Teaching discourse markers

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Teaching discourse markers and transitionals


1 Teaching transitionals or conjunctions in writing

The following are typical textbook exercises for transitionals. Unfortunately, however, the examples below are boring and pointless, and most importantly, they lack any real context. Isolated, contextless sentences like this are not helpful, since transitionals depend crucially on context.

A. Combine the following with an appropriate conjunction.

  1. Ralph takes the train to Busan. He likes to sit by the window.
  2. He was the first person to eat a slice of meat between two pieces of bread. The sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich.
  3. Akila was about to answer the final question. The buzzer sounded.
  4. Few soap operas remain on the radio. Daytime television is full of them.


B. Or with blanks as hints:

  1. She connected the speakers _____ the room was filled with glorious sound.
  2. The chimney spewed black smoke and soot _____ nobody complained to the local environmental agency.


The following exercises are slightly better, as they involve more contest and somewhat more interesting contents.

C. Combine and/or rephrase the following[1].

There are differences in math performance between boys and girls. These differences cannot be attributed simply to differences in innate ability. If one were to ask the children themselves, they would probably disagree.

Possible answer: The differences in math performance between boys and girls cannot be attributed simply to differences in innate ability. Still, if one were to ask the children themselves, they would probably disagree.


Adapting authentic materials for a more natural context (text adapted from a Wikipedia article):

D. Sample modified with poorer flow, for use as a pedagogical exercise.

Louis Armstrong was nicknamed Satchmo. He was an American jazz trumpeter and singer. He came to prominence in the 1920s as an innovative cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence on jazz. He shifted the music's focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. Armstrong was _____ an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser.

Original article, with natural transitionals.

Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an innovative cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence on jazz, shifting the music's focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser.


2 Teaching conversational discourse markers and discourse particles

3 References