MS Word tutorial 1: Adding ‘comments’

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of tutorials on exploiting the teaching / learning potential of some of the more common desktop applications like MS Word. Like many people I’m a regular user of this application and it’s probably the one I use most, with the exception of my web browser.

Despite the amount of time I have spent using it, I’m often surprised to discover another useful toolbar or technique that I can use to make life easier or my teaching more effective.

This first tutorial shows how to use the ‘comments’ feature that can be found on the ‘Reviewing’ toolbar.

The ‘comments’ feature allows you to add comments to the text of a document. These comments don’t appear in the text itself, but can be seen on screen whenever you hover the cursor over the part of the text that the comment refers to.

To find out how it works, Watch a tutorial (450k Flash movie)

What I like about it
  • This tool enables me to start a dialogue with my students about their work on the actual work itself, without interfering with the flow of the text. I’ve tried using tracking before and found that it can soon become a real mess, so nowadays I much prefer to use this ‘comments’ feature.
  • It doesn’t add greatly to the file size so you can email documents back and forth as you review and re –review them with your students.
  • It’s an ideal tool for encouraging a ‘Process writing’ approach, as students don’t have to re-write their compositions every time they need to change it.

A few ideas for using it with students
  • You can use it to add explanations of difficult words
  • Students can add translations or explanations to words within the text
  • You can comment on students’ work and suggest improvements, or better still they can use it to comment on each other’s work.
  • You can add questions to a text at very precise points. These could be comprehension questions that you would like to ask, or could be questions about a text they have produced which encourage them to write more or add further detail or description
  • You could simply use it for error correction or to point out weaknesses in the text.
  • You could build up dialogue with students about the text, by adding questions to it or asking students to add questions and then reply etc.

None of the ideas above are exactly revolutionary and they could all be done with pen and paper. The advantage though, that I have found, of using this method on a computer is that students seem much more willing to go back and revise work if it doesn’t involve rewriting text. After all the real process of writing that we want to develop and aid is the act of creation, not the physical process of forming letters.

If anyone else uses this feature in other ways, I’d love to hear about your ideas.