Teaching grammar basics: connectors

By Sara Snelling

09 Nov 2022

A teacher in a class of primary pupils learning grammar

Teaching grammar basics can be a hard slog, until you reap the reward of seeing your learners apply the rules in their writing practice.

In this article, we focus on connectors and fun ways to teach your students to use them to get their points across and help their writing flow.

Connectors are words or short phrases that link ideas or statements together across different sentences or paragraphs. The statements can exist without a connector, but using one helps define the relationship between them and can add a rich layer of meaning.

Take the following two sentences: Sonja went to all her lessons. She did well in her exams.

Sonja may have done well in her exams even if she didn’t go to all her lessons. Add in the connector ‘consequently’ and it clarifies the cause and effect.

Sonja went to all her lessons. Consequently, she did well in her exams.

The connector adds depth to two statements by clearly linking the outcome in the second sentence with the action in the first.

As children work their way through the curriculum, they move towards using connectors at around the time they finish KS2. They go from short sentences, such as ‘My name is…’ or ‘I live in…’ to using conjunctions to create longer sentences, and then on to connectors to join up ideas across different sentences.

Connectors are useful for learners looking to add detail, clarity and structure to their writing. Connectors define relationships between ideas, enhance the flow of text, and help writers express themselves clearly. Teaching your learners to use connectors helps them express their views and share information precisely in exams and assessments.

When it comes to learning about connectors, there are a few grammar rules for your students to remember:

  • Connectors are placed between two statements they are to connect.
  • They can be placed before or after the subject of the second sentence.
  • If the connector is the first word in the second sentence, it must be followed by a comma.
  • If the connector is placed after the subject and before the verb, a comma should be used before and after the connector.
  • A connector can also come after both the subject and the verb, in which case a comma isn’t usually needed.

Connectors and conjunctions are similar in their purpose of describing a relationship between two statements. The difference is connectors join two separate sentences, while conjunctions join two elements within a sentence, such as clauses or nouns. Deciding when to use one over the other, in part comes down to the emphasis you are trying to convey.

Let’s look at them in practice.

Conjunction: The dog ran to the gate, but it was not friendly.

Connector: The dog ran to the gate. However, it was not friendly.

The use of the connector in the second sentence adds gravity to the fact that the dog wasn’t friendly.

When a conjunction joins two statements, they are usually equal parts of the same idea.

For example, in the sentence ‘Dogs are friendly and loud,’ the use of the conjunction ‘and’ gives equal value to dogs being friendly and dogs being loud. If you replace the conjunction with a connector, the emphasis changes: Dogs are friendly. Nevertheless, they are loud. Using the connector ‘nevertheless’ adds the contrasting information that follows and gives it significance.

It also comes down to the structure of the writing. For example, creating two sentences and linking them with a connector can break down and simplify an overly-long sentence. It can also create a pause that heightens the impact of the second idea or statement.

These are used to show that the second sentence supports the idea(s) in the first one. Examples are ‘moreover’, ‘in addition’, ‘furthermore’ and ‘on top of that’.

These show similarity between ideas. Examples are ‘equally’, ‘likewise’, ‘in the same way’ and ‘similarly’.

Used to show a contradiction between ideas. Examples are ‘alternatively’, ‘on the other hand’, ‘conversely’ and ‘nevertheless’.

These can help illustrate a point. Examples are ‘for example’, ‘for instance’, ‘one example is’ and ‘in the case of’.

These are used to express ideas or actions in a set order, or in order of importance. Examples are ‘first’, ‘next’, ‘then’, ‘now’ and ‘finally’.

Game-based learning is a fun and interactional way to get your students working with connectors and practising using them in context. Introducing an element of competition, plus an enticing reward, can boost players’ motivation. Following are some ideas to get you started.

Create a worksheet with connector words and phrases at the top, followed by paragraphs, each containing at least two sentences. Include a gap where the connector should go at the start of one of the sentences in each of the paragraphs. Include a varied selection of sentences and connector words or phrases, so learners have to think about why the sentence requires a connector – for contrast, comparison, sequence and so on. Ask your learners to fill in the gaps by selecting the most appropriate connector from the list at the top.

We have made this worksheet as part of a two-sheet PDF, which can be downloaded below for free.

These can be online or on paper and there are many formats you could use. A connector versus conjunction quiz is great to get learners thinking on their feet – present them with a mix of sentences, some joined with connectors and others containing conjunctions, and ask them to vote on whether it’s a connector or a conjunction. This helps enforce the difference between the two.

Great for hands-on fun, activity cards can be used individually or in groups. Create a range of different flash cards, each containing a task that requires the use of a connector. For example, a task could be to write two sentences using a connector to demonstrate cause and effect between two ideas.

Find a piece of text from a workbook, a magazine, an online article or any copy that might appeal to your students and get them to circle all the connectors. Share results as a group until all the connectors have been identified.

We have designed a worksheet where learners can stick their found connectors, allowing them to craft a bespoke connector wall they can refer back to for future writing and reading.

Create your own word search by including a mix of different connectors hidden within a grid of random letters and ask your learners to find and highlight them.

There are online tools available where you input the words you want included in the search and they are automatically hidden within a grid that can be downloaded and distributed, or played online. The WordSearch maker is an example of a free online tool you could try.

Connectors are just one part of Bedrock Learning’s linear, differentiated grammar curriculum. Learners explore grammar techniques, video activities, unique prose, engaging tasks and mastery assessment questions to progress through a grammar curriculum, from basic grammar knowledge to advanced techniques. Perfect for supporting primary learners and consolidating necessary skills in secondary education, Bedrock’s deep-learning algorithm saves teachers time through its consistent, explicit grammar instruction and self-marking software.

To start saving time teaching grammar in your classroom, start your free trial of Bedrock’s core curriculum.

Bedrock Grammar immerses learners in engaging learning experiences, using stories, video, interactive activities and scaffolded writing opportunities.