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3 Activities to Teach Transitional Words and Phrases

written by: Carole Bruzzano • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 4/5/2012

Help students understand the importance of transition words and phrases such as: also, and then, next, etc. These activities will have students identify, observe, compare, contrast and apply what they've learned.

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    Research-Based Teaching: Modeling, Guiding, Applying

    Image by Arvind Balaraman 

    The series of activities presented here, teaches transition words and phrases by using a gradual release model that moves students from supported practice to independent application of the new skill learned.

    Using familiar narrative writing in the first activity supports this method of teaching since it reduces the occurence of distractions such as comprehending new reading material and learning new vocabulary. The students' focus remains on the new skill: identifying and using transitions effectively.

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    Activity 1: Use a Professional Writing Sample

    Students work with a familiar professional writing piece chosen by the teacher. The teacher edits the text to omit all transitions presented and students compare and contrast the orignal text with the edited text. After choosing the writing piece to work with (less than two pages), teachers do the following:

    Before the lesson:

    1. Photo copy the chosen page(s).
    2. Use white out or black marker to omit all transitions from the copied text.
    3. Make copies of the edited text.
    4. Create a list of transition words and phrases to distribute to students (using these words): also, and then, first, next, further, although, even so, even though, in spite of, yet, for example, for instance, in fact, truly, altogether, finally, after a while, afterward, before, after, as long as, eventually, in the past, meanwhile, presently, since, when, until now.
    5. Make a list using the same words above on chart paper to display for the lesson.


    1. Assist students in recalling the story chosen for this activity.
    2. Explain to students how transition words and phrases contribute to readers' understanding.
    3. Distribute the copies of the edited text.
    4. Read the distributed text aloud as students follow along.

    Work period:

    1. Write the following question on the board and read aloud: "How is this piece of the story different from the one we read originally? (Allow for students to respond.)
    2. Distribute the list of transition words and phrases to the students.
    3. Instruct students to fill in missing transitions so that the sentences and events in the story are logically connected.


    Direct students to take out their reading books and turn to the page where the text is located for comparing and contrasting. Write the following questions on the board: How are the words used by the author different from my own? How are they alike? Answer these questions orally as a group.

    After the lesson:

    Post the list of transition words and phrases written on chart paper in the room for the students' future reference.

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    Activity 2: Guide Student Practice

    This activity moves students toward the independent application of the effective use of transitions by requiring them to apply the use of transitions with the support of a transition list and a student partner.

    Before the lesson:

    1. Make additional copies of the transition lists for students who do not already have one.
    2. Create a list of six story events and list the events in sequential order on the board.


    1. Inform students they will be working with transition words and phrases again, as in the previous lesson, but this time, they will create a narrative writing with the events listed on the board.
    2. Distribute the transitions list to any students who need a copy.
    3. Review the six events listed on the board.

    Work period:

    1. Group students into pairs.
    2. Instruct the pairs of students to connect the six story events by using details and transitions.


    Allow the student pairs to share their completed stories with the class and require the 'listening' students to identify transitions used by the student volunteers.

    After the lesson:

    Collect the stories for future use or for classroom display.

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    Activity 3: Apply the Use of Transitions Independently

    This final activity requires students to write a narrative essay independently.

    Before the lesson:

    1. Create specific essay criteria (number of paragraphs, use of details, use of transitions and so forth).
    2. Make copies of the criteria to distribute to students.


    1. Inform the students that they will apply their knowledge of the use of transitions by writing a narrative story.
    2. Distribute and review the essay criteria.
    3. Instruct students to choose a significant event or experience in their life to write about (for example: moving to a new city, the birth of a sibling, starting a new school).

    Work period:

    1. Instruct students to work independently to write their stories.
    2. Remind the students that they may refer to the transitions list posted in the room.


    Use the lesson closing to share the students' writing.

    After the lesson:

    Collect the stories for a classroom display or save them for use in another lesson on revising and editing to improve the use of transitions in narrative writing.

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    Use Professional Models as a Regular Practice

    Whenever possible, point out the use of transitions in other subject area reading materials. This will stress the importance of using transitions and reinforce the students' understanding throughout the school year.