Appropriate Group Size
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.
Watch: Writing the step-by-step
In this clip, students describe the steps needed to get ready for a snowy day, and use the transition words first, next, then, and finally. (From the Balanced Literacy Diet: Putting Research into Practice in the Classroom)
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 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:
- 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 from two third-grade writers as they worked to use transition words to improve the flow of their writing.
For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners
- Use a storyboard template 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.