Lesson at a Glance

Students learn how to revise their writing for clarity of meaning. They craft transitions between the paragraphs of their editorials that rephrase their opinion statements and clearly delineate their
supporting arguments.

Prep & Tech

Technology: LCD projector, laptop, Internet access or Writing Editorials CD, speakers, student computers with Internet access
Other Materials: Student folders, writers’ notebooks, and transitional phrases for the Teacher Model

Limited Tech Options

If there is no access to the technology needed for this lesson, try the following options:

  1. Mini Lesson: Instead of showing the introductory animation, briefly review transitions using a mentor text as a model. Focus on the transitions between arguments.
  2. Writer’s Work Time: Instead of directing students to use computers to revise their drafts, have them make revisions on paper.

Objective

Students will revise their writing to incorporate transitions that clearly point out the arguments supporting their opinions.

Focusing Question

What clues do editorial writers use to guide readers in making sense of and “buying into” the
arguments expressed?

Mini Lesson (15 min)

Show lesson visuals, Revise for Clarity of Meaning.

Introduce Step 5 by showing the animated program, Revise. Explain that the time has come to turn drafts, completed in Step 4, into polished editorials that are ready for readers to appreciate. Over the next few lessons, students will get the chance to revise their work by looking at it in three different ways.

Tell students that the purpose of today’s lesson is to help make the meaning of their editorials as clear as possible, by inserting transitions that guide readers from paragraph to paragraph. Explain that good editorial writers are considerate of their readers. They provide them with clues to help make sense of the arguments in their written pieces. Students have already created signposts by crafting editorials with a clear structure. Today’s lesson will introduce another set of signals: the transitional phrases or sentences that usually appear at the beginning of body paragraphs.

While some students will already have used some transitions, explain that these early efforts might be too subtle, particularly for persuasive writing. As writers, students care about their topics and immediately see the connections between their opinions and their arguments. But readers need the connections to be pointed out to them, if they are to be convinced of the writer’s opinion.

Describe how transitions are often found at the beginning and ending of paragraphs. They rephrase the opinion statement and connect the opinion to each argument. The words and phrases in transitions should vary from one paragraph to the next in order to separate the arguments.

Demonstrate turning your opinion statement into a short phrase that can be repeated in transitions. Provide several examples of transitions, inserting your shortened opinion phrase in each one. Then, ask students to brainstorm phrases that might be used in transition sentences. Create a chart with these phrases for students to copy into their notebooks. Sample transitions include: (Sample shortened opinion phrase is in brackets)

  1. [People shouldn’t buy fur] because…
  2. A second reason [people shouldn’t buy fur] is that…
  3. A final reason [people shouldn’t buy fur] is that…
  4. If [people buy fur] then…
  5. When [people buy fur] it causes…
  6. It is a problem [when people buy fur] because…
  7. One result of [people’s buying fur] is…
  8. Another result of [people’s buying fur] is…
  9. An example of the problems that are caused by [buying fur] is…
  10. Since…, [people do not need to buy fur].

Apply this approach to your own editorial, modeling how you revise to improve transitions. In your first body paragraph, include a transition to help connect your first sentence to your opinion statement. Add on a closing sentence that emphasizes your opinion statement.

Have students help you revise the first sentence of your second supporting argument to make the transition more effective. Emphasize how writers vary their transitions from one paragraph to the next in order to make their writing more interesting. Then, allow students to revise their own editorials with a focus on improving transitional phrases.

Teacher Model

  1. Show your editorial using chart paper or a computer/LCD projector.
  2. Point out/read aloud your opinion statement.
  3. Create a short phrase based on your opinion that can be repeated in your transitions.
  4. Reiterate the argument of the first body paragraph.
  5. Read aloud the first sentence.
  6. Think aloud about how you can improve the transition.
    1. Does it restate your main opinion?
    2. Does it connect your main opinion to the argument of this paragraph?
    3. Does it have language that is sets it apart from other transitions?
  7. Decide how the sentence could be improved by referring to the class list of transition phrases.
  8. Incorporate these transitions into your writing so that it flows more effectively.
  9. Read aloud the entire paragraph to ensure that your new sentence fits.
  10. Add a closing sentence with a transitional phrase.
  11. If using a computer, model how you resave your document to Step 5 of the Online Classroom to the assignment Submit Your Revised Editorial.

