Tips for Formatting Documents in Word

If you teach upper elementary students or older, you are probably creating documents on the computer with students and need tips for formatting the documents in Word. I have six word processing functions that are essential for my students in order to edit and publish documents more easily. We use Microsoft products and PCs at my school, and days where we have the whole class set of computers out at the same time can be excruciating unless the students are familiar with some basic commands.

Student help pages for Formatting in MS Word

Student Tips for Formatting Documents

1. Save As

  • Designate one folder where a student saves his documents all the time. Every document a student types is saved into the same folder. Using the Save As feature, I show them how to navigate to the designated folder.
  • Set up a folder for a student’s writing assignments ONLY and teach how to save in the same place every time.
  • Set up a specific naming system. In my class, students always save documents as their name followed by key words from the project (Name Lemonade War or Name Aslan Essay).

2. Double Space

  • Double space the entire document at one time. Students like to type a little, then play with formatting, then have mismatched spacing and fonts. After the entire document is finished, change the spacing at one time. I recommend the Select All function to highlight the entire document, then choose the double space (2.0) line spacing.

3. Tab Button

  • Always use the Tab button to indent when starting a paragraph. When students use the space bar, words are out of alignment and look messy. I dislike messy.

4. Ctrl+c (copy), Ctrl+x (cut), Ctrl+v (paste)

  • These are the 3 most valuable shortcut keys in my opinion. Rather than messing with right clicking which inevitably ends up de-highlighting text, I teach my students these 3 shortcuts. I also use these shortcut keys for copying, cutting, and pasting images.

Student help pages for Formatting in MS Word

5. Formatting Button

  • This is a teacher’s best friend. If students have words jumping all over the page, turn on the formatting tool (it’s in the home tab and looks like a backwards letter p). It shows all the background buttons a student has pushed in the document. If a student pressed the space bar a thousand times to move something to the center, it shows little dots. If a student hit enter multiple times, a paragraph symbol (backwards looking P shows up). If a student hit  the tab button, an arrow appears. I can fix a lot of funky formatting in a student’s document by turning on the formatting key.

6. Undo Typing

  • And finally, when all else fails, hit the counterclockwise arrow and undo the most recent typing!

You can grab a free printable version of MS Word Student Tips from my Teachers Pay Teachers store by CLICKING HERE.

Student help pages for Formatting in MS Word

Sharpie Paint Pen Teacher Hack

 

Even though I did not want to do it, I returned to my 4th grade classroom for some final clean up from the school year. My main objective today was to remove the semi-permanent Sharpie Paint Pen names on the corners of the desks. In the past, this has been a little bit of a chore because I use Sharpie Paint Markers, medium point, to write student names on each desk, and it does not wipe off easily.

Sharpie Paint Pen name tags on desks teacher hack #teachertip

That was the point when I started using the Sharpie Paint Markers– they did not wipe off easily. I was so frustrated with laminated paper name tags that were torn, bent, doodled on, and peeled apart by the third week in August. The Sharpie Paint Marker names hold no interest for the students. They can’t wipe them off. They can’t wrinkle or peel them apart. The names are smooth and flush with the desk surface, so students papers don’t rumple, bend, or tear them. They are practically perfect except when you need to remove or change the name.

I tried a few paint pen removal methods, and Goof Off really works the best. Unfortunately, you practically asphyxiate yourself by the end of the job because of the fumes. However, TheRoomDad came through on this one (accidentally) because when I sent him to Lowe’s for a new can of basic-original-classic Goof Off, he returned with a spray bottle of Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel. The smell is not as deadly, and it worked as well as regular Goof Off to get the paint pen off the desks.

I have two groups of students who move through my room every day, so I color code my desk names. Blue is one class group; red is the second class group. The names are easy to read and stay bright and clear even when I wipe the desks down. When I do need to change names on the desks, I can wipe one name away or both names using the Goof Off. The paint pen names have been a great teacher organizational tool that reduce mess in my classroom.

