As we all navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19, your CSM team has consolidated best practices, resources, and success stories to help with the implementation of Canvas in the elementary classroom. Whether you are looking for a template course, hoping to connect with other Canvas in elementary users, gathering helpful implementation strategies, or anything in-between, we hope this resource can serve as a guide for you and your district as we see more and more folks introduce Canvas to their young learners. 

Teachers, please don't hesitate to reach out to your Canvas administrators for assistance with leveraging these resources. Canvas admin, your CSM partner(s) are here to assist however we can. 


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Instructure Resources:

Social Media (connect with others!):

InstructureCon Presentations:

Templates and Example Courses (log in to Canvas in a separate tab to view Commons resources):

Customer Success Stories:

Parents in Canvas:



Implementation Strategies

Start with a template:

Limit the course navigation items as much as possible:

  • In a Canvas virtual classroom, the home page is where most of the button based navigation should exist. The text heavy course navigation bar can be confusing for young learners.

Use Video for Instruction and Submissions:

  • This allows you to avoid having to repeat instructions for the young ones and allows them to click one button to record a video submission. 

Collaborate with local districts:

  • The Canvas family continues to grow into the elementary grade levels. Working with local districts to learn from their experiences and consider new strategies is where the best ideas come from!
  • All Canvas users can share content through the Canvas Commons.


Helpful Feature Options


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I have spoken with several educators at conferences that have asked if there is any way to hide the To_Do list from students.  The idea stems from students jumping right into their To Do list without interacting with other module items and resources.  Since the To Do list basically shows items that are graded assignments, pages, files, and other  helpful module items are often overlooked.  

While I thought this was an interesting concept, I never really put a tremendous amount of thought into it.  Then, remote_learning happened.  In my role of an Innovation Specialist, I support teachers.  Many teachers started sharing these same concerns of students not knowing what to do once they get into assignments and not have the necessary background when taking quizzes.  We narrowed this down to the students using the To Do lists and not focusing on other needed items, information, and resources.  So we decided to give our staff some training on how to use requirements in modules to make sure students at least interact with content prior to engaging in activities that require the information they may be skipping.

The training was done as a virtual meeting using Microsoft Teams.  The screen share feature was used to show what the modules and requirements looked like form a teacher perspective as well as a student perspective.  There were three modules set up ahead of time.

The first module consisted of pages, a discussion, assignments, and a quiz.  

Image of a module

  • The emoji added to the beginning of each title was used for two reasons
    • First to show that each item came from the same module. 
    • Second as a visual representation to connect it to the module they were just looking at in teacher view when sharing the student's To Do list.
  • Each item had a requirement and the module was set to complete all of the requirements in sequential order.  This way, if students attempted to start the discussion (3rd item in the module) they would get a message similar to the following: 

Error Message

  • They receive a message showing the item they are attempting to access has not been unlocked yet.
  • At the bottom, they are shown the items that need to be completed to unlock the item they are trying to open.
  • There is also a link to the first required item that needs to be completed to begin the process.

The second module consisted of pages, and assignment and a quiz.

Module 2

  • The emojis (green and yellow circles) were used to identify items that had requirements or not.  Green circle = free to do at any time without a requirement.  Yellow circle = caution - there are requirements associated with this item.
  • While the three requirements in this module are set to be completed in sequential order, the item with the green circle and no requirement can be completed at any time.

The third module was purposefully set to have no requirements to demonstrate how requirements are set for items in modules and what needs to be done to meet those requirements.

Module 3

  • Emoji was purposefully left off of module title to demonstrate how to to add the emoji.
  • Other emojis show that not all emojis have to match or follow a specific theme.
  • Title of each module item has description at the end to give a clue to how the item will be set to show completion.

Teachers were also given a link to a document with basic information about requirements so they could use after the virtual session.  Information included...

Things requirements can do:

Things requirements can do

Basic steps for adding requirements (notice we did not include prerequisites‌ at this time):

Adding Requirements

What the students might experience if they use their To Do list ant attempt to jump ahead of the requirements:

Student Experience Error Message

And the following tips:

Tips for adding requirements to modules

(Here is a link to the Google Doc with this info.  Feel free to copy and use as is or remix to meet your needs if you like.) 

