What are time connectives?

What are time connectives?
Find out how your child's teacher will explain the concept of time connectives and ways in which your child will be encouraged to use them to improve their writing.

What are time connectives?

Time connectives are words or phrases which are used to tell a reader WHEN something is happening. They are sometimes called temporal connectives.

For example:

This morning, I ate fried bananas for breakfast.

Connectives can be conjunctions, prepositions or adverbs. Under the new primary curriculum (from 2014) children learn to refer to connectives using the correct grammatical terms (conjunction, preposition and adverb) rather than the umbrella term 'connectives'.

Other time connectives include:

first, last, next, then, finally, eventually, this evening, last week, after a while, soon afterwards, meanwhile

These connectives often appear at the beginning of a sentence, which may also be the beginning of a paragraph. We are used to seeing connectives in the middle of a sentence, connecting two parts of the sentence, but in the case of time connectives, they may be connecting one section of text to another. For example: in this passage, the word 'Finally' would not make sense without the information that came before it:

This morning, I ate fried bananas for breakfast, then I had some blueberry pancakes. While taking the bus to school, I read my comic. Finally, we reached the school gates.

Using time connectives in primary-school writing

Children are encouraged to use time connectives when writing stories. There are also various non-fiction texts that feature time connectives, such as: instruction texts, recounts and explanation texts. All of these texts involve a number of things happening in a particular order, which is why time connectives are appropriate for connecting different sections of text.

An instruction text may include time connectives as follows:

  1. First, melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Next, mix the oats, flour and spices.

Here is an extract from a recount of a child's trip to a museum, which contains time connectives:

Early on Monday we got onto the coach and made our way to London. The journey was really fun! The coach driver put some music on and we all sang along while looking at all the sights. An hour later, we arrived at the museum.

This extract from an explanation text includes time connectives to explain how the Egyptians mummified bodies:

  1. First the brain was removed. This was done by putting a hook up the person's nose.
  2. After that, all the interval organs were removed and put into decorative jars called canopic jars. The heart was left in the body, because it was believed that the dead person would need to take this with them to the afterlife.

Teachers encourage children to use time connectives using the following methods:

  • Pointing out time connectives when reading various texts, or encouraging children to see if they can find any time connectives in texts they are reading.
  • Verbal activities which encourage children to use time connectives in spoken sentences. For example: giving children a time connective, such as: 'This morning' and then asking them to continue the sentence in their own way.
  • Modelling writing using time connectives on the board during shared writing.
  • Including written reminders to use time connectives when marking a child's work.
  • Putting time connectives on display to remind children to include them in their writing.