Comprehension Strategies in Kindergarten — Cause and Effect and Inference

By Megan Power on May 1, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K

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.


Cause and Effect

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.


Acting Out the Cause and Guessing the Effect

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.


If You Give a Moose a Muffin Retelling Pieces

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?”


Cause and Effect Sentences, or Students Write an "If You Give" Story

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.


Using Cause and Effect in Life

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.


Drawing and Guessing Game

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).



Further Reading

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!


I love this plan. My kids are going to love writing the I give story. Thank you!

Thank you for sharing. We also do something similar in my Kindergarten class with these stories. My 2 year old at home also is a big fan of these books!
Mr. Flinn
Kindergarten teacher in Ohio

Thank you for sharing those activities. I have always wanted to teach this to my prekindergarten students, but I did not know how or wbat ideas and materials to use or the way to approach it.

I want to subscribe to the scholastic msgazines for my preschoolers and the children getting ready for kindergarten but I don't know what to do. My coworker uses these magazines for her class; I think they are great.

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