Transitional Phrases for Information Writing
Information writing is usually a genre where students experience success in writing. Most students can come up with topics they know a fair amount about–I have seen hilarious and informative pieces on grocery store, shopping malls, steaks, and even things that smell. Because information writing has inherent structure, less instructional time tends to go toward teaching focus and organization, and more time can be spent on sentence structure.
When I am working in classrooms, I keep a chartbook with me, and I use it all the time when I am conferring or running small groups. It also serves as a coaching tool for teachers since I get many requests for pictures or copies of pages.
For younger students, I have found the following page in my chartbook to be useful.
My overall point to students is that sometimes we want to add information and sometimes we want to explain information. It’s really helpful for them to understand the difference between those two purposes. Depending on the student I am working with, I may choose to switch the sticky notes in my chartbook. For example, if I am working with a younger student or someone who is less confident, I may offer them just two choices for adding information, and then I give them the sticky note to keep. If you look closely, there are several blank notes underneath the top one. If I think a student can handle it, I may even present this page as an inquiry conference or small group lesson, showing them only a blank sticky note and challenging them to come up with words and phrases for the two categories.
For students in middle to upper grades, I turn to a similar page, but one that includes phrases for contrasting information, as well as adding and explaining.
This page offers a lot of flexibility since I can present all three categories of phrases, or I can present them one at a time, depending on the students in front of me. The sticky notes allow me to just pick them up and put them on the opposite side of the book.
In the past, I have taught these phrases all together. I have found that students have an easier time building their repertoire when I emphasize the purposes of the phrases and the categories in which we can put them.
Regardless of how you teach these phrases, they have the potential of really boosting students’ fluency and providing pathways and inroads for them to say more about their topics.