K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • identify transition words in picture books
  • incorporate transition words into their own writing

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

30 minutes


  • Books that use transition words effectively (Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by Trinka Hakes Noble, Big Bad Bruce by Bill Peet, The Knight and the Dragon, by Tomie dePaola, etc.)
  • Large poster board entitled “Transition Words” (laminated) for students to list good transition words they find in their reading
  • Vis-à-Vis marker attached to poster board



  1. Read aloud the book Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch or another book that uses transition words effectively.
  2. Discuss the words and write “meanwhile” on the class chart with a Vis-à-Vis pen. Ask students what happens every time the word “meanwhile” is used in the story. Tell them that “meanwhile” signals that the scene has changed and a new part of the story is beginning.

Guided practice

  1. Read students one of the other books with examples of transition words. Ask students to identify any transition words they hear and how they know it is a transition word (pause, comma, change of characters)

Independent practice

  1. Encourage students to add words to the class chart of transition words as they discover new transition words in their reading.
  2. Refer to the chart often. Provide time for students to tell stories orally to a partner using transition words.
  3. Later as they write stories, have students highlight transition words in a specific color such as yellow. (The activity and the use of a specific color remind students to pay attention to organization and use of transition words.)
  4. Because students discover transition words over time, there will be greater carry-over from reading to writing.


  • Can students identify transition words in the books they read?
  • Do students add transition words to the class chart?
  • Do students use transition words from the class chart in their own writing?

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 3
          • 3.L.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them).

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on a specific element such as:
      • word choice.
      • sequence of events and ideas.
      • transitional words.
      • sentence patterns.
  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.08: Demonstrate evidence of language cohesion by:
      • logical sequence of fiction and nonfiction retells.
      • time order sequence of events.
      • sustaining conversations on a topic.

Grade 5

  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.03: Elaborate information and ideas in speaking and writing by using:
      • prepositional phrases.
      • transitions.
      • coordinating and/or subordinating conjunctions.