U.S. History Lesson Plan: Exploring Cause and Effect

Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this U.S. History lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students select two topics in U.S. history and use BrainPOP resources to explore the relationship between those topics. Students will work collaboratively to determine the cause and effect relationships and present their research to the class in a creative format of their choice.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore the cause and effect relationships between two events in United States history.
  2. Collaboratively present their research to the class in a creative format of their choice.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Teacher-generated project guidelines


This activity can be used at the end of a unit of study or at the end of a semester/school year to help students make connections between different aspects of history. Preview the U.S. History unit of BrainPOP, along with the U.S. Government and Law unit if appropriate. Select the topics that are relevant for your students and compile them in a list for students. You may want to only include topics students have previously studied, or use loosely related topics to extend their learning. Develop the project guidelines you'd like students to follow and make them available for the class.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Choose two topics that your students have studied and write them on the board for the class to see. For example, you might select the British Empire and the American Revolution, or Browns vs. BOE and 60s Folk Music, or Westward Expansion and Railroad History.
  2. As a warm-up activity, have students talk with a partner or write about the connection between the two topics. Show the related BrainPOP movies as needed.
  3. Facilitate a discussion based on the two topics. Can students identify any cause and effect relationships?
  4. Show students the list of United States history topics you generated prior to the start of the lesson. Challenge students to work individually or in pairs/groups to select two topics and explore the relationship between them. Students who work on grade level should be encouraged to choose topics that are loosely related but will require a bit of research to fully develop the connection. You can differentiate this project for higher-achieving students by challenging them to select three topics, and support lower-achieving students by assisting them in selecting two topics that are very closely related.
  5. Provide students with project guidelines and discuss them. Specify how you would like students to share their research: they may write a traditional essay, or create a video, podcast, blog post, mock interview, poster, slideshow, skit, etc.
  6. Approve student project topics and provide time at home or in class for students to work on their projects.
  7. Display students' projects on your class or school website, and/or create a display in your classroom. Encourage students to explore one another's projects and talk about the connections they made.

Filed as: 3-5, 6-8, 60s Folk, 9-12, Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, American Indians, American Revolution, Andrew Jackson, Articles of Confederation, Benjamin Franklin, Bill Clinton, Blended Learning, Blues, British Empire, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.6, Cause and Effect, Causes of the American Revolution, Civil Rights, Civil War, Civil War Causes, Cold War, César Chávez, Declaration of Independence, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, French and Indian War, George Washington, Gold Rush, Great Depression, Great Depression Causes, Harlem Renaissance, Helen Keller, Hip-Hop and Rap, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Industrial Revolution, Inuit, Iroquois Confederacy, Jackie Robinson, James Madison, Jazz, John Adams, John F. Kennedy, Korean War, Lesson Plan, Lewis and Clark, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mexican-American War, New Deal, Oprah Winfrey, Pocahontas, Political Party Origins, Railroad History, Research Projects, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Sally Ride, Scopes Monkey Trial, September 11th, Slavery, Social Studies, Student Projects, Tecumseh, Thanksgiving, Theodore Roosevelt, Thirteen Colonies, Thomas Jefferson, Trail of Tears, U.S. Constitution, U.S. Government and Law, U.S. History, Underground Railroad, Vietnam War, Westward Expansion, World War I, World War II, Wounded Knee Massacre