Microsoft Word is used all over the world and is well-established as the leading word processing software, but many within English language teaching have failed to realise its potential. I would like to suggest a number of brief uses for it, many of which are found within the “Review” tab.
- Teach students to use spelling and grammar check beneficially. Show them that it can be over-used, but the basic function allows them to pick up on common errors.
- Related to this last point is the reading grade that Word assigns to a piece of text based on word length and number of words in sentences. Students can use this to evaluate their own written work or texts they are reading on the internet.
- Translation ScreenTip enables students to hover the pointer over a word to get a direct dictionary translation into their language. Clicking on “Translate” allows a sentence or whole text to be translated depending on its level of complexity.
- Thesaurus can be used in a similar way, but a more useful way to search for synonyms is to right-click on a word the student has repeated and go across to “synonyms” on the drop-down. It may also provide an antonym, but if nothing appears at all, the word may need to be reduced to its base form (by deleting the plural or 3rd person “s” for instance).
- For collaboration purposes, peer review, or teacher marking, the comments option can be very useful. It allows changes to be seen, tracked, and accepted or rejected.
- Students can be given tasks to do on their computers such as jumbled sentences, paragraphs, or even whole texts. Double-clicking on a word selects that word; triple-clicking on a paragraph selects it; and CTRL+single-click enables the selection of a single sentence.
Using Word has a lot of potential for the language teacher or student, but since it is a rather complicated program, clearly written instructions and guided practice will need to be used. Can you add to the six ideas/features listed above? Or could you suggest a good activity that could incorporate one?