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Two weeks ago I went to Bett Asia in Kuala Lumpur. The presentation is half an hour, but if you have nothing better to do, here is the Callaghan College Wallsend journey! Apologies for the wobbly start - my husband was filming and people kept walking around him. Was a great conference if anyone gets a chance to attend. 

Bett Asia 2019 - Success with Blended Learning 

Thanks all!


callaghancollegewallsendcampus callaghancollege 


My high school students dislike homework. The mere mention of the word leads them to break out in cold sweat as their minds wander to different excuses for why they will not complete the assignment.


Fast forward to the day of an assessment and students who refused to do homework break out in cold sweat over not being prepared for the assessment. The range of excuses include "I'm not good at test taking" as well as "I didn't know there was a test."


Canvas employs a means to help students overcome test phobia as well as prepare students for self-assessing their own readiness for an exam. I call the means "Practice By Topic" and these practice quizzes are all linked on the same page called "practice."


Here is a screenshot of the top of a practice page. 



Practice By Topic Structure

Each practice quiz contains 5 randomly pulled questions from an item bank. The students are allowed to take the practice as many times as they want. Correct answers are not marked but the student is shown whether their answer is correct or incorrect. 


How to Build Your Own

(1) The first step is to create item banks broken down by topics. Creating and separating out questions into these banks will take the bulk of the work. I started creating unique banks last year and feel comfortable using them once more than 6 questions are in the bank (if I'm using formula questions). Some banks have as many as 50 unique questions. 


(2) Create an assignment group called PBT or Practice By Topic.


(3) Create a Quiz using the +Quiz/Test button on the Assignments section. Provide an assignment name (I prefix them with PBT:), set to 5 points, and select the assignment group PBT. Checkmark the box for "Do not count this assignment towards the final grade." Uncheck sync if you are synchronizing your grade book. Click on Save, not publish. Only publish after you are ready. Once you click save then the LTI will direct you to the quiz within Quizzes.Next.


(4) Add instructions that this practice can be done an unlimited number of times and that the grade will appear in the grade book but not be part of the calculation. Add formulas if students will require them.


(5) Click the blue plus button and choose the pig for item banks.  Find the bank, click into it, then click on the +All/Random. 


(6) Click on the X to close the item bank and enter the quiz. 


(7) Click within the group of questions. You can set the number of randomly selected questions as well as the number of points.



(8) Click on the Settings Tab at the top of the quiz. These are the delivery settings.



(9) Click on Return to return to Canvas. 


(10) Go to the Page for Practice and link in the Practice By Topic assignment just created. 


(11) Publish the practice assignment


(12) Enter Student View, browse to the practice page, and test the quiz.


Ta Da. Your students will thank you!


Classic vs Quizzes.Next

The original Practice By Topic quizzes were built using the classic quiz engine. Today, it turns out that there are advantages to using Quizzes.Next. 


The first advantage is the showing of the practices in the grade book, but without being part of the final grade calculation. I can scan these scores and see which students are trying and need extra help. I can also decide whether to bump a student's 58% grade to a D if they've been making great efforts throughout the semester.


The second advantage is the on screen calculator, removing the need for students to rely on their cell phones, Google calculator, etc.


A third and important advantage is the additional question types. 


A disadvantage is not being able to share item banks between teachers. This is a planned feature but is currently undeveloped and unavailable. If sharing items banks is important then you will want to wait. I pushed forward regardless and have felt the advantages of Quizzes.Next over classic is worth the lack of sharing. 


Next Step: Adding Feedback.

My current item banks lack immediate feedback for students (beyond correct/incorrect). The plan is to add short videos walking through how to solve problems as well as links for where to get more information. Of course, when sharing item banks becomes available then every physics teacher in the district will have access to the item banks.


I hope you give this a try for your students. Please leave a comment if you are also using practices in or now feel compelled to try it. 


Warm regards.


PS. This is my first blog post. I hope it is of value to all of the K-12 teachers as well as professors.

I am an Upper Primary teacher in Australia and I often use KWL charts as thinking proformas for formative assessment of student understanding. A KWL chart, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a three column chart split up into K-What students know, W- What students want to know and L- What students have learnt. It is a good tuning in activity to see what questions students have about a topic and what prior knowledge they have of the topic.