In conclusion,the session went well and I believe it was helpful for many teachers.  If your teachers are not using requirements, this may be a good starting point.

Additional Community Resources for modules and requirements:

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Dear Teachers,


[Insert a customized greeting for your faculty and staff]. 


Canvas has a great (new) feature that can make is much easier to share your content with your colleagues.  It's called DIRECT SHARE.


You can directly share assignments, discussions, quizzes, and content pages with a colleague AND you can also send those same items to a different course that you teach... DIRECTLY (not using the course Import tool).  Take a minute to look at the links attached to see how to share assignments.  Follow the same process to share discussions, quizzes, and content pages!


It's a much easier than the Canvas Commons (even though that is still pretty helpful to share Modules and Courses with each other), especially if you want to send something quickly to your PLC or just copy a great resource from one course to another!


Hopefully that tip can help you feel more confident and powerful on Canvas!


[Insert customized conclusions for your faculty and staff]

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Flipped learning has been around for a while, but people still interpret its meaning differently based on personal experiences.  Initially Flipped Learning was to be done outside of the classroom.  Students would watch videos at home and then come into class to work out problems, ask questions, and work on projects.  The videos took care of the "lecture" portion of the class and allowed the students to work on "homework" in class where they would have easy access to the teacher for assistance. While some may flourish in this scenario, other do not.  Especially those who do not have access to needed technology at home.  While we like to think these days everyone has access to technology and the Internet, a post by ConnectedNation.org called NEW U.S. CENSUS FINDINGS: NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS breaks down the number of households in the US that have absolutely no access to the Internet based on the 2018 American Community Survey.  The number of households without Internet access per state ranges from about 24,000 up to over 1 million depending on the state.

To increase the accessibility of Flipped Learning, many teachers are are using flipped lessons in their classrooms instead of students flipping at home.  This allows students to access the lessons as needed, at their own pace, and as often as needed while still giving teachers the ability to interact with students to support and enrich them while they work. Here is a video from the Cult of Pedagogy that explains how learning can be flipped in the classroom and explains some of the benefits as well:

Additional Canvas Community Resource for authentic application of Flipped Learning:

Magnifying glass icon

Where to find videos:

There are many options here, but basically fall under two categories.

1) Find videos others have made.

2) Create your own videos.

  • Simply record content on your phone and upload it to your Canvas course.
  • Upload recorded video to a video editor to make cuts, edits, and enhancements.
    • MovieMaker (Win) and iMovie (Mac) are video editors that may already be on your computer.
    • WeVideo has a free version and a paid version.  There are others out there, but this is one I am very familiar with and use frequently.
  • Use screen casting software to record your computer screen.

Disclaimer: I do not work for any of these companies, get paid for promoting these applications, or recommend one over another.  Which one you may use will be based on the needs you have and the facts you discover after you research the tools.  You can make some great videos with free software.  If the free applications are too limiting, you may want to look into a product with more advanced features, but may have a cost associated with it's use.

Guy standing in front of a question mark

Where does Canvas fit in?

As we all know, Canvas is a wonderful instructional tool that can be used with various instructional strategies. Flipping learning with Canvas is no exception and can help personalize your students' learning experiences.  Let's take a look at some of the ways Canvas might be used for flipped instruction.

Flipping a lesson focuses on the delivery of content through video.  Videos can be added to so many places within a Canvas course using the New Rich Content Editor.  

  • Add one or more videos to a page that has additional text, images, graphs, info graphics, etc. to assist with comprehension.
  • Use a video as a prompt for a Canvas Discussion and have students reply with questions, comments, and reflections.
  • Include a video as part of the directions for an assignment or quiz.
  • Add a video to your course Announcements to build relationships, touch on upcoming class activities, or even ask a question of the day to get students involved.

Some Canvas Community resources for adding video using the Rich Content Editor:

How do I record media using the New Rich Content Editor as an instructor?

How do I upload and embed media from an external source in the New Rich Content Editor?

Upward pointing arrows

How can we up our game when using videos to flip learning in Canvas?

There may be times when just watching a video is enough to grasp a concept or learn a new skills.  However, it may be more cognitively challenging and intellectually rewarding to incorporate additional activities, formative assessments, and relearning or enrichment opportunities to enhance learning experiences beyond just watching videos,  Here are a few examples of how we can up our game beyond just using videos in Canvas.

