Microsoft Word’s Learning Tools, a feature exclusively available to Office 365 subscribers, aim to help improve reading comprehension and overall fluency. Here’s an overview of what’s available in Word’s Learning Tools.
What’s Available in Word’s Learning Tools?
Word’s Learning Tools provides several different educational features that aim to improve focus, reading speed, pronunciation, and fluency. They don’t support all languages, though. Text spacing doesn’t work in languages with complex or connected scripts, and the read-aloud function doesn’t support register transfer languages. Additionally, the syllabification feature doesn’t support some languages. Office’s support site details the Learning Tool’s language support, so be sure to check that out.
The following will give you an idea of the offerings that’s available in this toolset. First, you’ll need to access them. To do this, open Word, head over to the “View” tab, and then select “Learning Tools.”
You’ll now be in the new “Learning Tools” tab with six different options in front of you.
Each offering provides a unique benefit in the language learning process. Here’s what you need to know.
The “Column Width” option adjusts how much text appears on a single line. With fewer words per line, new learners may feel less anxiety when reading through the text. As you progress, you might want to slowly adjust the column width to bring more text to each line.
There are four levels to the Column Width option. To access these options, select “Column Width” and then choose the desired width from the drop-down menu.
Adjusting the background color is useful for improving a reader’s ability to skim and scan text. The idea here is to reduce eye strain while using these methods of reading by improving text-to-background contrast.
Selecting the “Page Color” option will bring down a menu displaying a library of different colors.
Hovering over the different colors will give you a live preview.
Line Focus is a feature that, as the name implies, brings your focus to a line (or lines) by highlighting the text. There are three available options to choose from: one, three, or five lines. Selecting “None” from the menu will remove the highlight.
Once you’ve selected the option you’d like to go with, you can navigate through the entire document by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of the window.
Text Spacing puts more white space between each character, word, and line in your content. This feature is used to increase fluency in reading.
Here’s what your text would look like before text spacing:
And here’s what it would look like after text spacing:
Enabling the “Syllables” feature will put breaks between each syllable of a word. This is designed to help readers with pronunciation and quickly recognizing words.
The Read Aloud feature highlights each word as the system reads the content out loud. The audio will begin at the position of your cursor. You can also highlight specific words or phrases to only read that content.
Once you select the “Read Aloud” option, you’ll notice an option bar appear at the top-right of the page. Here, you can (1) play/pause the audio and skip between paragraphs or (2) select a different voice.
Microsoft also details some handy keyboard shortcuts for handling the Read Aloud feature. Here’s what they provide:
- Start/Exit Read Aloud: Ctrl+Alt+Space
- Pause/Play Read Aloud: Ctrl+Space
- Speed up reading speed: Alt+Right
- Slow down reading speed: Alt+Left
- Read next paragraph: Ctrl+Right
- Read previous paragraph: Ctrl+Left
And that’s all there is to it. This is a fantastic tool for helping young readers improve their reading ability, so be sure to take full advantage of it!
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