Esl Cause And Effect Essay

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Why am I failing? Why do I have to go to the Dean's office? How come I got suspended? How can I avoid getting slapped by the brunette in the third row? Why do we have to do this? Avoid these and other stupid questions by teaching students how to write a cause and effect essay.

  • Exploring cause and effect is critical to understanding literature and life. Knowing how to write a cause and effect essay is crucial for communicating ideas. A successful cause and effect essay does the following:

    1. clearly identifies the relationship between cause and effect.
    2. gives background information.
    3. organizes logically and includes transitions that clarify cause-and-effect relationships. Cause and effect essays can be organized as follows:
      • State a cause in the introduction with body paragraphs that discuss the effects. For a paragraph, state the cause in the topic sentence and write about its effects.
      • State an effect in the introduction with body paragraphs that discuss the causes. For a paragraph, state the effect in the topic sentence and write about its causes.
    4. uses appropriate language and supporting details suited to the intended audience.
    5. summarizes the cause and effect relationship in the conclusion.
  • Prewriting

    1. Before committing your thoughts to paper, analyze your assumptions about cause and effect. Are the events really linked by cause and effect or are you jumping to conclusions? Could there be multiple causes or multiple effects? Beware of the cause and effect fallacy -- the false assumption that one event caused another simply because it preceded it.
    2. The audience will determine what background information to include. For example, a cause and effect essay on World War II written for World War II veterans would require far less background information than the same essay written for 20-year old pacifists.
    3. Gather supporting information. Just because you think so, doesn't mean it is. Do the required fact checking. Some essays require actual research or interviews; others may just require personal observation, reflection, and common sense.
    4. Outline your ideas. The best way to organize cause and effect writing is a web diagram:
      • Draw a circle in the middle of your paper.
      • Write either the cause or the effect. Writing the exact thesis statement is best.
      • Draw lines from the center circle to at least three orbiting circles.
      • Write either the causes or the effects, depending on how the essay is organized.
  • Drafting and Revising

    A good outline and thorough research (if necessary) makes drafting the essay a breeze. Consider the following as you draft:

    1. Be sure to clearly state the cause and effect relationship that's being explored. This should be the thesis statement.
    2. Use facts, statistics, examples, quotations, logic, reasoning, analysis, and interpretation for support.
    3. When revising, answer the following questions:
      • How would you summarize the cause and effect relationship presented in the essay?
      • What evidence most strongly supports the thesis statement? What evidence is weakest?
      • Which parts could use clarification?
    4. Be sure to use cause and effect transitions: if...then, because, as a result, consequently, therefore, etc.


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.


  • 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.

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