|Microsoft Office Word 2003
|Microsoft Word 2002
Studying English composition ain't what it used to be. There are still a few of us who remember when revising drafts meant typing the essay completely over again on your father's portable typewriter — no spell checker, no set margins, just blood, sweat, and tears. And then computers and Microsoft Word came along, and need we say more? Well...yes.
Barbara Ballard, an English and contemporary issues teacher at Coupeville Middle and High School, in Coupeville, Washington, is helping students to realize the benefits of writing in Word that reach beyond spell checking. She uses the Revision Marking tools in Word to help students really think about the changes they make when working on an essay.
"These tools have made my life so much better," Ballard says. Through a Washington State Teacher Leadership grant, Ballard's school received 16 networked computers. The network has allowed her not only to use Word as an integral part of teaching writing, but also to provide the means for online peer critique and collaboration.
Revising with goals in mind
On the first day of class, Ballard has the students set personal writing goals, which they work on over the quarter. Revision on any essay revolves around those goals. With Change Tracking turned on, the students revise to get closer to their goals. Using Insert Comments, the students explain why they made a change, referring back to the goal. Ballard calls this "intentional revision." She says, "Having a specific goal and proving that you meet the goal seems real to [the students].... It elevates the assignment out of busy work."
Peer editing: students write about writing
Students critique each other's writing, most often online. Ballard has each student in turn go into the Tools menu, click Options, point to User Information, and then change the user information to their name. Then, when they add comments to the essay, their names will accompany the comments. This allows several students to work on a document from one computer.
Each student focuses on a particular area in the essay, based on the writer's initial goals. This gets students to think not only about the essay they are writing, but also about the way words work and the reader's role in an essay.