Grade 9: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Historical Context
Papaschase Land Claim

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Let’s Talk about It

Work with grade level colleagues to identify what the skill of cause and effect ‘looks like’ within your grade/subject area. What questions or prompts could you include in a formative feedback tool for an upcoming task to support students in analyzing cause and effect? 

Build a Better Rubric

Rubrics are not just a scoring tool for teachers. A well designed rubric can help students understand what the learning destination ‘looks like’ and guide students to improve their work in progress. 
 
The sample rubric excerpt for analyzing cause and effect is based on  Grade 4 Science outcomes. However, the discussion can be useful for teachers working at all grades and subjects.

Build a Better Rubric for Analyzing Cause and Effect

Click on image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Work with a rubric you have used previously, or one that you find through an online search. Adapt the rubric as necessary for an upcoming assignment where students are analyzing cause and effect. How might exemplars work alongside the rubric to help students understand how to improve their work in progress?  

Analyzing Cause and Effect in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of analyzing cause and effect? Contact us if you are interested in submitting exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

State and Support Position

Stating and supporting a position requires students to take a position on a topic or issue, and then to support that position based on knowledge gained through study and/or research. The issue or topic should be one of substance where diverse perspectives have merit.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “state and support position.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal this skill.

develop and support a position
draw and support conclusions
critically evaluate diverse perspectives
form and support an opinion
to what extent…
state a prediction and hypothesis based on background information
critique
select and defend
 

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of stating and supporting a position. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

 

Teaching Students to State and Support a Position 'through the Lens of Assessment'

Stating and supporting a position is a complex skill in which the evidence of learning is more about the quality of the support that students provide for their position than on the specific product students use to communicate their message. 

Teaching this skill ‘through the lens of assessment’ helps students focus on the underlying thinking skills that prepare them to successfully demonstrate this skill. 

Be Curious

Why do some students seem to state and support a position with relative ease, while other students struggle? 

Some students only summarize the topic. Others might list the pros and cons for two different options – essentially comparing and contrasting the options. In both of these cases, students are failing to state a position. 

Perhaps they are afraid to be wrong, and attempt to ‘cover their bases’ with detailed information. What support do these students need to take risks with their learning?

Other students might provide weak support for their argument, and need assistance to strengthen their position. They may need support with accessing additional information, organizing information or understanding perspectives.

Being curious about why students struggle, and seeking to ‘fill in the gaps’ while there is still time to improve, helps to put success within reach for all students. 

Be curious. Listen to what students are saying (or what they’re not saying) to help determine what support they might need for this complex skill.

Let’s Talk about It

Think about a student who seems to struggle with stating and supporting a position. What specific instructional support might this student need? Consider where this additional support might be inserted into the instructional sequence.

Model the Skill

Provide students with a template that outlines the required components for stating and supporting a position. The following template is based on a current Alberta Grade 6 Social Studies outcome.

Athenian democracy (was/was not) fair and equitable because                 .

The following response could be generated through a class discussion. 

Athenian democracy was not fair and equitable because you must be a citizen to participate. There were strict rules about who could be citizen, so not very many people were able to participate in the democratic process.

To help the students understand that both positions are plausible, a similar response could also be generated for the opposite point of view. 

Emphasize, however, that the goal is not to support both positions, but to select a position and to provide convincing support for the selected position.

Brainstorm with students a list of qualities for strong supporting evidence. The sample feedback tool (in the adjacent column) provides an example of these qualities with the social studies context described above. The tool can be modified for other subjects and grade levels. 

Grade 6 Social Studies: 
Peer Coaching Tool: Develop and Support Position 
Democracy or Not… You Be The Judge 

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It

Where in an upcoming assignment could you model the skill of stating and supporting an opinion? What are the qualities of strong supporting evidence within your grade/subject area? Plan to work with students to help them understand and demonstrate these qualities in their work. 

Assessing the Skill of Stating and Supporting a Position

Effective instruction and formative assessment experiences help prepare students to be successful with summative assessment.

They’ll Know It When They See It

Exemplars can be a powerful way to help students internalize the quality of work required. Exemplars can be gathered from student work from prior years and/or samples of current student work in progress. 

Working with peers provides an additional safety net while students are learning about the skill.

Let’s Talk about It

What support will students need to make the transfer from recognizing various levels of quality in a collection of exemplars to accurately reflecting on their work in progress and making the necessary adjustments to improve their work? 

Think Beyond the Essay

It’s true that some provincial exams require a written response, and it’s important to help students be as successful as they can with that format. However, time spent helping students internalize the skill of stating and supporting a position may be more beneficial than focusing on details of a formal written response, especially for students who struggle with written expression. 

The quality of students’ thinking can be evident, even with less than perfect written expression. Provincial rubrics reflect this, emphasizing the quality of the ideas and organization over the mechanics of communication. 

That’s not to say the we should abandon efforts to support students to improve written expression. However, a balanced approach to classroom assessment can keep the focus on developing the skill rather than on the exam. 

Learner outcomes specify what the student need to demonstrate. Unless the outcome specifically requires students to respond in writing, it may be appropriate for students to respond in a different format.

Let’s Talk about It

Think of a student who struggles with written expression. How might the option for an alternate summative assessment format support this student to focus on the skill of stating and supporting a position?  

