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Tech Tip #50: The Easiest Way to Outline

Posted by on September 13, 2011

tech tipsAs a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: My fifth graders are learning outlining in the classroom. Is there an easy way to tie that into technology?

A: Outlining can’t be easier than doing it in Word. Here’s what you do:

  • Select the Numbered List or the Bullet List in MS Word. MS Word 2010 even lets you select the style up front. MS Word 2003–it’s a bit more complicated
  • Your first bullet or number appears on the screen. Type your item
  • Push enter to add another number or bullet
  • To create a subpoint, push tab after you’ve pushed enter to start the next bullet/number
  • To push a subpoint up a level, push Shift+tab after you’ve pushed enter for the next bullet/number

That’s it–three keys:

  • bullet list or numbered list
  • tab to indent
  • Shift+tab to exdent

The biggest problem I have is students who get themselves outside of the numbered/bullet list. If that happens, they can do one of two simple steps:

  • backspace until their cursor is up against the last bullet/number, then push enter to generate the next bullet/number
  • click the tool for bullet/numbered list and reactivate the list

I’ve tried this with fourth graders and it’s a much more complicated process. Their technology skills don’t seem to be there well enough to make this a fun, easy lesson. That’s why I wait for fifth grade. How about you? What are your experiences?


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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.


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