1) Turn Canvas Quizzes into learning experiences

Quizzes may be thought of as more of a summative assessment to find out what students know.  What if we used the Rich Content editor to add videos, text, links, images, etc to add a small amount of content that students can use to learn? Then ask a formative assessment question after student watches a video and internalizes the other content?  The learning and the formative assessment are all a part of that one question. Keeping the quizzes short would be a necessity to make sure students receive timely feedback since students will not the the results of their answers until after they submit the quiz. 


  • Stick to 2-4 questions depending on the learning that needs to be accomplished
  • Adjust the quiz settings for unlimited attempts so students may repeat the learning and the formative assessment as needed
  • Allow students to see whatever feedback you feel is appropriate for the task.
  • Use requirements and prerequisites in models to make sure students achieve certain score to show mastery of learning before being able to move on to the next module.  Using requirements could also allow students to receive digital badges if you add the Badgr LTI to your course.
  • To make sure course grades are not affected by formative assessment scores, use new_quizzes‌ and set the assignment score to 0 points.  This allows you to assign points to questions however you desire, but students' grade averages for the course will not show any adjustments based on these "practice" quizzes with 0 points.

How do I create an assessment using New Quizzes?

How do I edit an assessment in New Quizzes?

How do I manage settings for an assessment in New Quizzes?

How do I add assessment accommodations for a student in New Quizzes?

How do I insert stimulus content in New Quizzes?

How do I use the Rich Content Editor in New Quizzes?

How do I add feedback to an assessment question in New Quizzes?

2) Use MasteryPaths to to help deliver differentiated videos for instruction

Have you ever made differentiated videos for students only to confuse them because were not sure which video to watch?  Allow MasteryPaths to alleviate some of that confusion by personalizing student learning and conditionally releasing content to students based on a score from a pre-assessment or formative assessment.  MasteryPaths allows videos integrated into pages, assignments, discussions, etc. to be associated with one of three paths. For this purpose, I like to define each path as follows...

  • High Path - Extends and enriches learning
  • Middle Path - Continues learning and may offer some enrichment
  • Low Path - Offers remediation for learning that may not have taken place and continues learning


  • Content that is associated with MasteryPaths must be organized into modules.
  • Content is only released for the personalized learning that needs to occur.  Therefore, students will not see the content that is not intended for them.
  • Make sure your MastryPaths module(s) are completely set up prior to students beginning their personalized MasteryPaths experience.
  • If you want your students to experience the content on other paths, the initial assessment can be retaken and if the score is improved, content for another path is then conditionally released. (When this happens, the content from the previous path they were working on disappears.  Only content associated with a single path will be shown at a given time.
  • Content for all three paths to be conditionally released can be organized in a single module or can be spread throughout several modules.
  • For twist on using MasteryPaths to allow students some choice in what they are learning, check out Hacking Mastery Paths‌.
  • Digital badges can also be awarded for completing modules using Mastery Paths. See Mastery Paths with Badgr
  • If you set requirements for module completion, only the conditional content released to the student will be required to complete the module.

How do I use MasteryPaths in course modules?

How do I add conditional content to a MasteryPath source item?

How do I assign a conditional assignment for students to complete in MasteryPaths?

How do I view the MasteryPaths range breakdown results for an assignment?

How do I allow a page to be a MasteryPath module item?

How do I add requirements to a module?

A few tips to think about while getting started with Flipped Learning in Canvas

  • Start small.  Don't feel you have to flip all of your content right away.  
  • Challenge your students to make videos that are better than yours.  If they are better, replace your videos with theirs.  Tell students in future classes that a student replaced your video with a better one.  Challenge them to make an even better video that may replace the previous student's video.
  • If you work with other instructors within your department, spread out the load of creating flipped videos.  It will be much faster for three people to create thirty videos than it will be for one person to create thirty videos.
  • Be empathetic and think about what your students need.

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Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course:
Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page

Part 3:  Home Page


Hello, I am the Learning Management System Specialist in our K12 district and I provide support and instruction to our teachers and staff in the use of Canvas, promoting consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness.  Please visit the other two parts of the blog series:  Part 1: Course Navigation, and Part 2: Modules


As a K12 district we mostly have year-long courses.  A year’s worth of content can make for large courses with several modules and several items in each module. Clicking on Modules can mean scrolling and scrolling and scrolling to find the correct Module and content.  Some teachers move the current module to the top - this can be helpful, but then modules tend to get out of order, which also can be confusing. To solve this, I recommend creating a Front Page with a clickable table-of-contents for your course, and setting it as the Home Page. This will help bring clarity to your course.


