Teacher Tips

Creating a student-friendly worksheet


Teacher Tips

with Aaron Quigley

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Video: Creating a student-friendly worksheet

Hello, and welcome to another Teacher Tips video. I'm Aaron Quigley. This week, we're going to talk about how we can use Microsoft Office to create better assignments for our students. Here on my screen, I've opened up a very simple Earth and Space worksheet. This is the kind of worksheet that a student would complete during an independent work activity. Right away, I notice that there's several things wrong with this worksheet. For a struggling reader, it seems like all the text is just merging together. There's not a lot of separation and not a lot of stylistic things to help students separate the text in their mind.
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    1. Managing student behaviors with ClassDojo
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    1. Creating a student-friendly worksheet
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Watch the Online Video Course Teacher Tips
8h 26m Appropriate for all Sep 16, 2013 Updated Dec 22, 2014

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In this new series, author and educator Aaron Quigley shows you how to stay up to date with the latest educational technology and classroom management techniques. Each week, he'll introduce you to a new tip you can use to be more efficient, and increase student achievement. Aaron covers concepts like the flipped classroom, Common Core Standards, and the role of social media in education. The series also covers a variety of productivity apps, learning management systems, and other technologies, using a project-based approach that simulates the real K–12 or university classroom environment. Check back often for new tutorials, every Monday with Teacher Tips.

Education + Elearning
Aaron Quigley

Creating a student-friendly worksheet

Hello, and welcome to another Teacher Tips video. I'm Aaron Quigley. This week, we're going to talk about how we can use Microsoft Office to create better assignments for our students. Here on my screen, I've opened up a very simple Earth and Space worksheet. This is the kind of worksheet that a student would complete during an independent work activity. Right away, I notice that there's several things wrong with this worksheet. For a struggling reader, it seems like all the text is just merging together. There's not a lot of separation and not a lot of stylistic things to help students separate the text in their mind.

Further, I also see that there's a lot of wasted space on this page. I'm looking at the margins on the top and the right and the left and I can see that there's a ton of white space that we could utilize to help make this a better student worksheet. Let's go ahead and dive in to reworking this worksheet to make it more student friendly. Then, once we've created a more friendly worksheet, we're going to talk about how we can create modified versions of this worksheet to meet the needs of our individual students. The first thing I notice that we need to change is this header. The header itself is actually in the body of the paper not in the actual header section.

This is just wasting space on our paper. So, let's go ahead and move this header to the actual header of the document. I'm going to do that by triple clicking to highlight the entire line. I'm going to use the keyboard shortcut of Cmd + x or Ctrl + x on the PC to cut it and put it in the clipboard. I can then go up into my header section and you can see the small header icon up here. I will double-click to enter the header section. And I will just go ahead and paste our header by using the keyboard shortcut Cmd+V or Ctrl+V on the PC.

Now that my header is pasted, I can go ahead and close out of this. The next thing I'd like to do is go ahead and change the margins for the page. There's several way to access the margins. If you have the rulers opened, you can simply go up into the ruler and double-click. This will automatically open up the margins dialog box. Here, I'm going to go ahead and reduce the left margin to one and the right margin to one. So we end up with one inch all the way around. By default, most new Microsoft Office documents come with a one inch top and bottom margin and a one and a quarter inch left and right margin.

I'll go and click OK. You can see now that things are starting to space out a little bit. As I go back to the header, I can see too that I've got some extra space now beyond grade. And for most of my students, that's just not enough space to put in the date. So I'm going to go ahead and go back into my header, and I'm going to add a little bit of space under the date column, so that students can easily type out today's date. And then we'll go and close that again. Now the title of this should be something that's going to catch the student's eye. Earth and space is just typed out in cambria which is one of the default fonts for Microsoft Word. But let's go ahead and create something that's a little bit more space like.

Fonts can be a great tool with worksheets for helping engage students. Now, a few words of warning. What you don't want to do are use fonts that are hard to read, and you don't want to change the fonts every single place in your page. It's a great practice to only use no more than two to three fonts in a single worksheet. For this particular worksheet, I'm going to leave everything as Cambria except for the title. I want the title to pop out a little bit for the students. I've already selected a font that I think is very space like and that is Bank Gothic. I'm going to come down here and I'm going to choose to use Bank Gothic and the medium version of that.

Further more, I'm going to change the size of this font to 22. So now I have a nice font for my title that I think really pulls the students in to the Earth and space concept. Now down here under vocabulary I can see that there's a bullet point trying to indicate that this is an important section the paper. However, this is an incorrect use of bullet points. What should happen here is an underline as well as maybe some bold-in to help set apart the sections of the paper. One of the skills we teach our students is to section information in their mind. We do this by chunking large quantities of text and building natural scaffolding into our assignments.

We can help our students move through this process simply by creating those different sections inside of a worksheet. I'm going to simply get rid of the bullet. On vocabulary, I'm going to go ahead and make sure it's bolded and I'm going to add underlining. I can also use the keyboard shortcut of Cmd + u or Ctrl + u on the PC. Now I'm using size 22 font for the header, size 12 font for the body of text. So I'm going to go ahead and make these subtitles size 14. That way we've added some emphasis to our vocabulary title. Now the next thing down the page are the instructions.

As you can see, this entire paragraph of instructions have been italicized. That's not necessary. We're trying to put emphasis in too many places. If there are one or two words inside the instructions such as match, maybe I'd want to italicize those words. But for the general instructions, we can go ahead and un-italicize them. I'm using the keyboard shortcut of Cmd+I or Ctrl+I on the PC. Furthermore, I want to make sure there's some space between the instructions and the actual work, so I'm going to go ahead and hit the Enter key after the word column. Now this section of the worksheet's asking students to use vocabulary words and line them up to different letters for definitions.

The important parts of this are the actual words themself as well as the letters that go with the words. Because of that, what I'd like to do is go ahead and Bold just the words that we're using. And the letters that correspond to them. This is going to help students understand that the words and the letters are what they need to focus on for answering these questions. The other thing that I noticed is that there's numbers here, one through five. Now when I go to grade this worksheet, the whole worksheet's only ten questions. It probably won't be that hard to keep track of which question's which. So the numbers aren't really needed. And I'm just going to go ahead and take them out to help cleanup this worksheet.

And because this is a matching section, taking the numbers out will also help students because they realize that they can work through this in enough fluid sense. They don't have to start at astronomy and work through orbit but if they do know the definition today they can start there. Or if they know the definition to orbit they can start there as well. This will help our students move through the process in a way that makes sense to them. The last thing I noticed in this section is that there is two spaces between each word except for day and year. Line C, the imaginary line that a planet rotates on, is only one line while the rest are two. Even though its only one line, I'm going to go ahead and add an additional space here.

You'll notice too that that unfortunately puts me on the two pages, but that's okay, we'll take care of that in a second. So now when I look at the section of matching I have evenly spaced out words. The words are now bolded and the letters are now bolded to allow students to quickly line up that information. Moving down the page the next section we need to tackle is this short answer section. The first thing I want to do is help students understand that it's a new part of the worksheet. So I'm going to go ahead and title it short answer. Using the same format as vocabulary up above, I'm going to make this size 14 font, I'm going to underline it and make it bold.

So now students can quickly look at the worksheet and realize there's a vocabulary section and a short answer section. When it comes to creating spaces for students to write, I always feel that I'm going to use as much space as I can. And this is probably an adequate amount of space for the answer, but let's just go ahead and extend it all the way out to maybe the edge of the questions. That way when students go to write they feel like they've got the ability to add as much information as they'd like. I never want to limit a student's ability to answer a question. Furthermore, I see that I've got a small graphic here that goes with the first question.

How many degrees in the tilt of the Earth's axis. I want to make sure that students can actually see that this graphic goes with that question and not question two or question three. So what I'm going to do is add a Microsoft shape to point from the question to the graphic. To do that, I'm going to make sure I'm in the Home tab on the ribbon. I'm going to click off my graphic, so the options appear. And I'm going to come up to the Insert Box and choose Shape. Here I'm going to come down to Blocks and Arrows, and I'm just going to choose a really basic arrow. I can come down to this question, click and drag out the arrow that now points directly toward the shape.

Now you'll notice that all of a sudden, my question kind of got split in half. The reason is, is most shapes come in automatically as inline with text. And we want to change that. I would like the shape to be something known as in front of text so that it doesn't interfere with the sentence. To do this I'm going to highlight the shape, right mouse click, Format Shape and I'm going to chose Layout in the left hand side towards the bottom. In the wrapping styles, right now its currently in line with texts and I'm going to choose in front of text and then click OK. You'll notice that the word Access which was over here has popped back.

It is now next to the word Earth and I can now move this arrow around without it impacting the text in the page. I'll go in kind of place it right where I think I want it. Maybe I'll even make it a little bit longer. So now students as they work through this worksheet, they'll know that this graphic only goes with this question. We have just a few more changes to make this worksheet even more student friendly. The more instructions we put in our worksheet the better. For example, here I have an open ended question, how does earth's movement cause day and night? What I'd like to do is tell students exactly my expectations as a teacher.

I'm going to just go ahead in put in I want a blank number of sentences. The reason I'm not putting a number in there is this is one of the areas on this worksheet that I will differentiate for my students. Some students who I want to push I think should write three sentences. Some students who are struggling with the content or have an IAP, I may only ask them to write one sentence. I'm going to go ahead and leave that open and in a little bit we'll talk about how we can quickly create a variety of differentiated worksheets to match the needs of our students. The last thing we're going to do is go ahead and take care of the spacing for this particular question.

As you can see I've already bumped down onto the next page. One of the reasons is because there is so much wasted space at the bottom of this page. I'm going to go ahead and drag the bottom margin down to a half inch. I'm going to do that by aligning my cursor on the margin break on the left hand ruler, I'm going to click and hold and I'm going to continue to just to drag down until there's only a half inch space left. Clicking and dragging the rulers are really fast way to change you margins, now I have it back to being on one the entire page And the very last thing to do is to go ahead and clean up these page breaks.

The fastest way to do this is just to go ahead and go to the following line, hit the Backspace, so now I have a compete line. I'm going to go to the edge of it, hit Enter. And you'll notice that I've bumped everything back onto the second page. These additional lines, I'm just going to go ahead and highlight them to get rid of them. I'll use the Delete key on the keyboard. And now I've just got one line there. Because this is a single line, I can just triple click it. Use the keyboard shortcut of Cmd + C or Ctrl + C on the PC. And then I can just paste it in. And now what I'm doing is I'm pasting it evenly one line at a time.

And that line stretches all the way from the left to the right margin. Now I bumped it on to the next page. I'm going to go ahead and come back to my bottom margin and see if I can get that line to appear. There we go. So now I've got it maximizing the page space. I've got room for students to write. I've allowed room for some differentiation. I've made sure students can line up graphics with questions. I've made answering matching questions easier. And we've made the worksheet more engaging by changing the title. The next step is to talk about how we can modify this worksheet to meet the needs of our students in our individual classes.

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