I wanted to utilise this activity in Canvas so that students could record their thinking and observe other's thinking so I have slightly adapted it and completed the activity in Discussions. An example of this setup in Discussions with an activity I did on 20th Century Australian Democracy is below.



  Rights of people in Australia in the 20th Century- KWL

Know- What rights did different groups of people have in Australia in the 20th Century?

Want to know- What questions do you have about the rights of people in Australia in the 20th Century?

Learn- Document your learnings throughout the unit.

Please choose the correct colour text when responding. Green for what you know, blue for what you want to know and purple for what you have learnt.


Using different colour fonts works really well as it is clear what question the student is answering. It is also a place where students can come back to at anytime to record their learnings. It then becomes a bit like a learning journal and the teacher can keep track of who is posting what. I also utilise the 'Users must post before seeing replies' button so you get students initial understandings that haven't simply been copied from the discussion.

Using discussions in Canvas has allowed for a more formal way for formative assessment as it is clear what each student has written and each student can be assessed inidivdually. It has value added to the original task and therefore was something I thought might be worth sharing.

I love creating environments for students to write creatively. Seeing students engage with words and proudly share their work makes me burst with the joy of teaching. Recently I was asked to share some ideas on how to use Canvas for teaching writing. Here are some of the ideas that were shared:

Writing Logs

  • Set up each student with their own ongoing discussion with the teacher or a peer with students attaching a photo, or word doc of their drafts, editing process or published writing. 
  • Use the recording tool to record the students reading their writing aloud. Encourage expression, use of punctuation, editing when it doesn't make sense...
  • Evidence of different text types developing during the year creates a mini portfolio.


How do I create a group discussion in a course?  


Multiple users can work together on the same document at the same time. These are saved in real-time, meaning a change made by any of its users will be immediately visible to everyone.

Use Collaborations to:

  • Have a ‘Word War’ or debate with pairs or small groups of students. 
  • Students could share work into a collaborative powerpoint
  • Insert mock texts with deliberate errors for students to be detectives to find the errors.
  • Copy and paste notes that everyone can access.
  • Share bullet-point lists or agendas for upcoming synchronous class or group time or meetings.
  • Create a text-based whiteboard that everyone in the classroom can see and refer to later.

Collaborations – Changed my world!  


Peer Reviews

  • A peer review assignment enables students to provide feedback on another student's assignment submission.
  • Peer reviews are a tool that allows communication between students and can help students master the concepts of a course and learn from each other.

Students must be well trained for this!

How do I use peer review assignments in a course? 

Writing Displays

  • Use online embedded tools like padlet to showcase published writing for the class to enjoy, or for the school newsletter or website. 
  • Encourage the students to record themselves reading their writing. Upload to Padlet or class Canvas page. 

Padlet is the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world 

TeachersFirst Review - Padlet  


  • Use websites like Pobble 365 ( or Literacy Shed (Home - THE LITERACY SHED) to provide provocative images and wordy challenges.
  • Harness discussions and assignments within Canvas to collect students ideas based on these provocations.   

Quick writes

  • Use images in a discussion to set criteria for each quick write to include eg. two onomatopoeia, three adverbs, one simile, four adjectives, two headings...

How do I create a discussion as an instructor? 

50 Quick Writing Prompts for Elementary School Children  

Word Collections

Goal setting and reflections

Use discussions, Microsoft forms or online tools as exit tickets to set goals or reflect on. 

Canvas “hearts” Microsoft Office365 


Interviews with authors

Embed videos of popular authors to:

  • spark discussion
  • brainstorm other questions to ask
  • students interview each other based on their own writing


Bump it Up

  • Students could access this from any location using their device, compared to one location in the classroom.
  • Place a piece of anonymous student work on the discussion board and then ask students to discuss the elements that they can see being used in the piece of work. e.g. varied sentences are used, paragraphs with one idea etc. Students could then give the piece of work a 1, 2 or 3.
  • This process would be repeated with another two examples making sure as a teacher you have a low, medium and high example.
  • Students then use the discussion points as a way of working out where their individual work sits.
  • Once they have assessed where their work sits they check the example and read the discussion points to work out what they need to do to bump up their work.

Thanks Tameika Munday for your ideas here and Canvas FastTrack Ep. 25 - Gallery Stroll 


Which ideas will you start implementing and what support might you need?



Please find the infographic based on this blog created by the talented Erin Keefe.

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