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Improving Writing | Discourse Markers: A Teacher’s Guide and Toolkit

Christine Sweeney | Wednesday December 07, 2016

Categories: KS4, AQA GCSE, AQA GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, AQA GCSE Generic Skills, AQA GCSE Skills Resources, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE Generic Skills, Edexcel GCSE Skills Resources, OCR GCSE, OCR GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, OCR GCSE Generic Skills, OCR GCSE Skills Resources, WJEC Eduqas GCSE, WJEC GCSE Pre-2015 Resources, WJEC GCSE Generic Skills, WJEC GCSE Skills Resources, Starters & Teaching Ideas, Teaching Ideas & Skills Development, Writing, Essays, Persuasive Writing

Associated Resources

  • Discourse Markers Toolkit
  • Discourse Markers PowerPoint
  • DISPLAY Discourse Markers

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.

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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...


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