Transition Circles

Eric Hirata, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Speaking, writing, teamwork
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High school to university
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 15-30 minutes
  • Materials: Flashcards, timer

Cohesion, particularly in writing, is not a skill that is easily developed in EFL learners. Although some students may be able express themselves coherently, their ideas and thoughts may not be connected, making their writing difficult to understand. Giving students the opportunity to practice using transitions makes them aware of the importance of connecting the ideas they want to express. This quick and easily recyclable activity helps to develop cohesion in a fun and practical way.


Step 1: Make sets of transition flashcards for each group in class. Each set should contain different transition types, such as: (a) giving an example (for example, for instance); (b) adding information (also, additionally); (c) contrasting (however, nonetheless); (d) introducing a consequence (as a result, for this reason); and (e) summarizing (in conclusion, to summarize). 

Step 2: Prepare some questions, for example, “What is your favorite kind of movie?”, “Which season do you like best?”, and “What do you like best about school?”


Step 1: Arrange students into groups of three to five.

Step 2: Give each group a set of five flashcards.

Step 3: Have each student in the group take one flashcard. If there are fewer than five in a group, some students should take more than one.

Step 4:  Tell the students that they will be asked a question and that each student should say one sentence to answer it, following the order given on the cards. They will need to listen carefully to what is said because they should start their sentence with the transition written on their flashcard. Make sure that students know that, as a group, they must produce five connected sentences to answer the question.

Step 5: Provide students with an example. “My favorite kind of movies are animations. For example, I love Inside Out. Additionally, I like suspense movies. However, I hate horror movies. As a result, I never rent horror movies. In conclusion, I like animations and suspense movies, but I hate horror movies so I never rent them.”

Step 6: Tell students they will have 3 minutes to answer the question as a group. Teachers should monitor the groups and provide help if needed.

Step 7: After all the groups have finished, choose one group to present their answer in front of the class.

Step 8: Before repeating the activity with the next question, have students exchange their transition flashcards so that everyone has a different transition type.

Step 9: To end the activity, give the students one final question, but this time have them answer it as a quick writing exercise.  


Variations can include doing this as a writing activity where students write a sentence and then pass the paper along to the next student.


This activity gives students the chance to practice speaking and listening while using transitions in a practical manner. By keeping the topics simple, the students are using language and knowledge they already have so their attention is focused on using the transitions in a cohesive manner. The activity can be used to introduce or review transitions and allows students to understand that using transitions can make their message clearer. Although I limit this activity to about 20 minutes, students always want to continue and come away with the motivation to add the transitions practiced to their essay drafts.