Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To promote an interest in science
  • To encourage students to use their critical thinking skills
  • To encourage students to use graphic organizers

  • Use of science and social studies content material to promote reading comprehension
  • Development of higher-order thinking skills
  • Integration of skills
Integration of Content/Subject Areas

  • Integration of Content/Subject Areas
  • Science
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Have a dialogue with students focusing on the terms cause and effect. Give some everyday examples of cause and effect to ensure that students have a good understanding of the terms. The teacher can introduce a couple of cause and effect examples to which every student can relate:

Cause: Did not complete homework assignment.

Effect: Reprimand by teacher/parent.

Cause: Severe thunderstorms start in the morning and continue all day.

Effect: The all-day trip to the zoo and museum is canceled, along with the picnic in the park.

Discuss the two examples and have the students conclude that the cause of an event is responsible for resulting actions and that the effect is the result. In other words, the cause is the reason, the effect is the result or what happens. Use the two previous examples for further explanation.

After students have a good understanding of cause and effect, have them think of some examples that happen to them in their daily lives and use the terms cause and effect. Therefore, a student may say: "The cause was I did not wash the dishes when it was my night to do them. The effect was that I had to wash them for the entire week."

Next, explain to students that events have causes and resulting effects in social studies, in stories they read every day, and in science. Tell them that today they will be social scientists and investigate or do research to help them determine the cause and effect of various events.

Assign the following events. Tell the students that they have a choice of working on the assigned topics or can select topics that they are interested in investigating. They can work as individuals, in pairs, or as a team.

Provide them with the cause and effect chart to use as they work on their topics. Point out that if they select a science topic, it could be the beginning of their project for the school's science fair.

Suggested Topics

  • How fossils are formed
  • The disappearance of dinosaurs
  • The formation of clouds
  • What causes a volcano to erupt
  • Importance of the heart
  • The pollution problem
  • Why there is homelessness in our land of plenty
  • How a liquid becomes a solid
  • What causes people to dislike people who are different
After students complete their selected topics, they are to share their investigations with the class, using the cause-effect chart in their presentations.

Summary Pattern

Because of __________, __________. __________ caused __________.

Therefore __________. Finally, due to __________, __________.

This explains why __________.


  • How did students exhibit their understanding of the concept of cause and effect?

  • How did the number of students who selected topics of their own correlate with those who usually exhibit self-confidence and independence?

  • Was an interest generated in the content areas of science and social studies as a result of this activity? How was this demonstrated?

  • Did all students have a solid understanding of cause and effect? How was this understanding and knowledge demonstrated?


Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.