Cause And Effect Esl Essays

Writing skills: Cause and effect

By Lexy Holt

Level: Intermediate, Upper intermediate Type: Teaching notes

To bring attention to the need for lexical variation in a good essay and to increase range of cause and effect phrases and topic related vocabulary.

Aims

  • To bring attention to the need for lexical variation in a good essay.
  • To increase range of cause and effect phrases and topic related vocabulary.
  • To provide a lexical resource for future essay writing.

Target language

Cause and effect
so/ As a result/ are due to/The consequence of/ Owing to/one effect of/ This is because/ as/ Hence/ consequently/ The effect of/ consequent (levels)/ therefore/ (creates)/ As a result/ For this reason/ Thus/ as a consequence

Lexical variation
Population/( uninhabitable)/ overcrowding/ teeming with people/ inhabitants/ too dense a population/ over peopled/ crowded with people/ crawling with cars/ overpopulation/ epidemic of people/ most populous nation/ overcrowded

Time: 1 hour plus writing task for homework

Materials (see attached)

  1. Cards  (cut up one card for each student)
  2. Prediction task  (one copy on an OHP or one copy between two)
  3. Reorder following sentences (one copy each)
  4. Analysis worksheet (one copy each)
  5. Vocabulary extension worksheet (one copy each)
  6. Homework sheet (one copy each)
  7. Model essay – Answer Key (one copy each)

Lesson steps

  1. As a warm-up exercise, give one card, from ‘Cards’, to each student.  (Make sure you are using matching cause and effects).  Tell students to mill until they have found their partner. (5 minutes)
  2. Tell the new pairs to then sit down and connect their sentences by introducing a phrase which expresses the relationship of cause and effect. (5 minutes)
  3. Pairs read out their sentences and the teacher marks up cause and effect phrases on the board as they come up. (5 minutes)
  4. Tell the class they are now going to read some sentences which use (hopefully) some different cause and effect phrases.  They are taken from an essay entitled ‘Describe some of the problems caused by overcrowding in modern cities’ and write this title on the board.  (2 minutes) 
  5. Put  ‘Prediction task‘ on the OHP (alternatively give out one copy between two) and cover over all but the top unfinished sentence.  Students guess the ending, shout out their answers and the nearest answer gets a point/ sweet/ counter etc. (15 minutes)
  6. Explain again that the prediction task comes from the essay on the board and give out ‘Reorder the following sentences‘ and the ‘Analysis worksheet‘ to complete individually.  Explain that in writing such an essay you need to list a lot of problems of a single cause (overcrowding) so a lot of cause and effect phrases are needed.  Also you would need a lot of words which function as an alternative to the topic word, in this case, ‘overcrowding’. (15 minutes)
  7. Be available to help as the students work through the worksheet.  Give out ‘Model essay – Answer Key ‘ and allow students to check through it quickly before looking at it as a class (see teachers’ notes.)  (10)
  8. Give out  ‘Vocabulary extension worksheet ‘ explaining that the words on the sheet come from other common essay themes, one of which they will write an essay on for homework.  You could work through this as a class, answering questions about the slight differences in meaning, in order to keep the pace up and finish on a chatty note. (5)
  9. Give out ‘Homework sheet ‘ for homework.

Teacher's notes (numbers correspond to lesson steps above)

  1. If your class doesn’t like moving around, give each pair a complete set of jumbled cards to match up.  However, still limit one sentence to each pair for connecting them with a phrase.
  2. Some students’ written work lacks coherence because of a paucity of cause and effect in their ideas.  This step will help focus these students on the need to use clear connections in their written work.
  3. The idea here is that if you make the introduction of these phrases fun, students will have a better chance of remembering them (step six gives further comprehension and analytical focus on the target phrases) .
  4.  And 8) are simply to prepare for written homework so keep the pace relaxed and chatty and reiterate that the point of their homework is to produce a piece of writing that has a good range of topic vocabulary and cause and effect phrases.

These materials are prepared by Lexy Holt a former winner of the Lesson share competition.

To write a cause and effect essay, you’ll need to determine a scenario in which one action or event caused certain effects to occur.  Then, explain what took place and why! This essay allows us to identify patterns and explain why things turned out the way that they did.

How do I choose a topic and get started?  Try choosing a major event, either in your own life or an event of historical significance.  For example, The Great Depression.

Cause of The Great Depression: stock market crash

How would we elaborate?  We'd discuss the behaviors, carelessness, errors, and even cultural attitudes that led to the crash—explaining why it was devastating.

Effects of the Great Depression: joblessness & poverty

What should we say about the effects?

  • Businesses went under—explain HOW the crash caused this
  • Describe poverty in detail—explain how this could’ve been handled more efficiently or even avoided

Narrowing a Large Topic

In a short essay, it might be difficult to tackle the cause and all of the many effects of a big event like the Great Depression. To narrow a cause and effect topic down to a manageable size, ask yourself… 

  1. What's the main (most important) cause?  Most people attribute it to the stock market crash, so that's a good place to start.   
  2. Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.  (example below)
  3. Which category interests me the most? "Practical effects" is the most interesting. I'll narrow the topic of my paper down so that my essay will now be about how the stock market crash affected the practical ways that people lived their lives during the Great Depression.    

Can that category be broken down even further to make the topic more manageable?  I'm actually interested in the ways that the Great Depression affected the farming industry.  I want to talk about the new skills and methods that farmers were forced to learn and implement, as a result of their difficult situation.

Narrowing a Large Topic - Example

Can I break the different types of effects down into categories?  Yes!  I'll break my ideas down into categories like:  economic, social, employment, practical, and morale effects.

Economic

Social

Employment

Practical

Morale

money loses value

poverty increases

jobs eliminated

public resourcefulness increases

low self-esteem

companies lose value

homelessness increases

employers pay lower wages

farming techniques change

men emasculated by job loss

banks lose the public's trust

orphanages fill up

forced to work longer hours

public wastes less, finds creative ways to save

patriotism declines

Example Paper

Student Sample: The Desired Look: Nothing But Bones

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