Understanding Cause and Effect
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Use their imaginations as they determine what time period they would like to visit.
- Listen to the short story A Sound of Thunder.
- Retell parts of the short story A Sound of Thunder.
- Respond to the short story A Sound of Thunder by writing cause/effect outcomes about the ecosystem.
- LCD Projector
- Computer Lab or Classroom computers
- Time Travel PowerPoint Presentation - Student Sample (PPT)
- The Butterfly Effect Printable (PDF)I use the short story A Sound of Thunder as a read aloud for this lesson. You may want to choose one from your library or substitute books about time travel like these: The Time Bike by Jane Langton or The Orphan of Ellis Island: A Time-Travel Adventure by Elvira Woodruff
- Overhead Projector
Set Up and Prepare
- 1. Prepare LCD and computer. Download Time Travel PowerPoint presentation.2. Schedule time in your computer lab, if needed.3. You may want to share the ecosystem and dinosaur content of this lesson with your students' science teachers for cross-curricular ideas.4. Make a transparency of The Butterfly Effect Printable.5. Copy The Butterfly Effect Printable for each student.6. Preview the Online Activity: Endangered Ecosystems and the Online Activity: Dinosaur Times These activities will be used in this lesson to build background about how people cause ecosystems to change and about the different dinosaur species discussed in the A Sound of Thunder.
Step 1: Building Background: Either in your school computer lab or in small groups at your classroom computers, have students take part in the Scholastic Online Activity: Endangered Ecosystems. In this activity, students will learn the important roles of large and small animals within an ecosystem and the threats to their survival. Instruct students to click on the "Listen" link and tell them that they'll be listening to a science teacher who will talk about how we impact our planet. After the audio, tell students to accept their mission and read about the EarthWatch Field Site - Costa Rican Caterpillars. They may also go on to read field reports if time allows.
Step 2: Introduce the concept of time travel using the Time Travel PowerPoint Presentation. Share with them that this is a student example. Mention that they will be responding to A Sound of Thunder, a short story about time travel, by creating a PowerPoint presentation about time travel in the days to come. At Slide 2, suggest questions the students can be thinking about as they view each slide:
- Where would you go?
- Which year or period of time would you travel to?
- Who would you want to meet or what event would you want to witness?
- Where would you find this person or see this event?
- Why would you want to meet this person or witness this event?
- How might you change history?
Step 3: Briefly introduce the short story A Sound of Thunder. Explain that in this story they will learn that traveling through time has its consequences. Remind them that the ecosystem is always the first to suffer when man plays with new technology. Review some of the important points learned in the online activity.
Step 4: Begin reading A Sound of Thunder to the students. Read only half the story. Because the story has some complex vocabulary and uses figurative language, stop every so often and model strategic reading strategies (self-monitoring, reread, predicting, etc.) when the story becomes difficult. Review new vocabulary as you read. Write these words on the board and discuss their meaning. Ask your students about their thoughts, feelings, and questions they may have up to this point in the story. Close the lesson with a discussion.
Step 5: Building Background: Either in your school computer lab or in small groups at your classroom computers, have students take part in the Scholastic Online Activity, Dinosaur Times. In this game, students time travel to the different prehistoric periods and discover that not all dinosaurs lived at the same time.
Step 6: Introduce the lesson by reviewing the new vocabulary words that were written on the board on the previous day. Ask a few volunteers to retell parts of the story they heard thus far in their own words. Finish reading the rest of the story.
Step 7: Ask the students: "What do you think the A Sound of Thunder was? What are your thoughts/feelings/questions about the story now?" Discuss student responses.
Step 8: Continue the discussion by introducing the notion of cause and effect, citing examples from the short story. Ask students to contribute instances of outcomes that resulted from the characters' actions in the short story.
Step 9: Distribute The Butterfly Effect printable and model how to complete the handout using a transparency. Discuss possible outcomes for each topic. Allow students time to complete.
Supporting All Learners
This lesson was created with at-risk students and Special Education students in mind. Modeling strategic reading behaviors while reading aloud benefits struggling readers. Using transparencies of any handouts for modeling purposes is also helpful.
For homework, students can define the new vocabulary words written on the chalkboard from the short story A Sound of Thunder. The Butterfly Effect printable can be taken home to complete, if necessary.
1. Participation in Online Activities
2. Complete The Butterfly Effect Printable
Were the students interested in the story? Did you model effective reading strategies for the students as you read the story aloud? Were there any strategies that needed more time? Are they motivated to write about their own time travel?
Teacher Observation: Did students transfer their learning from the online
activities to their understanding of the story? Did they understand
the consequences of time travel on the ecosystem?
Written Outcome: Evaluate The Butterfly Effect printable for students'
understanding of the outcomes of human impact on ecosystems.