I like to think of transition words as a bridge from one sentence to another. Likewise, transition words allow one thought to flow into another seamlessly and help writing become more coherent. Furthermore, I believe that the ability to use transition words effectively is a signal of a mature writer. Here are a few tips (and activities) on how to teach kids to use transition words in their writing.
Different Types of Transition Words
If used incorrectly, transition words will not improve a student’s writing. While there are many transition words, it’s best to introduce one type of transition word at a time. Giving students a laminated list to keep in a writing binder is also helpful. Here are a few types of transition words:
Sequencing transition words: first, second, third, last, next, then, after that, finally
Transition words showing time: meanwhile, soon, immediately, later, suddenly
To end a thought/summarize: in conclusion, in summary, thus, therefore
To show exception/opposition: on the other hand, however, yet
To provide an example: for instance, for example
To provide supporting or additional information: in addition, in fact, furthermore
This transition words banner from Really Good Stuff is a great tool for your students to look at when they are writing.
Name that Transition Word
For this activity, educators can write a paragraph without transition words. Leave blank lines where the transition word belongs. For younger children, a paragraph utilizing first, next, after that and finally. For instance, you could write a paragraph about making a sandwich: I love to make healthy sandwiches for lunch. First, I take out two pieces of bread. Next, I put on meat, cheese and mustard on the bottom piece of bread. After that, I put on a juicy tomato slice and some lettuce. Finally, I put the second piece of bread on top.
Give this paragraph to students, except leave out first, next, after that and finally. They can fill in the blanks.
Picture Books to Teach Transition Words
Picture books can be a fun way to introduce how to use certain words in the context of a story. Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Hakes Noble does a good job of showing how to use ‘meanwhile.’ Fortunately, Unfortunately by Michael Foreman uses transition words to jump between fortunate and not-so-fortunate events of the main character. In general, non-fiction books about processes (caterpillar-to-butterfly transformations) and “how to” children’s books may also be helpful.
Searching for Transitions
Transition words are prevalent in non-fiction texts, newspapers and magazines. Give students a newspaper or other non-fiction text and a highlighter. Students will go through the text and highlight the transition words. This is a great activity to do in small groups. It is best for the group to have the same passage. If you have a Time for Kids subscription, this is a good time to use these. However, you can also use any passage with transition words in a reproducible book.
In summary, teaching transition words can be a breeze!
More from Melissa:
Using Children’s Books to Teach Descriptive Writing
Teaching Tips: Using Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language
Fun Compare and Contrast Activities for Kids