Note: Depending on your students’ computer proficiency, you may wish to show DD’s e-
Tutorial: Cutting and Pasting, which explains how to cut, copy, and paste text in a word
processing document.

Narrative

I’m going to look at this supporting argument paragraph and see how I can add a very clear connection between my supporting argument and my opinion statement. I can summarize my opinion statement as: NYC Transit needs to run more subway trains. My first sentence is: Overcrowded subways cause significant service problems like train delays and increased passenger injuries. Let me see if that meets the criteria for an effective transition. It doesn’t really relate to my opinion. I talk about crowded subways, but I don’t mention what I think needs to be done. I’m going to use one of our sentence starters and add that to the beginning of my first sentence: Another reason that NYC Transit needs to run more subway trains is that …

Now my opening sentence reads: Another reason that NYC Transit needs to run more subway trains is that overcrowded subways cause significant service problems like train delays and increased passenger injuries. That makes it clear that I am introducing a new argument and helps the flow of the paragraph. Let me add a final sentence to this paragraph to drive my point home. If NYC Transit added additional trains, not only would it relieve the overcrowding on the subways, it would also lead to fewer delays and improved passenger safety. Notice how I used a different transitional phrase than the one I used earlier to keep my writing interesting.

Preparing for Writer’s Work Time

Distribute computers. Ask students to:

  1. Open their most recent draft and save it with a new date.
  2. Restate their opinion statement as a short phrase that can be repeated in transitions.
  3. Reread the first sentence of the first supporting argument paragraph.
  4. Consider if the transition answers these questions:
    1. Does it restate your opinion?
    2. Does it connect your main opinion to the argument of this paragraph?
    3. Does it have language that is different from previous transitions?
  5. Rewrite the sentence using ideas from the class list.
  6. Reread the whole paragraph to make sure that it flows appropriately.
  7. Make any necessary changes including adding a closing sentence.
  8. Repeat the process with other supporting argument paragraphs.
  9. Resave their documents and submit them in Step 5 of the Online Classroom in the assignment called Submit Your Revised Editorial.

Writer’s Work Time (25 min)

Students add transitions to their editorials that clearly signal to readers when they are beginning a new supporting argument. Circulate among students, encouraging them to vary their transitions. When there are five minutes remaining in Writer’s Work Time, remind students to resave their documents to Step 5 of the Online Classroom in the assignment titled Submit Your Revised Editorial.

Individual conferences: Ask students to read aloud portions of their editorials to hear if they flow from one idea to the next. Provide suggestions of transitional phrases from the class chart and insert the students’ shortened opinion phrase as an additional prompt.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

  1. Difficulty adding transitions? Suggest some specific transitions from the class list that might be appropriate for their editorial. Ask the students to experiment with a few options and decide which one(s) make their writing particularly clear and powerful.
  2. Struggling to come up with shortened opinion phrases? Have students work in a guided writing group to help each other restate their opinions in just a few words.
  3. Ready for more? Students can assist their peers with revisions. They can also browse the editorials in Prof. P’s Office, looking for examples of pieces in which transitions guide readers well. These students may be able to share their findings during the Lesson Summary. Students can also visit the Study Center for additional activities such as the Editorial Feedback Forum, Opinion Space, or one of the Analyze This! exercises.

Sharing and Lesson Summary (5 min)

Reconvene the class. Share an example of student work that demonstrates a transition that greatly clarifies the meaning of the paragraph. Expand the list of transitions used by students in class by asking for more suggestions from the class. Then give students a chance to jot down some additional transitional phrases in their notebooks. If they heard some that were better than the ones they selected, they can modify their transitions the next time they revise.

Assessment

Review students’ editorials, comparing today’s drafts to their drafts from the previous lesson. Evaluate how effectively students have employed transitions to highlight the meaning of the body of their pieces. Use the Teacher’s Checklist to identify what students have completed to this point.

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