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A Lesson in Proofing



  • Technology


  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced

Brief Description

Students in middle and high school learn to use Word’s Find/Replace feature to check written work, increase accuracy, and improve their grades.


Students will:

  • Identify the grammar, spelling, or style mistakes they most often make in essay writing.
  • Use Microsoft Word's View/Replace feature to identify and correct those errors.


editing, essays, Microsoft Word

Materials Needed

  • Access to Microsoft Word (or other word processing software).
  • Ability to project a computer screen via a projector or TV monitor (optional).

Lesson Plan

Note: Prior to this lesson, students should have typed an assigned essay, term paper, or research paper into Microsoft Word.

Begin this lesson at the chalkboard, or at a computer whose screen is projected for the entire class to see. Display Microsoft Word on the screen and use it to record notes from the lesson.

Brainstorm with students common grammatical mistakes made when writing essays or research papers. Record their answers on the chalkboard or computer. Responses might include:

  • lack of subject/verb agreement.
  • too many spaces between words.
  • inconsistent tense.
  • overuse of contractions.
  • misuse of first person pronouns.

The final list should include about ten grammatical or spelling errors.

Type the following sentence on your computer in Word (or write it on the chalkboard):
The hero wasn't ready to admit that his lack of courage had cost him dearly, so he journeyed onward toward the city.

Invite students to identify the contraction in the sentence. Click, or have students click, Edit>Replace. In the "Find What:" blank, type "n't". In the "Replace With:" blank, type "not". (Be sure to type a space BEFORE the word not). Click Find Next, then Replace as Word highlights the contraction and replaces it.

Ask students to name grammatical errors they make frequently that can be identified and corrected with the Find/Replace feature. Those might include:

  • Two spaces: Modern usage calls for one space -- not two -- between words and sentences. If a particular student frequently inserts two spaces between words, he or she can type two spaces in the "Find What" blank and one space in the "Replace With" blank to correct that error.
  • I, We, Us, My, Mine: Students who frequently misuse pronouns can type each of the pronouns -- one at a time -- into the "Find What" blank, leaving the "Replace With" blank empty. Then students can decide whether to correct each word as it is highlighted.
  • Forbidden word list: Many English teachers have words -- "quite" and "a lot," for example -- that they do not want used in reports or essays. Students can use Find/Replace to locate and eliminate those words.
  • Frequently misspelled words: Does a particular student always misspell the same word --"separate," for example? He or she can use Find/Replace to spell make sure the word is spelled correctly.

Encourage each student to make a list of 5-10 common errors he or she might look for in upcoming papers. (You might want to review each student's list and add any errors you know that a particular student struggles with.) Point out to students that in a 5-10 page paper, using the Find/Replace feature can save quite a bit of time, improve their paper's accuracy -- and possibly improve their final grade as well.

Finally, if students seem to understand the strategy and are ready for one more timesaving suggestion, point out that they also can use the Find/Replace feature as a kind of shorthand. Explain to students that, as they type, they can use an abbreviation for frequently-used words or phrases, and then -- at the final proofreading stage - find the abbreviation and replace it with the correct word or phrase.


Although students are not directly evaluated on this lesson, their final grade on future essays should improve if they use this strategy.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Lorrie Jackson

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills