Teaching Transition Words

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Transitions are an important tool that every writer should keep in their back pocket. This lesson explores the purpose of using transitional words and phrases and examples of different types.

Keep It Flowing

Take a few seconds to read the paragraph below:

'There was a beautiful princess. She spent most of her days talking to small animals. She enjoyed picking flowers in the garden. An evil ogre crashed through the trees where she was playing. The princess was not afraid. She went right up to the ogre and gave him a hug. The ogre did not expect to get a hug from such a delightful little princess. The princess was very special.'

As you read, did it feel like something was missing? Now read the paragraph below...how is the second paragraph different from the first?

'Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess. She spent most of her days talking to small animals. She also enjoyed picking flowers in the garden. While she was outside one day, an evil ogre crashed through the trees to where she was playing. Although the ogre was very scary, the princess was not afraid. As a matter of fact, she was so bold she went right up to the ogre and gave him a hug. Never, not in a million years, did the ogre ever expect to get a hug from such a delightful little princess. Unlike other princesses the ogre had met, this one was very special.'

After reading, you should have noticed that the second paragraph is more engaging to read. This is because the second paragraph uses transitions, or special words and phrases that help writing flow. Transitions help a writer make connections throughout a text. These connections can happen between:

  • words in a sentence
  • sentences in a paragraph
  • paragraphs in an entire text

Types of Transitions

Using transitions is an important part of being a good writer! They help keep your readers attention, and they can be used to explain important concepts. Think of transitions as road signs in your paper. They give your reader special clues about the information by showing things like addition, change over time, comparisons and contrasts, cause and effect, and conclusions.

Addition

Some transitional words and phrases help show addition, or adding more thoughts, ideas, or information. Addition transitions include words like:

  • furthermore
  • first, second, third, lastly
  • additionally
  • also

For example, a writer may use the word 'also' to show that a character is doing more than one thing in a story: 'She spent most of her days talking to small animals. She also enjoyed picking flowers in the garden.'

Change over Time

When you write, you often need to explain when things have happened. Transitional words can help! Common transitional words that show time include:

  • before, during, after
  • while, meanwhile
  • soon
  • earlier, later

In the princess story, the writer uses a transitional word to show you that the ogre stomped into the garden at the same time the princess was playing: 'While she was outside one day, an evil ogre crashed through the trees to where she was playing.'

Comparisons and Contrasts

Transitions can also be used to compare (show similarities) or contrast (show differences) between two or more things or concepts.

Common comparison transitions include:

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