Life is all about cause and effect, but we don't always teach it explicitly in kindergarten classrooms. What caused me to work on this skill with my kindergartners was data from Northwest Education Association’s Primary Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment showing that many of my students were ready to work on more complex comprehension strategies. With Laura Numeroff and her circular stories, my class dove into cause and effect, and with our magnifying lenses, we discovered inference. Read on to see how these comprehension skills were introduced and practiced at the kindergarten level.
When teaching cause and effect, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate set of books than Laura Numeroff’s If You Give books. These are always a favorite with kids, and they gave my students a chance to really understand this skill.
Students love to act and do improv in my class, so this was a favorite. We started with simple acting: I would drop a pretend glass and students had to guess what would happen, the effect.
We each colored and cut out the retelling pieces from Homeschool Share and lined them up in order. Many students decided to put the story pieces in a circle. After retelling the story, I would give them cause and effect questions, such as: “He knocked the paint over was the effect. What caused him to do this?” or “Because he made sock puppets, what happened?”
My class had such a fun time writing and illustrating Laura Numeroff-type stories. We had stories like "If You Give a Whale a Waffle" and "If You Give a Turtle Toast." The stories are very funny, and they follow the cause and effect pattern of Laura Numeroff’s books. Because the students did all these activities and then had to write the book, they really developed a strong understanding of cause and effect.
Now that we are experts in cause and effect, the students are picking it out everywhere. We have talked about it on our class trip and even with regard to their behavior. Make sure you take the time to point out cause and effect in your everyday life so that students get more practice and see this as a useful skill.
Put on your detective hat and search for your magnifying lens: it is inference time! From my MAP data, I saw many areas where students had difficulty inferring. In our read-alouds and other activities, we infer as we discuss the books, but the skill was still consistently difficult for my students. What I realized was that young students need a ton of practice with inference and time to discuss the clues they hear and how they perceive them. I have really been enjoying becoming inference detectives with my students with some of these wonderful activities.
We played a fun game of charades to introduce inference using this Between the Lines activity from Have Fun Teaching. A student would act out a simple storyline and the emotion they felt. The other students would then guess the emotion and why they thought they felt that way. Examples included "confused" because "the child couldn’t find something" and "annoyed" because "you are trying to work and someone is making noises." After each scenario, we would discuss what clues helped us to guess or what clues the actor could have given to help us guess better.
Another activity that assisted my students in learning to infer was drawing a sketch as I read a very short story. We folded copy paper so there were several small boxes and sketched the scenarios into them. Then I asked students an inference question that required them to use the clues and their sketch to figure out the answer. I used some of the stories from the "Who Am I?" "When Am I?" "Where Am I?" worksheets from Have Fun Teaching (scroll down to find them).
Reading Passages That Build Comprehension: Inference is recommended for grades 2–3, but I found that if I read the stories to my students, it was appropriate for a kindergarten class discussion. From these short passages, we have had a lot of discussion, and I have been intrigued by how my students think and perceive situations. I am so glad that we started to investigate inference further. I feel as though I have really helped students to read between the lines in text.
I’d love to hear about any strategies or resources you use for teaching comprehension, especially cause and effect and inference. Please comment below!