Writing Transitions Lesson

Writing Transitions Lesson Plan


If the reader is confused, it’s the writers fault. Clear up the confusion with clear transitions.


Cleaning Up the Essays

After teaching the basics of essay writing, I felt good about myself again. I bragged to the custodians at my school and invited them to take a break (after emptying my trash) and just read what I write on the board every day. Then I realized parts of my students’ writing were incoherent.

I had neglected to teach them how to make effective transitions in writing. In shock, I ran back to the custodians, begged them to leave my room (after emptying the trash and cleaning the white board), and cancelled my camping trip to Big Bear Lake.

I had work to do. I had to devise a lesson plan that helped students make coherent transitions in writing. Here’s what I came up with.

But first, a free topic sentence lesson plan just for the heck of it.

Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan

Common Core Standards

Teaching transitions in writing satisfies the following common core standards.

  • W.9-10.1c  Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  • W.9-10.2c  Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  • W.9-10.3c  Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
  • W.9-10.4  Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

There’s a change in teaching paragraphs ahead. Make a transition to excellence with the Paragraph Teaching Guide. It’s only $5.95. It contains 10 lesson plans and over 15 ready-to-use handouts and graphic organizers. Check out the free topic sentence lesson plan below to discover just how great these lesson plans are.

Introducing the Lesson

Have students come up with their own definition of transition and write their responses on the board. Definitions will vary but most can be applied to writing. Understanding transitions in other contexts facilitates understanding their importance in writing.

Be sure your discussion includes the following:

  1. Good writing presents and connects ideas in a clear, logical manner.
  2. When used appropriately (please emphasize when used appropriately; otherwise, transitions bog down the reader (ironic, you must agree)), transitions clarify connections for the reader and make writing coherent.
  3. Effective transitions are more than just a list of words your middle school teacher taught you.

Writing Transitions Lesson Procedures

1.  Explain that transitions have different functions. Instruct students to copy down the following examples of how transitions in writing function.

  • to show time – one day later
  • to clarify cause and effect – as a result...
  • to show location – to the right...
  • to introduce examples – for example...
  • to add more information – in addition...
  • to contrast information – otherwise…
  • to conclude – in conclusion…
  • to compare – much like…

2. Give students a writing sample, one with good transitions.

3. Instruct students to identify transitions and the function they serve. This is best done in groups of 3-4.

4. Discuss answers.

Revision Activity

Do this transitions in writing activity if you are teaching revision.

  • After you discuss each groups’ findings, have them reassemble.
  • Instruct students to read each other’s rough draft.
  • Readers should identify any part of the rough draft that lacks clarity.
  • Readers should identify and circle all transitions.
  • After the rough drafts have been marked appropriately, each student will revise his or her essay for coherence. For confusing parts, the writer should ask if transitions would make it more clear.
  • For each transition the writer used, he or she should ask if the meaning of the passage would be less clear without the transition. If the transition adds no clarity, it should be deleted.

TIP: Many teachers drudge up a list of transition words. Although students should be aware of these words, they usually lead to lazy writing. In fact, I bet if you went through your writing and got rid of 3/4 of your “transition words,” it would make very little difference in meaning.

Lessons on Paragraph Writing

Here are some more lesson plans and lesson ideas for writing paragraphs. Each lesson plan contains discussion/notes information, lesson procedures, and a list of ELA Common Core Standards in case your administrator shows up.

  1. Writing Topic Sentences
  2. Teaching Paragraph Structure
  3. Using Transitions Effectively
  4. Paragraph Challenge
  5. The Methods of Paragraph Development
  6. Using Supporting Details Effectively
  7. How to Revise and Grade an Essay

I’ve taken these lesson plans and added notes, graphic organizers, and more lesson options to create what I consider an invaluable resource for middle school and high school teachers. It’s only $5.95.

It includes 10 lesson plans aligned to common core standards, notes, and over 15 assignments with answer keys. All you need to do is print out each assignment, make copies, and pass them out. Here’s a Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan to give you an idea of what the paragraph teaching guide has to offer.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to make your own handouts and assignments that took me weeks to make and years to perfect.


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