A Review of PJ Nicholson's Microsoft Word Lessons and Projects Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on June 30th, 2015

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A Review of PJ Nicholson's Microsoft Word Lessons and Projects

Computer Applications | Microsoft Word | Microsoft Office

Looking for free computer applications lessons and resources?

If you teach computer applications, I'm sure you're always on the lookout for some great resources that you can use with your students related to Microsoft Office applications. If you haven't already stumbled upon PJ Nicholson, this is your lucky day!

Who Is PJ Nicholson?

PJ Nicholson is Patricia Jannan Nicholson. Nicholson is an education specialist with a BA and MA in elementary education from the University of Southern Florida.

In addition, Nicholson has a computer science certification.

Along with her education, she has years of classroom experience in several middle, junior, and high schools in Florida.

Nicholson has also done quite a bit of presenting on the technology education conference circuit.

Clearly she is well-respected in her field!

What Are PJ Nicholson's Microsoft Word Assignments?


PJ Nicholson is a very well-crafted, no-frills, and free computer applications resource for assignments that "utilize a distance learning approach in the delivery of instruction."

Each assignment includes "lesson plans aligned to benchmarks and grading rubrics to evaluate student performance."

The site includes assignments for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Excel, and Access.

You'll also find Microsoft Industry Certification Practice Lessons, and even a practice test for Microsoft Word 2010.

If web design and development is your focus, there are many HTML lessons, too.

Features of Microsoft Word Projects for High School and Middle School

PJ Nicholson provides a variety of assignments and lessons on Microsoft Office applications. The majority are for Microsoft Word, so I'm going to focus on those.

So what will you find?PJ Nicholson's Microsoft Word Projects

At the top of the site, you'll find some challenging projects.

For example, the "Certificate of Recognition" project has students "create a certificate of recognition for an event of your choice."

To complete the project, students will use AutoShape and WordArt tools along with many layout and drawing features to create a certificate of recognition that includes "the recipient's name, date, type of award being given, and your name and/or company as the one presenting the award."

Here are the features that are included with this and other projects:

  • Interesting, engaging, challenging projects. From animals to party invitations to chocolate...PJ Nicholson provides a nice variety of scenarios with her projects.
  • Lesson plans. Each project includes a detailed lesson plan that includes standards, objectives, instructions, and assessment.
  • Rubrics. For easy assessment, rubrics are provided. They also keep students and teachers on the same page in regards to project expectations.
  • Examples. Most projects include a link to a sample document that demonstrates what the student output should be.
  • Supporting curriculum. Where needed, some curriculum context is included. For example in the "Certificate of Recognition" project, students learn about input (the mouse and keyboard) and the output (the printer).
  • Detailed instructions for students. Students follow along with very specific instructions to help them complete each project. For example, when asked to choose a decorative font, students will be instructed:

"Click the down-pointing triangle at the right side of the Size text box on the standard toolbar and pick a font other than the default font of Times New Roman."

  • Tips for students. Students will also get tips on what to do if they want to make changes, such as:

"(If you are not satisfied with the results, make sure white sizing handles display around your name and then press the Delete key.)"

At the bottom half of the PJ Nicholson site, you'll also find a number of Microsoft Word lessons.

Features of Microsoft Word Projects These assignments are simple, but effective and teach students how to perform specific functions, that range from simple to complex such as "create a customized bullet list" to "mail merge envelopes." 

Here's what you get with the lessons/assignments:

  • Detailed instructions for completing actions.
  • Screen images with highlights and call-outs to point out screen instructions.
  • Context where needed. For example, in the "Create a Data File in Word for Mail Merge" lesson, students learn that "When you perform a mail merge, you can either connect to an existing data file or create a new one." And they follow instructions to create a new data file.

PJ Nicholson Advantages

Let's go with the best advantages. 

1. It's Free

'Nough said.

2. Engaging, Challenging Material

The projects are interesting and fun, but don't be fooled. Your students will be achieving complex Microsoft Office tasks here.

I learned a few things myself while going through some of the projects. When is the last time you completed a mail merge in Microsoft Word?

3. Lesson Plans That Make Sense

PJ Nicholson's career as an educator shines through in the lesson plans that she's developed. They are thorough, yet easy to follow. You know exactly what students are doing and why they are doing it.

4. Rubrics 

There's not a teacher alive that wants to spend time developing rubrics. PJ Nicholson's rubrics are clear and concise, making assessment a breeze.

5. The Lesson Language

The instructions, particularly in the lessons, are clear. When additional instructions are needed, they are there. When images are needed, they're there. Hints? Yes, they're there, too. Exactly when and where your students might need them.

PJ Nicholson Disadvantages

There were just a few things that made my "con" list, and none of them are major...except perhaps the first one...

1. Office 2007

The individual assignments and how-to's are for Office 2007. Although much of what is taught is easily transferable to Office 2010 and 2013, I don't want to see this wonderful site become outdated.

2. Order of Assignments

It took me a bit of time to figure out what was what.

As in, the site starts with some assignments that seem to assume knowledge and ability.

As I scrolled down, I found assignments that taught how to format and insert, etc. In my mind, I would have expected to see those types of assignments first.

3.) General Instructions, Ideas, & Methods for Use

I would really have benefited from some kind of introduction from Nicholson regarding a suggested approach for using these great resources.

For example, I would have loved to have seen a recommendation for completing some of the basic skills in the bottom part of the site along with which assignment would best work with those skills.

4. Interface

I very much hesitated to include this last "con." I would seriously be disappointed if anyone allowed the dated interface to keep them from delving further into PJ Nicholson.

That being said, I imagine that is has done exactly that. It's not the prettiest or most modern-looking of sites.

Final Thoughts: PJ Nicholson Microsoft Word Lessons

PJ Nicholson provides some fantastic projects, lesson plans, and assignments for computer applications teachers and their middle school and high school students.

But if you want something more up-to-date and kept up-to-date, PJ Nicholson isn't the right choice for you. 

Instead, you can check out Business&ITCenter21! 

Business&ITCenter21 is a digital curriculum with its own lesson plan library, automatic grading, and other features that make your life easier. 

Best of all, it helps your students learn more effectively. 

Is Business&ITCenter21 right for you? 

Check out the lessons included in its computer applications curriculum

Check Out Computer Applications >>


About Sarah Layton

Sarah has been with AES since 1998, first serving as a curriculum developer, and now as a customer support analyst and content creator. She is committed to helping instructors gain experience and confidence using our solutions and to providing excellent customer care.