Microsoft Word

The Instructions below are for Word 2010

Track Changes is a very handy tool in Word that will allow you to see the decision making process that your students go through as they edit and change their work – hopefully for the better!

Ask your students to type their written work into word exactly as it is in their book. Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, missing punctuation – the works. As soon as they do this word will begin to underline spelling mistakes in red and punctuation and grammatical errors will be underlined in green. This gives students a really good idea of the quality of their writing almost immediately. Most of them are shocked at how many mistakes they have made and it’s a great way to have someone (or should I say something) else highlight their common mistakes. They can now change these errors themselves. They will usually be working on their own, thinking about why it’s underlined and trying to solve the problem.

Now, during your lesson you will have had objectives that you wanted the pupils to meet with their writing. You will have wanted them to be able to demonstrate some specific skills. You might even have asked them to create a list of success criteria that they need to meet (the kinds of things we’d find on rubrics).  Perhaps, as is the case with the example included, you wanted them to demonstrate the ability to write to describe. As such, the success criteria includes things like:

  • Use a range of linguistic devices:  Onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, alliteration etc.
  • Vary sentence structures to include a range for effect: Short sentence to build pace, fronted clauses to create tension etc.
  • Ensure that paragraphing is clear and used to help create cohesion.

You are aware that there are different abilities in the classroom in front of you but the class knows what the minimum, medium and higher level objectives are and they are all aiming to impress. How can we use word to help them reach the next level?

With careful planning and the use of some of the basic tools in word you can make this happen very quickly and effectively. In the “Home” ribbon in Word you will find a highlighter tool.

By clicking on the down arrow by the side of the highlighter students can access a range of different colours. Colours that could be used to go through our work and check we have all the features necessary to reach our target level. Here’s an example:

Looking good!

This is looking pretty good so far… However, there will have been something’s that this person had not included. For example, they could now add a sentence with a fronted subordinate clause, add simple quick sentences to create pace etc. All of these will gain them extra credit for varied sentence structures as well give them opportunity to demonstrate how authors create effects.  What you ask them to highlight depends, of course on the objectives you are trying to achieve as a class.

Once we’re at the stage where we have correct grammatical and spelling errors and used the highlighters to establish where we at in terms of the success criteria, we can start to edit our work and improve it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep a track of what we deleted and changed? We’d have a record of learning, of thinking and development that could really be celebrated. Well, that’s exactly what track changes enables you to do.


To enable track changes on a word document simply choose the “review” ribbon at the top of the screen and click on the “Track Changes” button (it will then have a golden glow) Once this has been initiated, every time a student deletes, adds or changes something in the document it will be recorded in coloured ink on-screen.

It will look a little like this:



Anything underlined shows a word that has been added or changed by the student, anything crossed out has been replaced by this amendment. In this case, I have changed the adjective describing the way our students might be feeling.  I often ask them to print a copy of their colour coded, tracked changes document as this acts as a record of learning and looks great on a ‘learning wall’ or display where students can really show what and how they have managed to achieve a good quality piece of writing.

Of course it’s also a great talking point.  A support for them to use when they’re trying t justify the changes that they made as a writer themselves.

When they think they’ve made as many changes as they’d like and they want their piece to look “tidy” again all they have to do is drop down the menu that says “final – show markup” and change it to “final”. All of the underlining and crossing out will go leaving behind their finished masterpiece!

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