Here are my tips for having a useful and effective Home Page.


  • Reduce redundancy by not including links on your Home Page to items that already exist in your Global Navigation or Course Navigation. Items to *not* include on your Home Page are: links to Announcements, Grades, or the Quizzes or Assignments index pages, or to Calendar. Use the valuable real estate on the Home Page to direct students to specific Modules/units, and resources they need daily.  (Add content, such as Pages, Quizzes, and Assignments to the corresponding Module. When Due Dates are added to assessments, students also can access them on the Calendar and the To Do list. Other ways students can access various assessments is via Grades and Syllabus.)
  • Use meaningful unit names. Instead of a link to “Unit 1” (what is Unit 1 about, anyways?), call it something like:  “1: Elements of Art.” By the time a student gets to a later unit, they won’t remember what was covered in Unit 1 if it has a generic name, so it’s important that links to the modules/units have meaningful names.
  • Avoid making students scroll on the Home Page. Avoid placing a lot of text, or using a large image at the top of your home page that will require students to scroll down to find the links to the Modules and other important links.  You may want to use a table, with two cells across, to organize your content. In the left cell can be a small welcoming image and a little text, and in the right cell have your unit links using text.  Be aware that if your Home Page is too long and students have to scroll down a lot, they lose visibility of the course navigation menu on the left.
  • Avoid multi-celled tables.  I’m not a fan of using multi-celled tables on the Home Page.  Why? For a few reasons: a) Tables can be finicky and sometimes require knowing HTML to format the way you need. b) Tables are not mobile friendly, and can display differently on mobile devices or different browsers.  c) Tables are not accessible and should be used for tabular data, not designing. (Personally, I need to find time to learn how to use DIV tags, so if you have time, please do it. See  @erin_keefe 's Tweet for more info: https://twitter.com/mskeefe/status/1220063738730024961?s=20)
  • I know a lot of people are fans of beautiful, colorful buttons on the Home Page, but here are some reasons I recommend avoiding them:
    • Images may be meaningful to you, but perhaps not clear to students. If you do include an image, please include text of the unit name below the image.
    • Screen readers may have difficulty understanding the “buttons” or other images, and this can make navigating the course more difficult for students.
    • You’ll need some image editing skills to resize images (you can use the RCE tools, too, but I recommend starting out with an image that is not ginormous).
    • Unless your course is all planned out, you’ll have to continue adding images for any new modules. Depending on the number of units or links with images, this can become visually overwhelming.
    • Home Pages with many images can become busy and cluttered.


Here is an image of a sample Home Page.  By the way, notice how clean and minimal her course menu is!


Course Home Page showing picture of teacher in left cell, and links to modules in right cell

In our district we are working on having more consistency across courses.  Consistency across courses makes it easier for students, too, as they don't need to spend time figuring out how to navigate each teacher's course. One way to make things more clear and consistent is to create a simple, but clean and clear Home Page like the one above. This Home Page also allows teachers to do some customizing for their particular course needs.  And having a homepage with links to Modules helps direct students where they need to go.


Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course:

Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page

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Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course:
Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page

Part 2:  Modules


Hello, I am the Learning Management System Specialist in our K12 district and I provide support and instruction to our teachers and staff in the use of Canvas, promoting consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness.  Please visit Part 1 of this series, Course Navigation.


 @erin_keefe  explains modules in So, What’s a Module Anyway? and how modules are similar to  folders to organize or chunk information and activities; how students can navigate with the next/previous buttons; and how you can create personalized experiences using prerequisites and requirements or mastery paths. In the Canvas Community Discussion, Improving Course Navigation Experience for Students,  @sweetera  offers valuable suggestions, based on years of experience, as to why and how to use Modules and improve the user experience. And emilycraddock has a clear and concise blog, Mad About Modules, with an accompanying video.


