2.Word processors for teachers: creating materials
3.Word processing activities for learners
Why use word processors?
In many ways it may seem paradoxical to devote an entire chapter to the use of word processors, when there are so many other more exciting software tools one could turn to. Yet word processors can be used in many inventive ways, by both teachers and students. Teachers can prepare, create, store and share materials for their classes by using a word processing program, and learners can use a word processing program both in and outside the classroom, to practise writing skills, grammar and other language points, as well as to present their work.
Also, most teachers and learners these days will be familiar with the basic functions of a word processing program, and know how to create, save and store documents, which makes a program like this a good starting point. In this chapter we assume basic knowledge of creating and saving documents, and focus on how to use word processing software efficiently and creatively, introducing you to word processing features you may not be aware of, but which are particularly useful for both language teachers and learners.
We will be focusing on Microsoft Word. Although not everyone uses Microsoft Word, it is currently the most ubiquitous of word processing packages, with an estimated 300 million users worldwide at the time of writing. However, the processes and tools we discuss in this chapter will be similar in other word processing software packages, like Open Office.
A lot of the activities we will be examining here envisage one or two learners to a computer, but with some thought they can be adapted to the single-computer classroom, or assigned as homework if your learners have access to computers at home.
Word processors for teachers: creating materials
As a teacher, you may already use a word processing program to prepare worksheets and materials for your learners. You may also use one for correcting, editing and providing feedback on your learners' digitally submitted written work. In this section, we will look at both of these two 'teacher' uses of word processors.
Inserting images and links
Two of the things you will probably want to do when creating materials are to incorporate images into your worksheets to brighten them up, and to include links to websites which your students can go to for further research or practice.
Images can be incorporated from your own computer (if you have a collection of them) or from Internet sources (copyright permitting). To insert an image which is already stored on your own computer into a document, click the 'Insert' menu, then select 'Picture' and finally 'From file ...'. You will now be able to browse your computer for any pictures you may have stored on it. To grab an image from the Internet, simply find a page with the image, and right-click on it. A menu will pop up and you should choose 'Copy' from the menu, then return to your word processor and paste it into your document where you want it to be.
The trick with images is knowing how to make them interact with the text you have on your page, flowing the text around your images, rather than having it above and below, with your picture isolated in the middle. This is called text wrapping. To work with text wrapping you will first need to enable the picture toolbar: click on 'View' then 'Toolbars' and finally 'Picture'. Now select your picture by clicking on it once and look at the picture toolbar. In the screenshot here we have highlighted the text wrapping option. With your picture selected, click on the 'Tight' option and watch how the text redistributes itself around the image. Now you will be able to drag the picture around your page and put it exactly where you want it to be. Try experimenting with the other text wrapping options, too. This screenshot shows the results of wrapping text around an image, leaving a small white border around each element of the image. Including a web link in a document is simple and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The easiest way of doing this is to open the website you want your learners to visit in a browser, and then click once on the I address of that website in the Address' bar at the top of the browser. This will select the address. Now copy the address (by using Ctrl+C) and then open up your document and paste it onto the page (by using Ctrl+V) return key, the text you have pasted in will automatically to activate links in Word it is customary to have to hold on them. Creating forms
A form is a Word document which has interactive elements in it, resembling closely the kinds of simple exercises you might find on the Internet. These elements can include (among others) drop-down menus for making choices, text entry fields where your learners can type in text, and buttons to select one of a set of choices.
Look at the reading exercise below, composed of a short text and a form featuring comprehension questions for learners to answer. When this is done by learners in Word, the form is locked beforehand and becomes interactive, allowing them to click on answer choices (questions 1 and 6), type answers in (questions 3 and 5) or select from a dropdown list of suggested answers (questions 2, 4 and 7). Once the form in the exercise above is 'locked', each learner can read the text and do the exercise.