Using Microsoft Word Like a Pro, Part 1


Whenever I ask a group of teachers the question "Who here knows how to use Microsoft Word?" I usually get a showing of all hands. But if I ask the question "Who here knows how to include an audio clip within a Microsoft Word document?" I usually get blank stares.

The fact is, many teachers do not know how to use INTERMEDIATE level features supplied with Microsoft Word. However, when I demonstrate these features in the context of classroom documents, these same teachers become energized. They are surprised both that these capabilities are available and that they're easy to use to support student learning.

As a former English teacher and present technology integrator, I recognize the value of these tools. But I also understand why many teachers are unaware of them. Many of us are from a generation that believes a word processor is meant to enhance the presentation of writing - on paper. We do not conceptualize the handling of student work in an all-electronic environment, one in which an included sound file or a pop-up comment, or an included hyperlink makes sense. Sure, we know about hypermedia and its operations. Anyone using the Web understands this. But we are still used to taking a hundred pages of student work home, sitting in front of the hearth, and writing commentary in the margins of the papers. However, with the arrival of a new generation of teachers raised with Instant Messaging, multi-tasking, and electronic file transfers, and having access to online course support environments, some of this work will change.

To be concrete, I would like to discuss Microsoft Word's intermediate features as an English teacher might apply them. Don't let this restrict your thinking, though, since ALL teachers deal with writing and the concepts discussed here.

I will explore some of these features (or "tools", if you will) that are available and easily applied. They will be presented in order of "excitement", meaning that I will lead you to the features that most energize my colleagues first, with other features to follow. Below is a listing of some of the functions I will discuss in a series of pieces to come:

  • Part One: Insert Comments
  • Part Two: Insert/Object/Wave Sound
  • Part Three: Insert Hyperlink
  • Part Four: Track Changes and the Review Toolbar
  • Part Five: Text Fields, Checkboxes, Drop Down menus and the Forms Toolbar
  • Part Six: Edit/Paste Special
  • Part Seven: Insert File
  • Part Eight: Insert Table (with Insert Picture/From File)
  • Part Nine: Using Tools/Options/Spelling and Grammar/Readability
  1. Vocabulary support: You download the full text of a short story or book section that you wish to use instructionally. One source you might use for free text is The Online Books Page. After you have the text captured and pasted into a Word document, you can then highlight the difficult (based on your students' level) vocabulary words and use Insert - Comments to define them. Then the student reading a passage on a computer screen can see highlighted words the teacher believes need definition. Merely moving the cursor over the highlighted word (without clicking!) enables a pop-up square to appear containing any typed text supplied by the teacher. Thus vocabulary can be defined IN CONTEXT, using any source the teacher wishes for the definitions.

By extension, students could be asked to insert comments themselves, defining the unfamiliar words they encounter, perhaps using an online dictionary such as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. This is a technology-wise application of an paper-based activity done by many English teachers. It also familiarizes students with the use of online dictionaries as support tools for their future writing. Don't ignore the possibilities of using an online or local Thesaurus to ask students to explore various connotations of words.

There are many more ideas too. The two sections following will show how to use Insert Comments, and demonstrate a use of the function as described in item #1 above, using an excerpt from Page One, Call of the Wild, Chapter One.

How to Use the Insert Comments Function of Microsoft Word

  1. Open Microsoft Word (version 2000 used for the screen shots below).
  2. Open the document into which you want to insert comments:
  3. Highlight the word or phrase you wish to comment upon:
  4. With this text highlighted, click on Insert on the menu bar, and pull down to highlight the word Comment:
  5. The following screen will pop up on the bottom of your workspace, with your cursor blinking after a set of initials:
  6. Type in the comment you wish to create. In this case, a meaning of the word "demesne" from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (
  7. Close the comment area to continue. You may add as many comments as you wish. Each will have the Microsoft Word user's initials (see instruction 9, below) followed by a series of sequential numbers.
  8. Readers of your document can now move the cursor over any highlighted section and the comments will either: pop up (Microsoft Word versions 97-2000) or be displayed on the right side (Microsoft Word XP). Here is a view from the user's perspective:
  9. Please Note: The username and initials are assigned, on the machine you use, using the Tools/Options menubar:
  10. Next, choose the tab labeled User Information and type in the desired information:
  11. Click OK to implement this change or addition. From this point on, any comments will be tagged with the given initials and name. If the document is also reviewed by another person on that person's machine any comments inserted will have THAT person's identification.
  12. You can EDIT or DELETE any comment from your document by right-clicking over the highlighted word and using the pull down menu, choosing Edit or Delete Comment.
  13. You can print a complete page of your comments choosing File/Print. Your printing screen will show "Print What" as a choice, and you pull down to select "Comments". (This may vary according to your Microsoft Word version.)
  14. You can also set your print Options (see on screen above) to automatically print the Comments after printing the document:

Sample Page with Comments Inserted (Word .doc file)


Increasingly, new teachers familiar with online class support and electronic document exchange will bring to our educational system the idea of working in an electronic environment. Our students, raised with online access as a normal part of their lives, will expect us to accept work done electronically without having to carry disks or paper to school in backpacks. Teachers and students alike will want and expect to use one of a myriad of course development tools such as Blackboard, WebCT, SchoolCenter, and others.

As these online environments become standard fare, electronic exchange of documents will become more manageable than the occasional Email attachment. Then the software tools outlined here will become more a part of our normal repertoire and less the "hidden resources" that we don't know about and, therefore, don't use!

Next: Part Two: Inserting Recorded Sounds to Support Text

Email: Dan Lake