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Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du Discourse markers: a teachers’ guide and toolkit

A ‘discourse marker’ is a word or phrase that helps to link written ideas. These words are generally more formal lexical items that find little use in speech – which is perhaps why they do not always come naturally to students. Discourse markers can be used, for example, to link ideas that are similar (e.g. the adverbs, also and similarly); and they can be used to link ideas that are dissimilar (e.g. however, alternately). As such, this useful group of words is an essential part of a student’s writing toolkit. They work to help create a clear structure by acting as a kind of ‘linguistic signpost’ that contributes to a well-constructed essay or argument. They provide a sense of clarity, coherence, fluency and logic to a piece of writing. The discourse markers covered in the resources provided with this ‘toolkit’ are, essentially, for essay writing, but a list of more generally useful discourse markers is also included.

Why discourse markers are an essential teaching tool
For students, clarity and structure do not always come automatically. Students may be aware of the more basic, commonly used discourse markers in speech, such as then, so, after that, instead of...., but when faced with new forms of writing, extended writing or more formal writing; or when faced with the rigours of an argumentative essay, they often have trouble in ordering and sequencing their ideas fluently. This is why discourse markers are an essential part of their own linguistic toolkit – and why they figure so highly in mark schemes and examiners’ comments. Providing students with discourse markers as a ‘toolkit’ will help them in both their organisation of ideas and improve their written expression. More than this, a knowledge and use of discourse markers actually helps a student see how to write about a topic more clearly. A straightforward example of how this works is to give a low set KS3 class who are stuck with ‘and and ‘then’, discourse markers which sequence simple materials such as: first, secondly, finally; ask them to find ideas to match with each discourse marker before and then write this up. An extension would be to teach more complex essay structures that require an opinion supported by a clear argument. By being able to use discourse markers, students will then be able to develop a clearer argumentative, persuasive and essay writing style: Some people think...., so…, therefore…, Some also believe........, …on the other hand other people think....., …however (for a rebuttal of the previous idea)...., In conclusion I believe.... . A useful idea is to ask them to create a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ for an interesting argumentative topic and then to match them with suitable discourse markers.


(not included here). Alternately. might be given a list of ‘comparison’ discourse markers that would work to help them see how to compare. such as cardboards triangles of writing skills. A way of using discourse markers in the classroom WALL DISPLAY: it can be an excellent idea to keep a display of discourse markers on the walls so that students may refer to them at all times. cards for spelling or reading hints. but of recognising how to include ‘alternative readings’ in their work. or a the same materials on a cardboard cube. students are seen to glance to the area in the examination room where those posters used to be in their own classroom – as if by looking at a blank wall. the discourse markers would work to develop hints on what they needed to look for in order to use them.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du GCSE students. If given and practised before they collected the ideas for their writing. writing their first comparative essay. later. since students are more likely to pick shapes up and look. but they should also be left where students can get them at will. 3D CUBE: in addition. Likewise. A Level English Literature students given their first essay in which they should include ‘alternative interpretations’. Younger and less able students will perhaps be better off being given only the discourse markers that they need or could use. POWERPOINT: show the students a PowerPoint of the discourse markers you want them to use and model their use before asking them to use them themselves TOOLBOX SHEET. You could remind them each time they write that they are there. It is better to give these items out each time. in an examination. the student somehow is helped to recall the information. laminate a sheet of discourse markers to hand out whenever students write an essay. Studies at KS3 have shown that where a teacher has this sort of information displayed on a wall. differentiated and printed at the recommended size 14 font. This sheet may be part of a toolbox of such sheets and other desktop teaching aids. may be given a list of ‘qualifying’ and ‘contrasting’ discourse markers – which would have the effect of not only helping them organise their ideas. 2 . create smaller individual cards (enlarged and cut from the toolkit sheet) for each type of discourse marker to laminate and leave on the desk. even when not being explicitly taught to use them.

as a desk toolkit item. match with a summary of the content of each sentence.senteacher. The same discourse markers on a simple power point. 5. ADDING and also SEQUENCIN ILLUSTRATIN G G first. or removed. The background colour of these may be changed. making this a wholly adaptable resource. by going to the ‘Page Layout’ tab and to ‘Page background’. Table cards for students to use a reference material. Return to the ‘Home’ tab to alter the font and heading background colours.on a flip-chart or the board. Wall display sheets. The same discourse markers on an A4 sheet laminated (perhaps adapted). to be adapted if required. 4. using the discourse markers. The borders may be changed or removed by clicking on ‘Page Border’. the full essay plan with points listed too . A more complete list of discourse markers for the teacher to select from. or paragraph or point on another slip or post-it and paste.) FRAME: create a frame – and if you wish. you will need to save and alter each page separately. using the font and paint pot symbols on the ‘Font’ and ‘Paragraph’ tabs. for CAUSE and EFFECT because 3 . If you want different page colours for each list. highlight each grid box. perhaps with the help of the class. 3.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du SORTING CARDS or SLIPS: print the individual specific discourse markers onto slips and then in pairs or singly students cut them up and lay them on the table in the order they are going to use them. go the ‘Design’ tab and select ‘shading’. To be photocopied and enlarged. (See above. A blank ‘cubes’ (to be enlarged) may be found at: http://www. Toolkit resources with the Englishedu guide 1.php Use text boxes (See ‘Insert’ on Tools bar) to place selected discourse markers on each side. To remove or alter colour.

