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Digital Comments in Microsoft Word

By Mary Blow on December 7, 2010
  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

Microsoft Word offers many valuable tools to assist students and teachers in the classroom. One of these is the comments tool. When I conference with students, I type or record comments into students’ documents so that they'll have them when they revise or edit on their own. If students are confused, they can respond to my comment with another comment. Students also use comments as a form of communication during peer review. Ultimately, digital comments enhance communication in any classroom. Videos illustrating how to insert comments are included in this post.


Student_essay_with_commentsTeacher Conferencing

Inserting comments, typed or recorded, into a Microsoft Word document provides many benefits. Many times, I have conferenced with a student and seconds later the bell rings. When the student returns the next day, he or she has sometimes forgotten our conversation. Digital comments preserve the conversation.

Other times, after conferencing with a student, he or she will return moments later, asking, “What did you say?” If a student struggles with processing or following a conversation in a busy classroom, the comments provide a reference, allowing them to review the conversation and process it at their own pace. It also helps the support teachers who will work with students later in a smaller environment. When they help a student, they have my comments as a record of the conference and a guide. The comments stay embedded in the document until the students are ready to delete them.

The comments can also be recorded, which helps students who struggle with understanding directions. Recorded comments are quick and easy to insert. When students open the document, they simply click on the megaphone icon and listen to a recording of the comments.

Independent students appreciate the inserted comments as they expedite response time. Students can leave digital comments for the teacher, indicating where they want help. The teacher replies to their comments and includes additional comments if necessary. Often, I review their work, insert comments, and save it for them to review when they return to class or work on it from home. Students use that time to write instead of waiting for a conference.


Model essay

Peer Review

During peer review, students sometimes complain that they can’t read each others’ penmanship, or they are confused by misspelled words. Digital comments allow a peer reviewer to type or record comments into their classmate’s document, thereby eliminating these problems. Each reviewer, when signed in correctly, will have a signature color balloon attached to all his or her comments, so the writer knows who made which suggestions. When the writer reopens the document, he or she reviews the typed or recorded comments as opposed to struggling to decipher handwriting or decode misspelled words.

For more on peer review, see Colorado State University's guide to teaching peer review.

Inserting Comments Guide

Microsoft provides step-by-step directions for inserting a comment in a Microsoft Word 2007 document. (They also offer instructions for Microsoft Word 2003.) I simplified these steps for middle school students and created a student guide to inserting or deleting comments for their notebooks. The video below illustrates how to insert typed comments into a Microsoft Word 2007 document.



The video below models how to insert an audio comment, and then, if you are a student, listen to the comment.



Sharing Files With Students

Teachers often ask me how I manage file sharing with over 100 students. The technology coordinator for our school created a common folder for my class, a folder that teachers and students can share on our server. Within that folder, I create subfolders, one for each section of English that I teach. Students save their work to the folder for their English class. I require that they save their files in the following format: lastname firstname. This alphabetizes the homework and simplifies it for grading. After making comments, I resave to the folder. The students access the file and make revisions and edits. However, I can back them up to my computer and resave them to the common folder when I get back to school. I save cautiously, ensuring that I am not saving over a more recent revision.

The only disadvantage is that neither the students nor I can access the files from home. I have considered moving our shared files to the cloud; however, my students are in 6th grade, and most file sharing services require email, which we do not have at the 6th grade level. Google Docs is great; however, students must be 13 years old to utilize the applications. Right now, I am looking at EDU 2.0, which is a learning management system. If anyone has a solution for collaborating on and sharing Microsoft Word documents, I’d be thrilled to know about it.



Ultimately, the inserted comments, typed or recorded, improve communication in the classroom. They provide a record of conversations, evidence that a student has engaged in the revision and editing processes.

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