Introducing Transition Words

By , M.Ed. English Education
Introducing Transition Words

While transition words help with the logical flow of an essay, teachers may want to hold off introducing transition words to students until after they have completed a first draft of their papers. Often, students become bogged down in minor repairs to their papers before they have adequately developed their content. Transitions can help student improve the readability and logical flow of their writing but not until they have something in place to improve.

Transition Word Activity

Once students have a draft of their essays, introducing transition words through mini-lessons, small group work, or individual practice may help students understand the purpose of transition words.

For this activity, you will need:

  • A list of transition words for students to reference
  • A few paragraphs that have examples of transition words. The number of paragraphs needed will ultimately depend on how many time you want to complete the practice activity.

The paragraphs will need to be altered. One set will contain the original paragraphs; another set will contain the paragraph but with all of the transition words removed. A third set of papers will have blanks where the transition words should go.


Introducing the Activity: Prior Knowledge

In order for students to understand that transition words show relationships in their argument or logic, students need to see these words in action. A good way to begin any activity is to determine what the students already know about the topic. This can be done through a writing activity or through a whole class discussion.

Different ages of students will have different experiences with transition words. Some may have learned about them in the past or recognize them from previous readings. Once they access their previous memories, assuming they have any, then you can show them the definition of transition words and hand out the list of examples. Every student will need a list for reference during class and while they are trying to practice at home.


Activity Part I

Provide students with a paragraph that contains no transition words and have them read it silently. Then, either the teacher or a student should read it out loud. Discussion on this paragraph will include what the students think about the writing, whether it is clear, if they feel anything is missing, or other such follow up questions.

Opinions will certainly vary from some students recognizing that the transitions are missing to some students feeling that the paragraph is fine just as it is. Since transition words help a paragraph flow better and help the reader follow along, they are helpful words but not absolutely necessary. Hopefully after the next two activities, students will recognize that transition words make good writing better.


Activity Part II

Have students to complete the worksheet with the blanks where the transition words should be. Students can do this independently or in small groups of two or three. They should use the list of transition words provided earlier. Then, in a whole class discussion, note which transition words students chose for each blank. Point out which ones work and which ones might not work as well.

Since transition words are interchangeable, students will see that even though they have different answers, many different transition words will work in sentences and keep the same meaning.

Activity Part III

Students can read the original paragraph to see how their transition word selection matches up with the original author of the paragraph.

After this activity, students may be ready to try this same activity on one of their own paragraphs from their papers. Or, this activity can be repeated with additional prewritten paragraphs using the same method outlined above.

Once these activities have been completed, students can now attempt to add transition words to their own paragraphs. Students may benefit from working in small groups of two or three when adding transitions to their paragraphs. Some may try to add too many; others may be hesitant to add any. Other students can provide immediate feedback as to what transition words might work. Also, helping others allows them to see their own essays in a new light.