.. as long as if 4 . third… finally example such as for instance so therefore thus next furthermor consequen e meanwhile in the case tly of additionall after hence y as then revealed subsequen by… tly illustrated by COMPARING QUALIFYING similarly likewise as with like equally but however although unless except CONTRASTIN G EMPHASISIN G whereas instead of alternative ly otherwise unlike on the other hand.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du as well as moreover too second. above all in particular especially significantl y indeed notably in the apart from same way.

nevertheless. final finally. too. as stated. therefore. likewise. then. most of all. consequently. once. in the end. at the end. last. so far. that is. ‘Cause and effect’: because. last of all. in fact. at the same time. later on. next. in simpler terms. hence. second. in the first place. to repeat. in short. to begin with. consequently. the next time. in particular. at the beginning. to put it differently. once upon time. again. to outline. to rephrase. to continue. starting with. again and again. once more.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du conversely TEACHERS’ LIST OF DISCOURSE MARKERS and. so. either…or. least of all. too. in the third place. thus. in other words. on the next occasion. Repetition: All in all. Sequence: First. subsequently. to finish. in the second place. in brief. after that. again. third. moreover. to reconsider. a point: well as. in conclusion. at first. to review. to summarize 5 . to paraphrase. to retell. following that. that is to say. above all. to conclude. furthermore. in addition. and. at last. in addition to. neither…nor. equally important. as To add also. over and over. additionally. as a result. altogether. earlier. from this point. to explain. initially. to clarify. secondly.

suppose that. to demonstrate. to explain. I accept. for one thing. to show. Cause and effect To concede: it is true that. to close. of course. 6 . it may well be. to summarize. specifically. to recapitulate. in other words. usually. hence. in most cases. in the case of. essentially. although. such as. to illustrate. to agree. above all. as a result. for instance. therefore. to complete. no doubt. I grant you. as an example. to end. as a rule. in short. in general. in particular. finally. primarily. To conclude or summarise: To conclude. largely. although this may be true. indeed. to put it in another way. as revealed by. To illustrate: For example. i. thus. to some extent. after all. in this case. last of all. as a consequence of. naturally. to bring to an end. to admit. to confess. to be exact.. namely. as illustrated by. mostly. in accord with. to sum up. I allow.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du To generalize: on the whole. in conclusion.e. thus. chiefly. consequently. broadly speaking. generally.

to differ from. Above all. significantly. on one hand. parallel to. in opposition to. most of all. another distinction. disagree and ‘qualify’: Though. similar to. in truth. more importantly. after all. without a doubt. in much the same way. in contrast. however. by contrast. the most necessary. actually. to emphasize. matching. against. certainly. moreover. despite. resembling. unlike. no doubt. the main issue is. on the other hand. versus. the major point. after all. chiefly. exactly. to stress. like. otherwise. a striking difference. while it is true. for all that. in one way. but. in my opinion. identically. actually. surely. as a matter of fact. I suppose. to oppose. furthermore. to culminate. instead. after all. in spite of. nonetheless. I’m afraid. To be truthful. undoubtedly. to highlight. as well as. although this may be true. of little difference. to tell the truth. equally. similarly. to be sure. the most significant. honestly. to add to that. unquestionably. by all means. on the contrary. probability 7 . To contrast. despite this fact. in comparison. also. opposite. as a matter of fact. in relation to To express attitude: Frankly. more and more. I think. nevertheless. yet. although. of major interest. the climax of. indeed. and yet. as a result. especially. without question. absolutely. I believe. most important of all. unfortunately. even so. in another way. same as. obviously. extremely. still. the chief To emphasise: characteristic.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du To compare: As.

rarely. directly. immediately. frequently. later on. previously. temporarily. all at once. all the while. often. after. eventually. infrequently. following. during. always. until. after a while. earlier. by now. periodically. usually. not long ago. repeatedly. while. later. at present. when. all of the time. meanwhile. not at all 8 . soon. seldom. as soon as. presently. sometimes. as long as. occasionally. at the same time. instantly. simultaneously. after a short time. without exception. some of the time. in the future yesterday. tomorrow.. little by little. recently. soon. at the same time. formerly. currently. Time 2 Suddenly. just then. gradually. the following week. slowly. in the meantime. today. quickly.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishE du Time 1 before. never. henceforth. generally. now. immediately.

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