To Remove Sharpie Paint Marker Names:

  • Spray Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel on dried paint pen and wait a minute.
  • Wipe in circles (scrubbing motion) with a dry paper towel.
  • Wipe up the gel off the desk.
  • Wipe the entire desk with a Clorox wipe or other cleaning solution (or even a wet paper towel).
  • Repeat if necessary.

   

When You Don’t Have Goof Off:

  • Scribble over the dried Sharpie paint pen with Expo marker.
  • With a damp paper towel or Clorox-type wipe, rub the Expo and Sharpie paint pen away. This method takes longer.
  • Repeat as necessary.

    

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun block (I have not tried this method personally, but teacher followers shared the tip with me)
  • Nail polish remover (test that this does not remove the finish on your desks before using)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (or similar)

 

Writing in a Straight Line on Unlined Paper

writing in straight lines on unlined paper

At various times during the year, my students write letters using unlined school stationery. Sometimes we type the letters and run the stationery through the printer for a totally professional product, but sometimes the letters need to be handwritten for a more personal touch. When students try to handwrite lines of text on an unlined piece of paper, the words start to move down the page (or up– or become a random zig zag pattern). By the third line of text, there is no attempt at straight lines any more, and the students are just trying to get all words onto the page before they run out of space.

straight lines paper

I have a simple solution. In order to keep the words straight on the page, I use a trick I learned from the woman who helped me with my wedding invitations. Trace all of the lines on one piece of wide ruled notebook paper with a semi-heavy black marker.

straight lines paper copiesPhotocopy as many pages as you need. When students need to write straight lines on blank paper, place the photocopied lined paper underneath the unlined paper. As you press down to write, the lines are visible, so you have guidelines to keep your writing straight. My students have multiple opportunities to write on unlined paper throughout the year, so I keep the photocopied line pages and reuse them. We have an ongoing Author Letter Project, we write thank you notes to chaperones and hosts after field trips, and we have a project where students create their own letterhead and exchange personal letters with other classes in the school.

straight lines on letterhead

If addressing envelopes, cover the lines on a notecard with black pen and slide the notecard inside the envelope to create guidelines for writing an address neatly and evenly.

straight lines notecard

Sometimes, the envelope paper is thin enough that you do not need to make the notecard lines darker in order to see them through the front of the envelope. Hopefully, you can faintly see the notecard lines in the center of the envelope in the picture below.

straight lines addressing an envelopeThis is one of my favorite teacher hacks that really improve the look of a finished writing assignment without creating too much work for me. And, this tip is not just for students. It is a great trick for anyone needing to write on unlined paper.

Teacher Tip

sample workbooks

Teachers receive many booklets with reproducible student pages inside. It is easy to recognize this type of teacher material because it looks just like a student workbook but may have 3 holes punched in it. The idea is to have the teacher remove the pages when needed, make copies for students, then start a materials binder that will hold the student worksheet until the teacher needs to copy it again.

Teachers rarely remove the pages because the pages do not pull out easily. The pages tear. The pages get mangled when a person tries to oh-so-carefully remove them along the handy perforation the book publisher provides. Instead, TheRoomMom teachers will push the entire book flat on the copy machine while the copy machine (who think it is smarter than you are) reorients the page, so it copies landscape rather than portrait, and you get a copy of a half a page and a good shot of your arm and watchband.

workbook pages separated

I found a solution. An instructor at a professional development class I attended this summer told me to put the book that you want to separate in the freezer for several hours. When you pull the book out of the freezer, bend the pages back, and the glue will crack. Voila. You can separate all pages and reassemble in a binder.

workbook pages in binder

I apologize to my non-educator followers who might not find today’s post useful. On the other hand, if you have been desperate to find a way to cleanly remove pages from the heavy glue binding in a book, this might just be the tip that will change your world.

cover of workbook in binder