But, So, However, Therefore and Furthermore

And, But, So, However, Therefore and Furthermore.

If I hadn’t made the move from secondary school to primary school last year, I might never have realised how difficult these words are. These simple connectives are the words that make an explanation work. They connect clauses, telling the reader how they relate to each other – without them, you can’t learn from a text.

However, loads of children hit a wall with them. One of my students last year simply couldn’t get the difference between however and furthermore. In the end we had a tug of war with arguments pegged on – if the arguments are pulling the same way, it’s furthermore…. He is starting year 7 this year. I think he may have forgotten the difference over the summer. 

It is sensible to check that your kids can use these words automatically. For example:

  • Ionic bonds are very strong, but ionic substances have high melting points. Unhelpfully suggests that strong bonds predict low melting points. If I saw a student write this sentence, I’d want to discuss it with them.
  • Ionic bonds are very strong, so ionic substances have high melting points. This sentence explains the link between bond strength and melting point.

With connectives under control, your students can argue better, read more effectively and write more precise answers. You will be able to identify misunderstandings easily.

Connectives are powerful and need to be taught. The strategies are simple, but need constant revisiting. Doug Lemov’s blog describes a method from Teach Like a Champion 2. I use gap fill activities, leading to group discussion. For example:

What is the best connective to use and why? (Pair discussion)

The fox population decreases, ______ the hen population increases.

The forces are balanced, _______ the car’s velocity remains constant.

Hydrogen and oxygen are gasses, ________ when combined, they produce water, which is a liquid.

If you can be sure that your learners have got connectives embedded, you can be far more confident that they will understand what you are asking them to read. If they can use them correctly in their writing, their arguments will be more powerful. 

If you implement one literacy strategy in you class this year, consider a connectives focus. 


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