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Transition Words

Teaching students to use transition words helps them improve their writing. Transition words help stories flow more smoothly, by providing logical organization and improving the connections between thoughts.

Why teach transition words?

  • They provide coherence to a story
  • They can help writers bridge the gap between ideas
  • They provide a signal to the reader or listener about what is coming next in the writing.
When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Examples:

Some teachers find it useful to teach transition words by purpose: words used to help sequence ideas or transition between sentences or paragraphs, words that can be used to show time, those that help writers wrap up or summarize a story, and others. Include our handy transition word guide (1.2MB PDF)* in your students' writing folders so they have a reference right there as they write their drafts.

A helpful way to begin teaching students about transition words:

  1. Call attention to ways transition words are used within your classroom read aloud or the book being used for reading groups.
  2. Find a particular paragraph that sequences something, an opening that catches everyone's attention, or words that mark the ending of a chapter or idea.
  3. Use these models as a way to discuss students' own writing.
  4. Encourage students to review something they've written and look for evidence of transition words.
  5. Ask students to find places within their own writing where transition words will clarify what they're trying to say or help the piece by moving the action along.
  6. Using editing marks, have students revise their writing using just the right transition words.

This Teacher's Guide from The Writing Fix provides teacher instructions and lesson resources using a mentor text, Centerburg Tales, by Robert McCloskey. The guide includes writing samples (24K PDF)* from two third-grade writers as they worked to use transition words to improve the flow of their writing.

Another mentor text suggestion from The Writing Fix uses the text Miss Alaineus and involves students writing a script for an imaginative Vocabulary Fashion Show.

Differentiated instruction

for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners


  • Use a storyboard template (1MB PDF)* to help students get started with their writing. Encourage them to write a meaningful transition word in each box. As they transition from the storyboard to a written draft, the transition words can be included.
  • Discuss story events with students orally. As you summarize the book, use and emphasize specific transition words, "First the kids went in the snow. Then they built a snowman. Finally they came inside for hot chocolate."
  • Challenge students by giving them a short list of transition words. See if they can use all the words in one story that makes sense. Discuss whether there is such a thing as "too many" transition words in one piece!

See the research that supports this strategy

De la Paz, S. (2001). Teaching Writing to Students with Attention Deficit Disorders and Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Educational Research, 95, 37-47.

MacArthur, C. A. (2010). Instruction in a Strategy for Compare-Contrast Writing. Exceptional Children.

MacArrhur, C. A. (2007). Best practices in teaching evaluation and revision. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthur, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction (141-162). New York, NY: Guilford.

Children's books to use with this strategy

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street 

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street 

Marco lets his imagination fly in order to tell his father what he sees going to and from school. This early Seuss book is ideal for retelling using interesting transition words or to identify those that have been used in this classic.

Garden of Abdul Gasazi

Garden of Abdul Gasazi

Alan chases the dog he is caring for into a mysterious garden in this intricately illustrated, perhaps magical tale. Van Allsburg's rich language is matched by monochromatic illustrations through which readers or listeners could take a picture walk.

How Oliver Olsen Changed the World

How Oliver Olsen Changed the World

Oliver Olsen learns how to change his own world as the engaging third grader works on a school science project. The telling (third person) is natural and the situations plausible. The story can be retold using transition words to emphasize or identify individuals' favorite (or most memorable) parts.

Melonhead & the Undercover Operation

Melonhead & the Undercover Operation

Melonhead and his friend Sam go undercover thinking that they have identified a notorious fugitive sought by the FBI in this contemporary and funny adventure.

Comments

This is a great resource! Would you be able to publish a similar one in Spanish?

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