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Transition Words and Phrases: Road Signs for the Reader

Lesson Question:

How can students use the Visual Thesaurus to learn more about how transition words and phrases play important roles in both the writing and the reading processes?

Applicable Grades:


Lesson Overview:

This lesson leads students to discover how important choosing the right transition words and phrases can be as they formulate an opinion in writing. Students will use Visual Thesaurus word maps to discover the relationships between particular transition words, and then categorize those words according to meaning and usage. Students will also explore the role transition words play in specific quotations taken from online resources.

Length of Lesson:

One hour

Instructional Objectives:

Students will:
  • debate the use of various transition words for a particular context
  • define and sort various transition words and phrases by using the Visual Thesaurus
  • explore the role transition words play in specific quotations


  • student notebooks
  • white board
  • computers or iPads with Internet access
  • “Transition Words and Phrases” handouts (one per student) [click here to download]


Completing a sentence with a transition word:

  • Write the following quotation on the board:

"Once a user has tweeted once, there is a 65% chance that they will tweet again. After that second tweet, ___________, the chance of a third tweet goes up to 81%."

The Guardian’s Technology Blog

  •  Have students rewrite the sentence in their notebooks and to complete the sentence by choosing one of the following transition words:

                          a) therefore    b) however    c) furthermore

  • Ask student volunteers to reveal how they completed the sentence and to give a rationale for their word choice.


Emphasizing the importance of transition words:

  • Hold a brief discussion about how each of the words would alter the sentence’s message (i.e., therefore would imply a logical conclusion, however would indicate contrast, and furthermore would signal additional information).
  • Reveal to students that the original sentence was taken from a technology blog article and it contained the word however – emphasizing the contrast between the 65% chance of someone using twitter again after their first tweet AND the 81% chance of someone using twitter again after their second tweet.
  • Explain that transition words fulfill a dual purpose in writing: to create flow in a piece of writing by connecting or transitioning between ideas, and also to indicate specific relationships between ideas. Without transition words, writing would be choppy and disconnected.
  • Emphasize that the word options in the warm-up — however, therefore and furthermore — might seem like bland connectors that are simply linking different ideas, but they do more than that. They act as signals to the reader, suggesting particular relationships between the different thoughts or points in a text.

Using the Visual Thesaurus to sort transition words by meaning:

  • On the white board, display the word map for therefore and point out that the central meaning that therefore, thence, hence and so share is “used to introduce a logical conclusion.” (Note: If you are on a computer, hover your cursor over the central purple meaning bubble to reveal the meaning. If you are on an iPad, hold your finger on the bubble.)

  • Organize the class into small groups (group size dependent upon iPad or computer availability) and distribute to each group a “Transition Words and Phrases” handout.
  • Explain that most transition words and phrases fulfill a few different purposes in writing. For example, some indicate contrast (e.g., on the other hand) while others signal additional information (e.g., moreover). It will be the students’ task to look up a variety of transition words/phrases and to categorize them according to what role they usually play in a piece of writing.
  • Instruct groups to look up each of the 31 transition words and phrases on the Visual Thesaurus and to then categorize each word or phrase in the appropriate column of the chart. (See the first column below as a model.)

Transition Words and Phrases:

accordingly     all the same     as a matter of fact     also     besides            consequently     especially     even so     for example     for instance
furthermore     hence     however     in addition     indeed     in fact
in particular     likewise     moreover     nevertheless     nonetheless
on the other hand     on the contrary     particularly     so     specifically
still     thence     therefore     thus     yet


to introduce a logical conclusion or consequence

to show contrast or “despite anything to the contrary”

to introduce an additional point

to introduce an example
































Sharing completed transition words charts:

  • Ask each small group to share a particular column on the chart, pointing to the specific Visual Thesaurus word maps that showed an array of transition word options to convey the meaning or usage indicated by the column.
  • Using Vocabulary.com dictionary usage examples or a search engine (such as Google or Bing), have students try to find examples of each of the transition words and phrases in the context of articles. Discuss what types of articles usually use many transition words and phrases (e.g., editorials, scientific papers, trial transcripts, etc.).

Extending the Lesson:

  • A fun way to extend this lesson on transition words and phrases would be to have students locate a particular piece of writing that includes at least a few transition words and to present that text to peers as a fill-in-the-blank style exercise with the transition words removed.
  • A great place to look for transition-heavy texts is editorial style writing or trial transcripts. Here is an excerpt from an opinion piece arguing against legalizing assisted suicide, from the “Room for Debate” section of The New York Times website:

"The Oregon and Washington acts apply to “terminal” patients, defined as patients predicted to have no more than six months to live. Doctor prognoses, ____________, can be wrong. ____________, treatment can lead to recovery."

—Excerpt from “A Recipe for Elder Abuse

(Note: the missing transition words from the above quote are however and moreover.)


  • Check students’ “Transition Words and Phrases” charts to see if they correctly categorized each transition word and phrase in the appropriate column.
  • Assess students’ mastery of transition words by either having them complete a cloze-style text with transition words and phrases, or to write an original argument using a minimum number of transition words and phrases.

Educational Standards:

Common Core State Standards for ELA and Literacy:

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
  • Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grades 6-12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
    • Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
    • Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.
    • Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).
  • Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
    • Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words.
    • Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute).
  • Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Text Types and Purposes

  • Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
    • Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), reasons, and evidence.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style.
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
    • Establish and maintain a formal style.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) Standards:

Language Arts

Standard 2. Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing

Level III   [Grade:  6-8]

4. Uses explicit transitional devices

Level IV   [Grade:  9-12]
4. Uses a variety of transitional devices (e.g., phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs) to link sections of text and clarify relationships among complex ideas

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Comments from our users:

Thursday May 24th 2012, 9:20 AM
Comment by: begum F.Top 10 Commenter
very helpful lesson for English learners.
Friday May 25th 2012, 8:14 PM
Comment by: Rebecca N. (Balmain Australia)
Would love this to be rewritten for ESL learners who don't have such a good grasp of the language.
Tuesday December 29th 2015, 10:02 AM
Comment by: Lisa G. (CA)
Transition words are actually very useful when you are using them to write your essay in order to make your sentences logical and more smoothly. Moreover transition words really fill the gaps between thoughts and sentences and provide logical organization. Here is post by customwritingcompany.com. in which described the main point of transition words, it's types and when to use it better. That will help you whenever writing some essays, as transition words are great connectors.

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