Language Unit: Adverbial clauses of cause
(…because I was tired)
This unit was written for middle to upper elementary students, however, if you have older students who need to develop this structure, you can use similar steps and procedures with age-appropriate materials and activities.
As you develop this language component, use only language structures and concepts the students already know. They should be familiar with the “Why--?” question from exposure in social contexts. If necessary, review the structure of the Why--? question form by comparing it to familiar Wh-questions using do support (Where did___go? and What did___do? question forms).
The Why--? can be answered with clauses and phrases, that is, clauses starting with because…, infinitive phrases starting with to, and prepositional phrases starting with for.
This unit focuses on Why question forms that are answered with an adverbial clause starting with because.
Tell students what they will learn and why
- Show students a picture that will prompt a Why question, for example, a picture of a cat scurrying up a tree with a dog chasing it.
- Discuss the picture emphasizing:
- A dog is chasing a cat.
- The cat is climbing up the tree.
- Write both sentences and have the students read them.
- Ask: Why is the cat climbing the tree? Also, write the question. Read the question and then say: The cat is climbing the tree because the dog is chasing it. Write the response on the board and show how it is derived from the first sentence (A dog is chasing the cat). Explain why the pronoun it is used instead of repeating the cat.
- Tell the students that this sentence has two clauses: a main clause, The cat is climbing a tree and a dependent clause, because the dog is chasing it.
- Review what they know about clauses (a clause contains a subject and a verb). Identify the subject and verb of the main clause (The cat and is climbing) and the dependent clause (a dog and is chasing).
Repeat procedures two or three times using different pictures.
- Show the students another picture that prompts a Whyquestion.
- Discuss the picture with them. Present two or three sentences that describe the picture and have the students read them. For example:
- Maria bumped into Jesse. Jesse fell down.
- Ask: Why did Jesse fall down? Write the question on the board.
- Write their response on the board: Jess fell down because Maria bumped into him. Students read the sentence, identify the two clauses, and the subject and verb of each clause.
Repeat this activity two more times using different pictures. Select three more pictures. Go through the same steps as previously.
- Show the first picture (a little girl in bed with a thermometer in her mouth). Discuss the picture and show them the sentences describing it.
- The little girl is in bed. She is sick.
- Ask: Why is the little girl in bed? Show written form of question. Students write the answer on a piece of paper. Write the response on the board: The little girl is in bed because she is sick. Students check and correct their answers, if necessary.
- Explain that they don’t always need to answer with a complete sentence. They can answer: because she is sick. Repeat the same steps with the next two pictures. Select several pictures from their reading books or other books they have read.
- Ask them Why questions about the pictures without giving them the two base sentences first. For example: The picture shows a little boy crying and a dog eating the ice cream cone in his hand. Ask: Why is the little boy crying? The students should respond: because the dog is eating his ice cream cone.
- Divide students into groups of two or three. Give each group the same 3 pictures with the same Why question under each picture.
- Each group works cooperatively to decide on the correct answer and write it on a paper. When finished, the groups write their responses on the board, compare, and discuss them.
- Give each group 3 sets of 2 sentences with a Why question(no picture). For example:
- My dog has fleas. He scratches himself all the time.
- Question: Why does my dog scratch himself?
- When finished, each group writes the response on the board, compares, and discusses them making any necessary changes.
- Give each student a paper with 3 pairs of new sentences with a why question for each pair
- Each student reads the sentences and responds to each question.
- Lead a class discussion of the answers reinforcing conceptual accuracy and English structure.
- Explain again to the students why they need to learn and use this structure.
- Show them an example of a short story you have written and discuss the sentences containing a because clause.
- Discuss how these structures make your writing more fluent and interesting. Have the students write a short story and try to use two or three sentences that contain because clauses.
- During direct instruction in reading and content areas and all social contexts within the school environment, use this language structure frequently to reinforce the students’ understanding and use.
- At a later time present units on the Why questions that require a response starting with an infinitive, for example:
- Why did the chicken cross the road?
- To get to the other side.
- The next unit would focus on Why questions that require a response starting with the preposition for, for example:
- Why did you bake that cake?
- For my son’s birthday.
Use similar steps and procedures as described in this unit.