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Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu 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. GCSE students, writing their first comparative essay, might be given a list of ‘comparison’ discourse markers that would work to help them see how to compare. If given and practised before they collected the ideas for their writing, the discourse markers would work to develop hints on what they needed to look for in order to use them. Likewise, A Level English Literature students given their first essay in which they should include ‘alternative interpretations’, may be given a list of ‘qualifying’ and ‘contrasting’ discourse markers –


the student somehow is helped to recall the information. since students are more likely to pick shapes up and look. Younger and less able students will perhaps be better off being given only the discourse markers that they need or could use. 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. laminate a sheet of discourse markers to hand out whenever students write an essay. Wall display sheets. cards for spelling or reading hints. in an examination. differentiated and printed at the recommended size 14 font. (not included here). or a the same materials on a cardboard cube. This sheet may be part of a toolbox of such sheets and other desktop teaching aids. the full essay plan with points listed too . 3D CUBE: in addition.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu which would have the effect of not only helping them organise their ideas. Alternately. match with a summary of the content of each sentence. To be photocopied and enlarged. but of recognising how to include ‘alternative readings’ in their work. but they should also be left where students can get them at will. 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. you will need to save and alter each page separately. It is better to give these items out each time. create smaller individual cards (enlarged and cut from the toolkit sheet) for each type of discourse marker to laminate and leave on the desk. by going to the ‘Page Layout’ tab and to ‘Page background’. or paragraph or point on another slip or postit and paste. The background colour of these may be changed. perhaps with the help of the class. using the discourse markers. Studies at KS3 have shown that where a teacher has this sort of information displayed on a wall. 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 borders may be changed or removed by clicking on ‘Page 2 . (See above. even when not being explicitly taught to use them. Toolkit resources with the Englishedu guide 1. You could remind them each time they write that they are there. If you want different page colours for each list. 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. such as cardboards triangles of writing skills.) FRAME: create a frame – and if you wish. later. or removed.on a flip-chart or the board.

Table cards for students to use a reference material.senteacher.php Use text boxes (See ‘Insert’ on Tools bar) to place selected discourse markers on each side. 3.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu Border’. 5. third… finally next meanwhile after then subsequently ILLUSTRATING and also as well as moreover too furthermore additionally CAUSE and EFFECT for example such as for instance in the case of as revealed by… illustrated by because so therefore thus consequently hence COMPARING QUALIFYING CONTRASTING EMPHASISING similarly likewise as with like but however although unless whereas instead of alternatively otherwise above all in particular especially significantly 3 . To remove or alter colour. A more complete list of discourse markers for the teacher to select from. 2. as a desk toolkit item. highlight each grid box. ADDING SEQUENCING first. to be adapted if required. using the font and paint pot symbols on the ‘Font’ and ‘Paragraph’ tabs. A blank ‘cubes’ (to be enlarged) may be found at: http://www. 4. second. making this a wholly adaptable resource. The same discourse markers on a simple power point. The same discourse markers on an A4 sheet laminated (perhaps adapted).org/wk/3dshape. go the ‘Design’ tab and select ‘shading’. Return to the ‘Home’ tab to alter the font and heading background colours.

so far.. to begin with. once upon time. ‘Cause and effect’: because. in the third place. furthermore. most of all. then. at the end. likewise. at the beginning. to continue. too. consequently. on the next occasion. to conclude. nevertheless. least of all. conversely indeed notably TEACHERS’ LIST OF DISCOURSE MARKERS To add a point: and. following that. earlier. second. thus. at the same time. next.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu equally in the same way. once. above all. hence. Sequence: First. equally important. in addition to. either…or.. Repetition: 4 . in the second place. in conclusion. after that. last. initially. in addition. secondly. moreover. third. later on. in the end. at last. so. final finally. as a result. from this point. as well as. except apart from as long as if unlike on the other hand. therefore. at first. starting with. also. last of all. to finish. consequently. too. in the first place. additionally. the next time. and. neither…nor. subsequently. again.

I accept. to rephrase. as an example. indeed. in most cases. 5 . in particular. usually. above all. naturally. as a rule. I grant you. as stated. in particular. after all. to explain. to show. as revealed by. in other words. to review. i.e. in short. in other words. suppose that. once more. To illustrate: For example. of course. to reconsider. largely. for one thing. namely. in fact. no doubt. although. although this may be true. specifically. to outline. to clarify. to summarize To generalize: on the whole. to confess. to be exact. in brief. again. chiefly. in this case. to retell. thus.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu All in all. generally. primarily. to demonstrate. to put it differently. altogether. that is. to repeat. it may well be. to paraphrase. such as. to agree. in the case of. in general. in simpler terms. to Cause and effect illustrate. broadly speaking. I allow. again and again. in accord with. that is to say. to explain. mostly. to put it in another way. essentially. over and over. for instance.. as illustrated by. to admit. to some extent. To concede: it is true that.

otherwise. to oppose. unlike. but. exactly. in one way. as a result. like.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu To conclude or summarise: To conclude. resembling. disagree and ‘qualify’: Though. nevertheless. to complete. to summarize. still. against. to end. in much the same way. nonetheless. for all that. despite. I’m afraid. also. in relation to To express attitude: Frankly. 6 . in another way. even so. on one hand. on the other hand. as well as. similarly. To contrast. however. in contrast. To be truthful. yet. although. in short. consequently. although this may be true. in opposition to. actually. while it is true. no doubt. therefore. I suppose. matching. as a consequence of. after all. in my opinion. similar to. on the contrary. by contrast. in comparison. equally. another distinction. same as. hence. a striking difference. I believe. despite this fact. finally. To compare: As. in conclusion. and yet. versus. to recapitulate. to sum up. parallel to. to bring to an end. of little difference. after all. in spite of. instead. opposite. last of all. honestly. as a matter of fact. thus. unfortunately. to differ from. to close. I think. to tell the truth. identically.

to add to that. recently. after a while. surely. actually. most important of all. absolutely. obviously. presently. chiefly. more and more. now.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu To emphasise: Above all. to highlight. simultaneously. furthermore. unquestionably. at the same time. tomorrow. extremely. especially. most of all. to stress. until. as a result. earlier. undoubtedly. previously. moreover. after a short time. the chief characteristic. significantly. currently. after all. soon. the most necessary. more importantly. after. immediately. without a doubt.. of major interest. to be sure. to culminate. the main issue is. formerly. henceforth. in the future yesterday. all the while. certainly. at present. in truth. by now. the most significant. as a matter of fact. during. today. by all means. indeed. the major point. the climax of. 7 . later on. to emphasize. the following week. not long ago. probability Time 1 before. without question. later. following.

often. frequently. soon. eventually. as soon as. while. quickly. all of the time. little by little. immediately. at the same time. sometimes. generally. gradually. not at all 8 . infrequently. repeatedly. as long as. never. slowly. rarely. some of the time. in the meantime. always. when. without exception. meanwhile. occasionally. instantly. temporarily. seldom. periodically. usually.Improving Writing: discourse markers EnglishEdu Time 2 Suddenly. directly. just then. all at once.