How to Teach Transition Words

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How to teach transition words

Ever feel like your students’ body paragraphs are choppy and unclear? Transition words within a paragraph have the power to create clarity and fluidity in writing, but many students struggle to use them.

This leaves many teachers wondering, “How do I teach transition words? How do I help my students use them correctly?” Here are our best tips for helping your students master clear, organized body paragraphs.

Why should you teach transition words?

Transition words are important in writing because they link ideas together. Often with writing, we talk about fluency and clarity. Transition words help bring fluency by organizing ideas within a paragraph, and they bring clarity because readers can easily follow the narrative. Transition words can also act as signals. They let a reader know that a new idea is coming.

By teaching transition words to our students, we can help them make their writing clearer and easier for readers to understand. 

How do you teach transition words?

Transition words can be surprisingly tricky for students to understand. We often see several common struggles when it comes to using transition words.

First, students can overuse transition words. When you first teach them, it can seem like every sentence now contains a transition word. You can avoid this by making sure students are clear on when transitions should be used with lots of practice editing and applying them to their own writing.

Second, students often don’t know the meaning of transition words or when to use them. While many transition words like “therefore” or “meanwhile” can be found in several texts, students don’t necessarily absorb their meaning or even notice them when reading. You can combat this by using texts you’ve read as mentor texts for analyzing the meaning and usage of transition words.

But exactly how do you teach transition words? Our favorite way is through these Differentiated Transition Word Lessons. This resource includes differentiated non-fiction texts, anchor charts, reference sheets, teaching posters, review activities, and a complete answer key!

Transition words anchor charts and activity

In this resource, we help students make sense of transition words by teaching four different types of transition words. Here are some different types:

Type One: Time

Time transition words help sequence events or ideas in order. These words help the reader know that information must go in a certain order. 

If you teach beginning, middle, end for sequencing events, then you can connect transition words to the sequence. Here are some example transition words students can use within a paragraph:

Beginning: first, initially, before, in the beginning

Middle: next, then, suddenly, meanwhile, after

End: last, thirdly, finally

Also, when teaching these transition words for time, help students know exactly when they may use these within a paragraph. Time transition words are great for how-to writing (such as cookbooks or an instructional manual) and a chronological story.

Here is an example text using time transition words:

     First, we mix the batter in a bowl. Next, we pour the batter into a pan. Last, we put the pan into the oven to bake.

Type Two: Addition

Addition transition words signal to the reader that they are about to get information about a previous idea. These are great transition words to use in body paragraphs when students are giving another reason to support their thesis or topic.

Common addition words are also, another, furthermore, in addition to, and moreover.

When teaching addition transition words, explain to students that they would likely use them in opinion, expository, and persuasive writing when they are providing additional information on a topic.

Here is how addition transition words look in action:

      Pandas are my favorite animal because they like to eat all day. Also, pandas love to play. Furthermore, pandas are a rare animal, making them special.

Type Three: Example

Example transition words signal that an idea will be explained in great detail. These are very common transitions in body paragraphs used when providing evidence, reasoning, or examples to support a thesis or topic.

Some example transition words are in this case, one fact, one reason, for instance, and for example.

Here is a passage that uses example transitions:

      Pandas have a very unique diet. For instance, they spend 10-16 hours a day eating.

Type 4: Concluding

Concluding transition words are used to end or summarize an idea. Concluding transition words are often used at the end of a body paragraph to wrap up the information that was stated. This is often called the concluding sentence. 

Examples of concluding transition words are in conclusion, in summary, as a result, this shows, and to sum it up.

Here is what a body paragraph would look like with a concluding sentence that has transition words: 

    Pandas are my favorite animal because they like to eat all day. Also, pandas love to play. Furthermore, pandas are a rare animal, making them special. To sum it up, pandas are the best animal!

We teach all of these transition words for body paragraphs through the Differentiated Transition Word Lessons. Students’ knowledge and ability to use transition words is increasingly challenged throughout the lessons. There are lessons on:

  • Learning and sorting words the four types of transitions
  • Choosing the correct transition word for a sentence
  • Choosing the correct transition words in a paragraph
  • Using a word bank of transitions to complete a paragraph

Through the resource, students will become familiar with the different transitions, how they are used, and when they fit into a sentence or paragraph! Plus the lessons are differentiated with multiple choice and open ended questions to meet students where they are at.

Transition words anchor charts and activity

By the way, we also have a YouTube video you can show to your students to teach or review the different transition words and transition words within a paragraph talked about in this blog!  Check out the YouTube video here.

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