Build a Better Rubric

It’s important that the rubric helps students understand the learning destination and what quality work looks like.

Compare the non-example rubric with the preferred rubric to see how a rubric can be designed to help students understand and work towards the big idea of stating and supporting a position.

 

Build a Better Rubric for Stating and Supporting a Position 

Click on the image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Examine a rubric from a past or upcoming assignment where students are required to state and support a position. Consider what modifications might be required to ensure the rubric supports students as they work to demonstrate the required skill. 

State and Support a Position in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of stating and supporting a position? Contact us if you are interested in submitting
exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

Summarize

The big idea of summarizing requires students to capture the essence of a text, experience or event and relate it in a condensed format. Summarizing is a skill that students require in any subject area where they work with information.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “summarize.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal the skill of summarizing.
retell
describe
explain
paraphrase
identify beginning, middle and end
record or represent key facts and ideas in own words
 

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Managing Information and Communication are integral to the skill of summarizing. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

Teaching the Skill of Summarizing 'through the Lens of Assessment'

It can be challenging to condense a large amount of text into a summary. An effective summary needs to follow the Goldilocks principle – not too detailed, not too vague, but just right. 

Many students will likely need help in knowing how to determine what the main ideas are and how to build in effective transitions between their key points. Thinking about the end goal while planning instructional activities can assist in reaching those students who need some extra support to be successful.

Clarify the Learning Destination

Provide a sample of two different summaries based on a familiar story. One summary should be too succinct, missing the big ideas and leaving the audience wondering what the story was about. Another summary should be far too long and include too much extraneous detail.

Ask students to compare the two summaries. Work with students to generate a list of qualities of an effective summary.

This activity could be adapted to the content areas where students may need to describe a procedure or provide the historical context of an event.

Let’s Talk about It 

How would you describe the qualities of an effective summary within the subject and grade you are teaching? Having these ideas in mind will assist you in leading a conversation with your students.

Be sure that the list you generate with your students is in keeping with what the outcome is asking, and doesn’t include extraneous factors.

Provide a Graphic Organizer

The specific design of a graphic organizer will depend on several factors, including the grade, subject area and students’ experience with summarizing.

Not all students will require a graphic organizer. On the other hand, providing a graphic organizer as an instructional strategy should not automatically lead to the resulting summative product being assessed as of lesser quality than work produced without an organizer. 

The graphic organizer samples show how an organizer can be modified to focus on the specific need a student has.

Graphic Organizer Samples for Summarizing

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Let’s Talk about It 

Think of a student who struggles with summarizing. Where could a graphic organizer be used to support this student with an upcoming assignment?

Model a Feedback Process

Select a sample of a student work from a previous year, a sample willingly provided by a current student, or a sample of your own writing to replicate a summary that is at a ‘not yet’ level of quality.

Even when feedback is being provided to one student, other students may be able to use that feedback to recognize gaps in their own work and independently make adjustments.

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Modelling Feedback

Modelling Feedback

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Let’s Talk about It 

Where could you model a feedback process for a summary in an upcoming lesson?

Assessing the Skill of Summarizing

Assessment includes both formative and summative experiences. Formative assessment is closely linked with instruction. Formative assessment helps prepare students to be successful with summative assessment. 

Look through a New Lens

It’s often difficult to see the gaps in our own writing because we know what we intended to include. A peer can provide helpful feedback, even if they are not familiar with the context.

The perspective of a peer can be invaluable in helping students discover gaps in a summary. 

Let’s Talk about It 

Where could peer feedback be used in an upcoming assignment to help students improve the quality of their summaries?

Formative Feedback Tools

The following feedback tools have been developed as part of AAC performance assessment tasks, and can be easily adapted to any grade or subject.

Rather than asking students to determine a level of performance, the first  feedback tool describes the goal of an effective summary.  It is designed to help students work with peers to identify any gaps in the student’s work.

The second feedback tool provides a place for a reviewer (classmate, older student, parent, teacher) to ask questions about the content the student has provided in a storyboard for a comic strip. Questions from the reviewer can help the student recognize gaps in their work at a time when the student can use the feedback to improve their work.

Grade 6 Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Describe Structure and Function:
Describe Roles and Responsibilities

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Storyboard Planner and Feedback Tool

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Let’s Talk about It 

Where could you insert time for feedback as you plan for an upcoming student assignment? Be sure to provide time for students to act on the feedback they have received.

Offer Choice – Even in Summative Assessment!

Unless the learner outcome specifically requires students to provide a summary in writing, teachers should be prepared to find other ways for students to demonstrate their understanding. 

 

Let’s Talk about It 

Think about a student who struggles to summarize information in writing. How might a choice of format assist this student to demonstrate their understanding? How can teachers ensure that performance standards remain consistent when differentiating the format?

Build a Better Rubric

It’s important that students understand that an effective summary is not about how long the summary is but rather about how well the summary has captured the key ideas. 

Compare the non-example rubric with the preferred rubric to see how a rubric can be designed to assess a summary.

 

Build a Better Rubric for Summarizing

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It 

How might exemplars help teachers, students and parents understand the levels of quality described in the rubric?

Summarizing in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of summarizing? Contact us if you are interested in submitting exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

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