Fishbone is a tool used to explore cause and effect relationships. Students brainstorm the main causes of an event or outcome. Students then explore the effect of each outcome. Fishbone offers insight into complex problems.

When to use

this strategy:

When trying to understand why something did or did not create the desired results.

When exploring cause and effect relationships.

To discuss classroom issues.



Use Fishbone to explore conflict and resolution in a story.

Use Fishbone to decide what is taking so long to complete the morning routine.

Use Fishbone to understand what causes thunderstorms.

Use Fishbone to explore causes of the Civil War.


What does

it look like?

Click here to see a template for Fishbone.

How to use

this strategy:

First, identify the problems students are facing or learning. Write the issue on the tail of the Fishbone. Second, identify the desired goal. (What do we hope to see; what is our goal?) Write this on the head of the Fishbone. Next, identify several causes of the problem that gets in the way of the desired outcome. Write each cause on a bone of the fish. Then, identify factors that contribute to each bone. As a class, discuss how to eliminate causes to reach desired results.