One of my favorite library instruction sessions is teaching beginning students the glories of Excel. In my former life, I did accounting and of course, I am also old enough to remember a time of green ledger paper and hand cranked adding machines. Excel is absolutely a life changing piece of software for those of us who remember those bygone days. If you are one of the lucky folks introducing the wonders of Excel to a group of beginners, I urge you to take a step back from screen shots and "how-to" instruction for a moment.
Limit your instructional goals.
I am teaching usually in a public library setting in a one or two session introduction class. My job is not to teach the entire body of knowledge but basics and working knowledge of vocabulary and potential of Excel. As with all computer instruction we all know 50 ways to do the one task at hand. Beginners don't need to forget 50 ways to do the one thing. They do need to learn how to do a task so well that they can recall it after they leave. Teach one way and repeat the instruction. Make sure your handout details the ONE way. Don't share shortcuts and alternatives at this point.
Do projects rather than explain a procedure.
Use Excel to demonstrate things that are familiar, even if you are not a bookkeeper. Everyone makes a list, everyone keeps a checkbook. Use concrete, familiar examples to illustrate concepts. One of my favorite projects was a guest list my family had created for a wedding. Of course I felt compelled to add an additional column indicating how much I liked said relatives on a scale of 1 through 5. We also added a column detailing social problems such as career failures, drinking issues, propensity to borrow money, etc. Without fail, my family tree has been a complete hit with students and has wonderfully illustrated the database attributes to beginners without mathematics and intimidating data. (Family honor prevents me from sharing this publicly, but suffice to say everyone can identify with a chart like that.)
Most people "inherit" spreadsheets than create complicated ones from scratch.
I have found that so many folks end up in my classes because they have started a new job and have inherited someone's complete mess of a spreadsheet. This is where it is important to do a reference type interview for your student. Ask the student to verbally describe the process or objective of the spreadsheet. Review without necessarily typing anything into a spreadsheet and "sketch" out the process visually or verbally. Often this less about working with Excel and more about someone understanding a workflow situation. Make sure the student is appropriately skeptical about anyone else's creative use of Excel.
Give students options for learning more.
Go back to your computer collection and talk about the library's available materials on Excel. Clarify the various versions. Share the wonders of You Tube and other web resources for Excel instruction. Reiterate specific search strategies rather than just typing "excel" into a search box. Be specific. "Inserting a column in Excel 2007".
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Repetition is your friend! Have students re-create the projects in class over and over until they can do it almost by rote.
My cohort in library crime, Holly Hibner, also has great things to say about computer instruction. Read her stuff here.