How to Create Better Worksheets: One Simple Shortcut

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has lived through this scenario while trying to create lines for writing on a worksheet:

I hold down shift and the underline key and watch that little line work its way across the page, trying to line it up as close to the margin as I can without going too far. Then, I hit enter to make the next line and my carefully crafted line jumps up and gets darker–What? Why? Sometimes I can fix it, sometimes I can’t–it happens every time, you’d think I’d know what I did, but I don’t.  I move on to the next lines, and even if I can manage to get them spaced equally, and they look like they’re lined up at the margin, when I print, the ends of my lines look like this:

_______

______

________

_______

No more! Once I learned the trick I’m going to show you in these videos, I have saved myself countless hours of frustration. I hope you’ll find it just as helpful.  

better-worksheet

In the first video, I’m going to demonstrate how I use tables to create lined writing spaces using PowerPoint (because I usually use PowerPoint to create worksheets, as I explained in this blog post/video series): 

And, for those of you who still prefer Word, this video illustrates the differences between tables in PowerPoint and Word:

Over the last year I’ve been transitioning to Google for most of my work. For the most part, the Google versions of the Office software are very similar, but there are a few differences that have taken me a little while to figure out. Table borders was one of those, so this video shows you how to set up your table for writing using a Google Slide.

I do hope you’ll find this shortcut allows you to create more polished worksheets in less time. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

PowerPoint to the Rescue

I spend a lot of my time helping teachers with lesson planning and whenever we come to the point of creating a handout or worksheet for students and I open up PowerPoint on my computer, the teacher inevitably looks at me like I’ve forgotten what we were trying to do.  Once I get started, though, he or she is nodding alongside me, saying, “This is really cool.  I can’t believe I never thought of this.”

After being told many times that I should offer a professional development on using PowerPoint to create classroom documents, I gave it a try at the end of the school year.  I realized as I was preparing the presentation that the ideas would make great blog posts, so here is a little background information, and then I’ll post a couple of screencasts to illustrate the process.

PowerPoint art

Like most of the teachers I work with, one participant at the presentation was a little skeptical and asked why I used PowerPoint instead of Word to create documents.  I gave a rambling answer about manipulating text and images and making professional looking documents, all of which is true, but thinking back on it, I have a much better answer: TIME.   Using PowerPoint saves time.

As I’ll demonstrate in these videos, with PowerPoint, what you see is what you get.  There’s no wasted time tabbing and spacing to align text, only to have it all get shifted around out of alignment when I realize I need to add another word.  And in PowerPoint, a page is a page is a page–when I send something to the printer, I’m not surprised by finding the bottom of page one at the top of page two.  I can create everything I need on my screen and move it all exactly where I want it to be, so I don’t have to take a pair of scissors and tape to the copy machine to cut and paste pieces of the worksheet together.

I could go on and on, but thinking of the time I’ve spent fighting with Word is just more time I’m wasting.  Instead, let’s put that all behind us and get started with setting up PowerPoint to print standard-size documents:

Now, I know that doesn’t seem like much, but believe me, it will start to revolutionize the way you create documents for your classroom.  To give you a little more inspiration, here’s another video showing how I use shapes to create a basic graphic organizer on my worksheets:

Please post any questions you have in the comments below and I’ll try to address them in my next video while demonstrating some of the amazing time-and-sanity-saving uses of tables.

My New Favorite Tech Tool

Have you heard of Symbaloo?  I just learned about it last week and don’t know how I lived without it.

symbaloo

It’s a web-based collection of your bookmarks so you can easily access your commonly used sites from anywhere.  I have two mixes so far–one for work and one for home.  It’s easy to switch back and forth between the two on a tab at the top of the webpage.  You can see from my screen shots above, that I’ve kind of grouped my links by their purpose, and that I’ve got a lot of space left to add more links.  I’ve set Symbaloo as my homepage on both my computers and have read that it works great on phones and tablets, but I haven’t tried out the app yet.

I’m sure I’ll discover more uses for it as I fill up those empty tiles, but in the meantime I wanted to share because I know too many of us spend so much time working from home.  Having a quick link to your school’s online gradebook or all of your favorite lesson plan sources might save a little precious time.