Your Turn: Using Transitions
Transition words and phrases help readers to navigate their way through a piece of writing. Teaching young writers how and when to use transitions is time well spent. Younger writers can start with transition words that show time changes and proceed to more sophisticated transitions as they grow as writers.
Hook: Revisit the mentor text Trouper by Meg Kearney
Note the use of transition words for change of time. The introductory sentence uses “before” several times, repeating the word to show Trouper’s life in the time before he was adopted. Point out also the use of “while,” “next,” “then,” “last,” “until,” “now.” (Other transition words can be discussed with older students as well, such as “because,” “although” and so on. Be judicious about not trying to cover too much in one lesson. We suggest sticking with time transitions to start.)
Purpose: Writers: Today I want to show you how you can use transition words to help your reader to discover why something is important at that place in time. You can change the meaning of your sentences depending on the transition words that you use.
Model time transitions:
Show two sentences on sentence strips or project on the white board:
Dad and I played catch.
Mom made our lunch.
Demonstrate how using transitions works with the words: Meanwhile, After, Before, and While.
Dad and I played catch meanwhile Mom made our lunch.
After Dad and I played catch, Mom made our lunch.
Before Dad and I played catch, Mom made our lunch.
Dad and I played catch after Mom made our lunch.
While Dad and I played catch, Mom made our lunch.
Discuss how the different words change the meaning of the sentences by changing the sequence (order) of events.
Prepare three sentence strips:
Marty saw the tabby cat.
He recognized it.
He picked it up.
With the students’ input use three transition words: First, Then, After that to connect the three sentences. Then try other transition words, After, as soon as, immediately to connect the sentences. Ask students to turn and talk about how the meaning changes depending on the transitions they choose to use. After sharing their thoughts, ask students to work in pairs to connect other sentences, such as the following:
The tabby cat shivered.
It was afraid.
Liam spoke in a gentle voice.
They can experiment with connecting the three sentences with other transition words:
Because obviously, even though, although, without warning, because, then, for example.
Give student writers a handout of useful transition words. (Although, Because, Before, After, At the same time, Even though, Finally, First, Meanwhile, Next, Then…)
Ask them to go back to their drafts and highlight transitional words they have used. Writers can choose a paragraph in their drafts or in their writer’s notebook to revise by adding transitional words. Give students the opportunity to share their revisions in small or whole group.
Reflection: Ask the class to respond to one of the following questions.
What do you now know about using transitions?
When will you use transitions in your writing?
Why is it important to use transitions?