ESL Cause & Effect: Games & Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Learning about cause and effect can be particularly challenging in English. This lesson provides teachers with cause and effect activities for use in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom.

The Language of Cause and Effect

When English as a Second Language (ESL) students begin to form more complex sentences, it's important for them to understand the relationships between phrases. Cause and effect phrases are essential because they allow the speaker to state reasons clearly and accurately.

Before you use the activities in this lesson, review the following cause and effect vocabulary with your students. While this list is not exhaustive, it's a good starting point for most ESL learners.

  • So
  • Since
  • As a result
  • Due to
  • Owing to
  • Because
  • Consequently
  • As a consequence
  • The effect of
  • Therefore

Now let's look at some activities that you can use to help your ESL students learn correct usage of cause and effect vocabulary.

What's the Effect/Cause?

For this activity, you will provide students with an effect and they must provide the cause or vice versa.

To begin, write the following phrases on the board.

Effect

  • Because Sally was late for class, _____.
  • As a result of the low exam grades, _____.
  • Mary was unable to play in the soccer game, therefore, _____.
  • Due to the expensive meal, _____.
  • Since no one volunteered, _____.

Cause

  • The baby was crying because _____.
  • The car rolled off the road owing to _____.
  • School was closed due to _____.
  • Water was everywhere as a result of _____.
  • High prices were a direct effect of _____.

Next, give students a few minutes to write down their answers and then ask for volunteers to share their ideas with the class. Finally, discuss any differences between student choices, and how those differences change the meaning of the sentences.

Fill-in-the-Blank with Cause/Effect Words

This activity involves peers in working together using cause and effect vocabulary.

  1. Ask students to write a short paragraph in which every sentence has a cause and an effect.
  2. When the paragraphs are complete, have students cross out or erase any words or phrases that indicate a cause and effect relationship.
  3. Collect the paragraphs and then distribute them randomly around the class so that each student now has a classmate's paragraph.
  4. Give the students a few minutes to insert new cause and effect words or phrases in place of the one's that were removed by the author.
  5. Return the paragraphs to the original authors.
  6. Ask for volunteers to identify any errors made in the editing process. You should also discuss if the author feels that the alterations changed the meaning of their sentences.
  7. If your students are confused or feel that the task is too difficult, show them the following paragraph as an example.

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