How to Create and Use Building Blocks

How to Create and Use Building Blocks

How to Create and Use Building Blocks

in Microsoft 2007 to Grade Papers Electronically


One way to grade writing assignments faster is to grade the assignments electronically. Electronic grading allows you to insert what Microsoft calls “building blocks,” which for our purposes is reusable text, into documents. Microsoft Office Word 2007 uses a feature called the Quick Parts Gallery to store this reusable text. The gallery can also hold other pieces of reusable content, such as images.

This article explains how to store comments you would repeatedly use when grading writing assignments (for example, spelling errors, run-on sentences, and so on) in the Quick Parts Gallery in Word 2007 and insert them quickly into comment balloons. It assumes that you are not migrating AutoText entries to Word 2007 from a previous version of Word.

Before you can begin using your reusable text when grading writing assignments electronically, follow these two basic steps: create the building blocks and then add the building blocks to the Quick Parts Gallery.

Step 1: Create the Building Blocks

You’ll first need to develop a list of text that you will insert as comments into the writing assignments when students do a good job or when they make errors. An excellent place to look for a starter list of comments is in one of Mary Ellen Guffey’s books. Look for correction symbols and proofreading marks, usually in one of the appendices. Here’s an example of one of my building blocks:

Run-on sentence. Revise a run-on or fused sentence by joining the two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but), a semicolon or a period. Here’s a run-on sentence. Jodi likes dogs she has a beagle.

Notice the short phrase that precedes the main comment. You need a word or short phrase to identify the comment in a dropdown list and to remember what the comment describes. I’ll call this word or short phrase the “identifier.” Try to make the first few letters or so of the identifier different from the identifiers for your other grading comments. Doing so will enable you to type the first few letters or so of the comment and have Word “auto complete” the comment. If you have multiple identifiers that begin with the same letters, then Word will require more typing before it recognizes the comment it’s supposed to enter.

Consider including one or more of the following elements in your comment: a definition of the error, an explanation of why the error is significant, an example of the error, an explanation of how to fix the error, or an example that does not include the error. You can even include hyperlinks to online help resources. I also include code letters at the end of the comment that tell my teaching assistants where to count off for the error. However, you should try to keep your comment as short as possible since (a) students might not read lengthy comments and (b) a page full of grading comments might exceed the space in the margin of the document and thus require the student to click a button on the comment to view it in another window.

Step 2: Add the Building Blocks to the Quick Parts Gallery

Adding your grading comments (building blocks) to the Quick Parts Gallery stores your comments in a template, so that you can reuse the comments in nearly any document. To add your building blocks to the Quick Parts Gallery, follow these steps.

Select all of the text in the comment, including the identifier, but not including the paragraph mark at the end of the comment.Click on the Insert tab of the Ribbon, click the Quick Parts button, and at the bottom of the dropdown list, select Save Selection to Quick Parts Gallery, as the image below shows.

Picture2 jpg

The following dialog box will then appear.

Fill out the following properties in the Create New Building Block dialog box:

Name: Accept the name that appears in this field or type a unique name. Be aware that names can be a maximum of 32 characters long, including spaces.

Gallery: Accept Quick Parts as the gallery where you want to store the entry.

Category: Select a category where you want to store your entry, or create a new category. I created a new category called Grading Writingthe first time I stored a comment, then I stored that comment and all subsequent grading comments in this category. The category appears to be a way of further classifying your building blocks or separating different types of building blocks from one another.

Description: Type a description of the building block if you want to. I left this field blank, but it appears that if you type a description, then your description will appear in a ScreenTip in the dropdown list in the Quick Parts Gallery. “ScreenTips are small windows that display descriptive text when you rest the pointer on a command or control” (Microsoft).

Save in: Accept the default template, Building Blocks.dotx. Save all of your building blocks to this template so that all of your building blocks are in one file, which will make backing up your work easier. According to Microsoft, a template must be open to appear in the dropdown list of template names.

Options: Although you can choose to insert the building block on a separate page with page breaks before and after the text or in its own paragraph, for grading purposes, it’s best to choose Insert content only.

Then, click OK to save the building block.

Repeat this process for each comment you wish to store as abuilding block. The process can be tedious, but normally, you only have to do it once.

As you store these entries in the Quick Parts Gallery, it’s a good idea to save your work periodically. Word saves building blocks only when you completelyclose Word. Word 2007 has crashed twice while I was working with building blocks. In both cases, I lost many of my entries.

When you close Word completely, a dialog box will appear that asks you whether you want to save your changes to the template where you have been storing your building blocks. Choose Yes to save your changes.

After you have finished entering all of your building blocks into the Quick Parts Gallery or periodically during the process, close Word completely and save your template to removable media. Depending on what template you chose to store your comments, the template might be a hidden file or in a system folder. Consequently, when you search for the file in Windows, you have to tell Windows to search hidden files and system folders.

How to Fix ErrorsYou Make When Adding the Building Blocks to the Quick Parts Gallery

After you click OK, if you realize that you made an error in the information you entered in the Create New Building Block dialog box, then you can fix that error relatively easy. Follow these steps. Click the Insert tab on the Ribbon. Go to the Text group, click Quick Parts, and click Building Blocks Organizer from the dropdown list. Find your entry, click Edit Properties, and change the properties in the Create New Building Block dialog box.

However, if you made an error in the comment itself, you’ll need to delete the entry from the Building Blocks Organizer, revise your comment, and then enter it in the Create New Building Block dialog box again. To delete an entry, open the Building Blocks Organizer, select the entry, and click the Delete button

How to Insert Your Comments in Documents You’re Grading

Now you’re ready to insert your grading comments into documents! To insert a comment, select the text or object (for example, a chart) you wish to comment on.Click the Review tab on the Ribbon, go to the Comments group, and click New Comment.Then, with the insertion point in the comment balloon, click the Insert tab on the Ribbon, go to the Text group and click Quick Parts. Scroll down the dropdown list and choose your comment from the list. Here’s an example of the finished product in action.

Alternatively, you can type the first few letters or so of your comment and then press the F3 key, which will trigger the “auto completion” of your comment. You may need to press the space bar once before you begin typing for the “auto complete” to work.You can save a few clicks by adding the New Comment command and the Quick Parts command to your Quick Access Toolbar. It’s easy to do. Simply right-click on the command and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar from the context-sensitive menu.

For more information, consult the sources I used for this article. Happy grading!


Microsoft Office Word 2007 Help. Help topics include “Save Time in Microsoft Word 2007 with Quick Parts (Auto Text),” “Reuse and Distribute Parts of a Document,” “What has changed for the AutoText feature?,” and “Create and Distribute Boilerplate Text.”