About VWC

The Vermont Writing Collaborative is a group of teachers in Vermont (and elsewhere!) whose mission is to help all students, K - 12, write thoughtfully and effectively.
The five founding members are: Jane Miller of Burlington, Karen Kurzman of Derby Line, Eloise Ginty of Thetford, Joey Hawkins of Strafford, and Diana Leddy of Strafford. Among us, we have over 130 years of public school teaching experience at all grade levels.
In the fall of 2008, we published a book through Authentic Education (with a foreword by Grant Wiggins) called Writing for Understanding:Using Backward Design to Help All Students Write Effectively.
Since then, we have offered courses and workshops in the principles of Writing for Understanding around Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.

Welcome, VWC members!

June, 2011 - what a grand Summer Institute! We held four different strands, and had the honor of working with both old friends and new ones. It was a joy!
Teachers are working on a whole new batch of Writing for Understanding sequences, and those will begin appearing here. If you're a course participant, thanks for posting and giving your thoughtful feedback.
If you're a VWC follower, your feedback is most welcome as well!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Transition Words Mini Unit

Identified Learning Intention/Purpose:
To teach students through modeling, guided and independent
practice how to effectively use basic transition words in their

How many students are in this group? _____8______

How often will you be able to work with these students per week? 2-3

How much time per session do you have? 30 mins____________

How many weeks do you have? 3 weeks___________________

How often will you assess for progress?
After each lesson anecdotally and more formally at the end of the 3 week lesson sequence

Develop and attach your lessons-see below

What scaffolding will you provide?
Use Gradual Release of Responsibility
Teacher modeled writing piece
Guided practice
Independent work
Building understanding of transition words through traffic-light analogy
Sorting transition words
Color coding transition words

Develop and attach your assessments. See attachment

Based on scoring of class Writing to Inform pieces using a grade 3 rubric, it was determined that a group of 8 students needed work on organization. Specifically, students showed poor use of transition words or no use of transition words in their writing. This lesson sequence was designed to address their needs and to explicitly teach them how to use transition words effectively in their writing.

Intro Lesson-Day 1 & 2
Build understanding
“Today you are going to learn about special kinds of words-TRANSITION WORDS-words we use in writing that are like bridges from one idea to another. Transition words can connect ideas in writing like a bridge. They tell the reader that something is coming or show an order or sequence of ideas. We are going to use traffic lights to help us understand this idea. When you are in the car the green light tells you to start going. The yellow light means you can keep going, but you need to be careful. And the red light tells us to stop. Words can act the same way. They tell readers to start, keep going, or we are almost at the end and make the writing easier to understand and smoother sounding.” (Rog, p.93-95)

Traffic Light Analogy using graphic organizer: (see attached #1)
Green Transition Words-start going
Yellow Transition Words-keep going, but need to be careful
Red Light-stop
· Model sorting a few transition words as a whole class in pocket chart
· Sort remaining transition words in partners
Words to sort: first, next, then, last, finally, now, another, one day, in the beginning, also, another example, in conclusion
· Whole group share and discussion-students add words to pocket chart

Day 3&4

· On overhead or Elmo write Making Soup piece (see appendix #2).
“As I write about making soup, notice how I use transition words to show the order in which things happen, to connect ideas or to get the reader to pay attention to what is coming. It is important to know that a comma usually follows transition words. Commas and transition words are good buddies.” (p.84, Hoyt and Therriault)
· Turn and talk about what transition words I used in Making Soup
· Color code words on copy of Making Soup in partners (green, yellow, red).
· Whole group share, discussion

Day 5&6
Guided Practice
· Using overhead or Elmo read to whole group Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (see appendix #3).
· In partners -add transition words (pocket chart is displayed with coded transition words) to piece and color code.
· Whole group share. Using Elmo rewrite Making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich adding transition words generated from group. Discuss difference between pre edited and post edited pieces.

Day 7
More guided practice with increased independence and formative assessment
· Review as a whole class writing model (see appendix # 4) that I’ve written based on their original assignment A Great Place at the Newton School.
· Students independently push in transition words (still displayed in pocket chart) to my writing.
· Whole Class share-sharing several student samples-color code on Elmo or overhead

Day 8
Formative Assessment

Students push in transition words to their original piece, A Great Place at the Newton School. Using the grade three rubric students will be reevaluated on their use of transition words in writing. Next steps will be determined after analysis.


Hoyt L., & Therriault T. (2008). Mastering the Mechanics: ready-to-Use Lessons for Modeled, Guided, and Independent Editing. New York: Scholastic.

Rog L. (2007). Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Beginning Writing, K-3. Newark: International Reading Association.


  1. Wow Sara!

    I really loved reading your lessons. I would be very interested in seeing your entire unit with all of the attachments.Could I get it from you? I also teach 3rd grade and find that transitions can be limited for these writers. I have never used the term transition with being like a bridge... I will now,what a great visual for the kids! Thanks.

  2. Hi Sara

    I really like this lesson, using transition words is something I agree that kids need much more lessons in, even adults could use it! The idea of using a procedure, like making soup, or a PB and J sandwich to teach transitions, I might just use that! Do you think it would be beneficial to give the kids a list of transitions words, or would that make it too mechanical?