Thursday, November 22, 2012

Word Blanks using Microsoft Word's Styles

I have notes available in Microsoft Word for my students, and one of the things I have found most helpful is creating and using styles. Styles are quick formatting options that can be used and reused from file to file.

To find Styles in Microsoft Word, press Ctrl-Shift-S. A list of available styles should come up. These are probably preset styles that come automatically. To apply a style, select some text and click on one of those styles and you will see it change.

While applying the built-in styles is kind of helpful, the real power of styles is when you adjust and control what you want styles to look like. Or when you create new styles of your own. One thing I found myself doing over and over again was creating fill in the blanks for my students in their notes. One problem I had was I would often forget what the word was myself. I found myself making two files all the time -- one which had blanks in it, and another that had the answers. This was a nightmare to manage and I found a solution with styles.

I created a new style called WordBlank. Then I typed up my "answer key" version of the notes, and as I found words that I wanted to blank out, I applied this new WordBlank style to them. When I was done typing it, I modified the WordBlank style by pressing the Modify... button.

Several formatting features made the blanks look just the way I wanted them to.

  • Set to underline.
  • Set the underline color to Black
  • Set the words to be e x p a n d e d.  This is because students handwriting takes up more space then text does, and so the blanks needed to be wider than they would naturally appear.  Alternatively you could just make the font size a little bigger than normal too, or some combination of both.

When I was done, all the words in the document that I had applied the style to looked like this:
Now I could print if I wanted to and have an answer key.

But the real genius was that in this one file, now I could modify the style and change one thing:

  • Set the font color to white

And now the file changed to this:

Then I could print off student copies!  

Now, all of my notes files have this style in them. To make that easier, I pushed "Manage Styles" and made sure to copy that style into my Normal file, so that every time I start a new word document, WordBlank is one of the options I have available.  

Also, since I have all these files available on my class website for students to download, they can access them. Since the blanks are there -- if the students are sick or absent, all they have to do to get the notes is to select the blanks and change them to a different color. And yes, I show them how to do this early on in the year.

If you want to download a document that has my wordblank style in it, try these Momentum Notes.

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