Teacherís Guide

To Excel Spreadsheet Basics

Grade Level:

This lesson was designed for students who attend the Technology Center of DuPage, juniors and seniors in high school, who attend half of their day in a vocational program and the other half in traditional high school. It can be adapted to any student with basic computer skills; no prior spreadsheet skills are needed.


As a part of Workplace Skills Standards, students need competency in computer skills: word processing, databases, and spreadsheets. A few of the vocational programs teach and use spreadsheets on a regular basis yet it is a school wide competency. These lessons will enable all students to learn how to set up a basic spreadsheet and then give sample lessons for teachers to use as a springboard to spreadsheet use in their own program.


Excel is a component of Microsoft Office 97 that is widely available in the business and educational setting. It is available to all students at the Technology Center of DuPage on our network. Although not tested, Microsoft Office 2000 should have a similar version of Excel that is compatible and adaptable with these lessons. Internet access is needed to interact with the sample spreadsheet. A printer is helpful but not required.

Special Requirements:

Students at TCD will need access to the network and be familiar with logon procedures. Although this is not a special requirement, students will need to have accessed the network; instructors should contact the network administrator if students cannot logon.

Commentary on Spreadsheets:

Learning to use spreadsheets is considered a basic computer skill because it is used in business and has personal applications. All students may not become excited about using spreadsheets but hopefully they can see how they can be used on a personal level to benefit their own record keeping. If they can construct and use a simple spreadsheet of their own job earnings then it will not be as big a stretch to use them in a business setting. It is possible they have already used spreadsheets in employment situations but did not construct or understand how they were done. It is our hope that they will come to understand how spreadsheets can be used to make their lives more productive on a personal level that will translate to the world of work.

Instructional Approaches:

Instructors will need to motivate their students to use this lesson to their advantage. The majority of our students are employed in part time jobs and frequently discuss their jobs with students and instructors. When students discuss their wages and benefits, an instructor can take this opportunity to pose the question "Do you know if you are getting paid for all the hours you work?" If students do not keep an accurate record of their hours and check their pay stubs, they may be getting short-changed. Once this is discussed, the instructor can then lead the students to a method of keeping track of their earnings. The assessment activities that relate spreadsheets to specific program activities will give work place relevancy to this topic. One of the assessment activities can be used in any program, just as the job earnings spreadsheet, by tracking the cost of using an automobile. Although not all students own an automobile, it is a frequent topic of discussion and does play a part in their plans for life after high school.

It is our hope that students have dealt with these concepts in consumer education classes at their sending schools. The availability of computers at TCD can enhance these basic concepts and expand upon them by using spreadsheets. Once students are familiar with spreadsheets for their personal use, it should be a short step to see applications in business.