the ASK: I noticed that in our writing and in our conversations, we were struggling to call on transitions. I wondered how we could practice these in a way that didn’t feel like an isolated lesson.

the TRY: First thing on a Monday morning, I asked students to all stand up (complete with all kinds of groaning, especially from 1st hour, who was just proud to have showed up) and asked them all to share one thing they learned from their family over the weekend, using one of these transition phrases to build on what someone else shared. As soon as they built on someone else’s contribution, they got to sit down and we kept at it until everyone participated.

the LEARN: I learned I l-o-v-e this! I started using it regularly with progressively more academic and challenging prompts. Here’s why I love it.

  • It works for the beginning or the end of class (either to warm-up or formatively assess).
  • It requires students to really listen to each other in order to build on what someone else says.
  • It allows every student to exercise their voice…but they can still have time to plan and think.
  • We get to authentically practice transitions and they have to think about a purpose for a transition (e.g. to add, to compare, to emphasize) beyond their usual “first this happened, then that, and finally.”

After several weeks, all I had to do was put these pieces of chart paper in the front of the room and they knew to stand up and wait for the prompt!

In case you’re wondering about prompts, here are a few others to get you thinking:

  • What did you learn about __________ today?
  • What do you already know about _________ ?
  • What’s one thing you know for sure about what you read last night?
  • Here’s a thesis from one of your peers…how would you build on it?

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