Teaching students to use transition words helps them improve their writing. Transition words help stories flow more smoothly. They provide logical organization and improve 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.
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
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. Use our handy transition word guide (1.2MB PDF)* in your students' writing folders so they have a reference right there are they write their drafts.
- Call attention to ways transition words are used within your classroom read aloud or the book being used for reading groups.
- 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.
- Use these models as a way to discuss students' own writing.
- Encourage students to review something they've written and look for evidence of transition words.
- 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.
- 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.
Children's books to use with this strategy
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
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.
Herbert: The True Story of A Brave Sea Dog
Based on a true story, a dog washed overboard is ultimately (and quite happily) reunited with his young master. Lucid language and evocative illustrations relate the satisfying story which reads aloud well and includes a map and additional information about the human and canine inspiration for the book.
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.
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.