The faster you teach students to be problem solvers, the more they’ll learn. Computers are a foreign language. Even with small class sizes, the more students can do for themselves, the more fun they’ll have learning the intricacies of technology.
The good news is, students love to be independent. They find it cool to know keyboard shortcuts for getting stuff done. In my class, students can help their neighbors, and they love showing off their problem solving skills. Here are 11 tricks that cover many common problems students will face using MS Word:
This will be your favorite very shortly. There are too many times to mention when I’ve had a frantic student, almost in tears because s/he thought s/he’d lost his/her document, and two seconds later I’d retrieved it. I was a hero for a class period.
2. Macro for a heading
This is great for Middle School students who have to remember MLA rules. What goes in a heading? How big are the margins? Where’s a page number go? No more worries. Create a macro (tools-record new macro) and save the resulting document as a template. Never more worry.
3. How to find lost tools and toolbars
Usually when students say they can’t find a tool, it’s on the ‘Standard’ or ‘Formatting’ toolbar. First, show them how to display both toolbars at the top, in two rows (tools-customize). If the toolbar isn’t up, right click in the toolbar area at the top and select it.
4. How to find lost documents
Few schools have students save to ‘My Documents’ on the C: drive (the local computer). Teachers can’t access that location and data can’t be backed up as protection against the unthinkable. Most schools set up student file folders on the network, but it takes a while for users to get accustomed to saving files there. Often, documents ends up lost somewhere along the line (in my school, they must drill down through five levels to get to their unique location). My students learn early to include their last name in the file name and to use ‘search’ on the start menu.
5. How to insert data
The ‘insert’ key is so confusing I’m told it is being inactivated in the future. Nevertheless, it’s part of the learning curve and as such, gets pushed always once too often. If students complain that they lose data as they type, this is probably why. Show them how to push the ‘insert’ key and all will be fixed.
6. Show-hide tool.
Kids always try to strong-arm Word into doing their will–often the wrong way. My favorite is ‘enter enter’ as a shortcut to double space. Seems to work until they have to edit the document, and then everything gets messed up. When you start students on Word, have them push the show-hide button (that funny looking backwards P) so you can see if they’re not using the double space tool. Then, show them where to find the icon on the toolbar.
7. How to adjust margins.
I don’t know how they do it, but students always manage to mess up the margins. Ctrl+Z for undo is a good fix, unless they’re too far past the point where they messed up. By fifth grade, you can show them where the left and right margin tools are and how to use them.
They work so much better than columns and tabs. Teach it to kids early and use it often. It will save you miles of distress.
9. How to show tools on two rows
You’ll become a believer in this fix about the 57th time students raise their hands and tell you they don’t have the tool you’ve asked them to use. That would be the tool that is hidden beyond the chevron at the end of the document’s tool bar. Take five minutes and show students how to always display toolbars on two rows (tools-customize)
10. How to fully drop down menus
How many times have kids told you they didn’t have the menu item they needed? When you finally get to the student who’s been sitting patiently, you find out he didn’t click the chevron double arrow at the bottom of the drop down menu. Argh. Take five minutes and show the class how to display drop down menus fully rather than truncated. If you do it with #9 above, it only takes thirty seconds.
11. How to insert the date
It takes until Middle School for students to remember the date. Before that, they will always ask you. Show them the Shift+Alt+D shortkey that inserts the current date into Word. They love it and it saves a lot of time for you.