Teaching Paragraph Writing: Transitions

This is the last of four in my series on Teaching Paragraph Writing.

If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve discussed Topic Sentences, Outlining and Color Coding, and even Conclusions

And now we’re going to do a little more advanced work by adding transitions to our paragraph. These tiny phrases can make a big difference in paragraph writing. In fact, the Step Up to Writing model calls transitions the “glue” that holds the paragraph together.

So, how exactly do I teach transitions for paragraph writing? Well, compared to teaching conclusions…it’s a breeze! 🙂

1. Brainstorm a Transition List

A lot of the kids I teach have a pretty good foundation for some basic transitions by the time they get to me in 4th/5th grades. Of course, I would like to expand their little brains with additional ones, but overall, I’d say they are off to a good start.

So, before I give examples and do any real modeling of transitions, I like to have the kids work in pairs to come up with a list of possible transitions on their whiteboards. Once they’ve worked on this for awhile, we go over their answers and try to make a list of as many new transitions as possible.

2. Go Over the Transitions Reference List

Next, (notice the transition?) I pass out a mega-list of transitions I have compiled and we discuss category types and appropriate times to use the general groups of transition categories.

When we’re done discussing these, I ask the kids to keep this list and to use it as a reference. I may either ask them to put it in their binders or to glue it into their Writer’s Notebooks. The list below is the one I actually use and is included in the Transition packet.

3. Talk Through the Paragraph Using Transitions

I know that sometimes kids see writing as a chore. I may love it, and I try to get them excited about it too, but even if I do cartwheels about what we’re doing, it’s still about as fun as brushing their teeth to some kids.

One of the ways I try to keep their motivation high is to do writing “work”, without actually lifting a pencil. I often make a deal with the kids when we do certain practice or modeling activities that if they stay with me, stay tuned, stay on task, AND participate, that they won’t have to do the actual writing part…this time, that is.

There will come a time when it’s their turn to write of course. So, how we “Talk Through” a paragraph is that I start a simple paragraph…like How to Take Care of a Dog or How to Succeed in School, and the kids will help me by feeding me the sentences as we build the paragraph together.

When we get to the star ideas especially, we discuss which set of three transitions would work the best for where we want to take our paragraph. This oral practice (visual too, as I sometimes speed write it as they say it) is a great way to practice using transitions.

4. Independent Working Times

Before kids actually write paragraphs with the correct use of transitions, I have them look at some paragraph examples to find as many transitions as they can find. They also do a number of worksheets that ask them to add a transition or to circle the best transition for a particular sentence or paragraph.

You can definitely make up your own materials for this but if you’d like a ready to use resource, I have written a whole mini-unit on transitions that you might like to see:

5. Time to Actually Write!

Now that my kids have a really good foundation for transitions, it’s time to put all of this together and to have them actually write their own paragraph. I always have them make a t-chart (see the post on topic sentences for an explanation) on the back of their paper or on a separate sheet of paper before we start to organize their ideas and to pre-plan it out.

I make sure to choose my paragraph topics carefully, so they are familiar to ALL of the kids. For example, writing one on Disneyland or Hawaii is not going to work for kids who haven’t been able to go there. And I try to make them fairly interesting to the kids, so they’ll enjoy the writing process a bit more.

A few of my favorite topics include My Favorite Place, My Favorite Sport/Hobby, and My Best Friend (or one of my best friends for those kids who have too many to choose just one!). I also make sure to give the kids an assignment of what to write as I have found over the years that kids who have an open ended assignment of “Write a paragraph about anything you’d like” often spend MOST of their time trying to decide what to write. I usually avoid this by choosing for them but once in a blue moon, I let them choose.

To me, once we learn a concept, we’re never really done with it. I like to spiral whatever important skills we learn in order to strengthen them and to build upon them throughout the year.

So, we continue to practice paragraph writing as we go and eventually, I teach the kids to write a five paragraph essay…whew! That’s a whole other post right there!

Anyway, my feeling is that if we can get kids to truly understand the parts of a paragraph and to know the basic recipe of a paragraph by heart, we can help kids create quality paragraphs, which leads to quality essays and reports.

If you are in need of a huge time saver, I would encourage you to take a look at my Complete Paragraph Writing Bundle. These are the materials I have created and used for many years and I cannot tell you how much they have helped my kids grow as writers. This bundle comes with both print and digital formats to give you greater flexibility! Here it is if you’d like to check it out:

If you’d like to get more teaching ideas for paragraph writing, here are a few posts you might like:

Outlining and Color Coding

Topic SentencesConclusions

5 Tips for More Effective Paragraph Writing

Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Let me know if you tried any of the ideas here or on the other three paragraph writing posts. I do love to hear for you!

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Hi, I’m Jenn! I love to create resources that hit standards, are engaging for students, and save teachers time. It’s my goal to help you help your students have fun while learning! Thanks so much for joining me here!

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