Interpreting Information in an Explanation: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

When you're reading informational texts, you sometimes have to look for the relationships among the information that is given. Read on to learn how to interpret information with causal relationships in a text.

What Is an Explanation?

An explanation tells you how something works, or why something occurs. For example, you might read an explanation that tells you how batteries produce electricity or a book about why people in the 1700s tended to live near rivers. These are explanations.

A cumulonimbus cloud

In this passage from Hurricanes! by Gail Gibbons, she explains how cumulonimbus clouds are formed:

'Warm water evaporates and rises into the atmosphere. The warm moist air spins upward, creating a draft that sucks up more moisture. If the water temperature is more than 81 degrees, the cycle continues. Winds get stronger. As the moist air rises, cumulonimbus clouds are formed.'

Notice that the passage tells you why something occurs, which makes it an explanation.

Causal Relationships

Many times, explanations will include causal relationships. Consider the word causal. It sounds like cause, doesn't it? A causal relationship tells you what caused something else to happen.

Think about playing football. When you kick the ball, it goes into the goal. What happened that made the ball to go into the goal? The kick. That is a causal relationship. Without the kick, the ball wouldn't have gone anywhere. The kick is the cause of the goal because it made the goal happen.

Reread the passage from the first section about how cumulonimbus clouds are formed. Ask yourself, what caused the clouds to be formed? The passage explains the relationship between the warm water evaporating and rising and the formation of the clouds.

Interpreting Causal Relationships

When you're reading an explanation, the first thing to think about is what is being explained. What is the passage telling you about? Read this passage and identify what is being explained:

'Skateboarding was originally part of surfing culture. In time, though, it spread away from the coasts, to places where no one surfed. When it did this, it evolved a culture of its own.'

What is being explained? The passage is telling you why skateboarding evolved a culture of its own.


Now ask yourself, 'What caused that to happen?' Go back to the passage and read it again. What caused, or made, skateboarding evolve a culture of its own? The passage tells you, 'it spread away from the coast to places where no one surfed.' Because no one surfed in those places, the new culture evolved. One event caused the other to happen.

Watch Out!

When you're reading informational texts, think carefully about the relationships between the events. Sometimes two things might happen at the same time, but one didn't cause the other one to happen.

Read this passage from Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History:

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