Here are reasons why Modules are so great for setting up a clear organization and navigation of your Canvas course content:


  • Content Flow.  While one could design a course using Pages and linking to other Pages and other content, essentially the course becomes a website, and there is no “map” or “tree” to see the big picture of how the content flows. This may be fine for smaller courses -- like for a topic that’s completed in one day or one sitting, but that “big picture,” or roadmap, is critical for more extensive courses (multiple units or topics to be studied in a semester or full year).   With Modules, students access the first item, and then can continue to navigate through content with the Next button. Or they can go to the top of the Module, and select to enter any of the items in the Module. 


  • Content Organization.  You can direct students to one place to see all items for a particular Unit or Module -- content Pages, Quizzes, Assignments, Discussions, Files, External URLs, all can be added to a Module in a sequential order.  The Index pages for Pages and Quizzes can get loooooong, and can’t really be put in much of an order except alphabetical. The Index page for Assignments includes Quizzes and Discussions that are graded (and Pages in mastery paths).  The power of the Assignments index page is in creating Assignments Groups, which can be weighted, to match your syllabus and to set up your Gradebook. As explained in Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course Part 1:  Course Navigation, you can hide the links to those Index Pages, and just leave Modules enabled.


  • Content Type and Status. When all the various content items are added in a Module, you can see very easily:
    • an Icon identifying the type of item in the module: a content Page is a paper with text icon; a Quiz is a rocket ship icon, an Assignment is a paper with a pencil icon, etc
    • The Status of certain items:  if the items are Published; if there is a Due Date, if there are Points, and, if there is a Requirement, what the requirement is (View, Submitted, Score at Least).  See the image below:


Canvas Module showing item icons and item status


  • You also can add items to your Module and leave them Unpublished either because 1) you’re still working on them and will Publish them when ready; or 2) you want it there “for your eyes only” -- such as hidden notes for a TA or substitute, or notes for yourself on how to improve a lesson or activity for the next time.


Reminders / Tips:

  • Modules are used to organize and present content in an orderly way -- all the items you add to a Module actually live in their respective Index pages.  So, if you remove an item from a Module, this does NOT delete it from the course.  You’ll need to go to the particular Index page to actually Delete it from the course.
  • Only by using Modules will you be able to use the power of Requirements and Prerequisites, and Mastery Paths.


In a year long course, your list of Modules can get long, and your Modules themselves can get long with several content items.  Having a Home Page with links to the Modules will help students (and you, too!) to not have to endlessly scrooooooll through that long list. A Home Page with links to the Modules, allows students to click and and go directly to the Module they need. Some teachers like to move the current Module to the top, and while it’s easy to do that, it’s an extra step, and then the Modules can get out of order (should someone actually want to scroll through the modules). 


So how does one create a Home Page with links to the Modules? Please go to:    Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course Part 3:  Home Page



Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course:

Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page

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Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course

Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page
Part 1:  Course Navigation

Hello, I am the Learning Management System Specialist in our K12 district and I provide support and instruction to our teachers and staff in the use of Canvas, promoting consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness.


When I offer Canvas instruction, or when I evaluate a teacher’s Canvas course, the first things I look for are:

  1. Is the Course Navigation menu reduced to the least possible number of links?
  2. Is the course content organized using Modules? and
  3. Does the course have a Home Page with links to those Modules?

 The value of taking a few moments to do this goes a VERY long way.  These features are interrelated, as are most Canvas features, making  them more powerful when used in combination.


Often teachers are pressed for time, eager to dive into developing content and assignments/quizzes; managing the Course Navigation, organizing content in Modules, and creating a Home Page can seem unimportant, but these steps help to setup the course for easier and clearer navigation and other efficiencies -- both for the teacher and the students (and anyone else needing to look at the course). 


In the #canvascasters podcast episode, Magnifying MasteryPaths w/ Van & Ryne, at 22:55, van.bardell and  @ryne_jungling  talk about the importance of consistency in course design across courses and starting by cleaning up the course navigation, and organizing content with Modules.


 So let’s get started with the why and how of cleaning up the Course Navigation...


Part 1:  Course Navigation

You’ve heard the saying, “Less is more.”  When talking about design, the cleaner, neater, less busy a course menu is, the easier and quicker it is to find what you need, which translates into less frustration and more efficiency. 


Some people may argue, “Why not give students more ways to find the content?” The answer:  because it actually creates confusion, and takes longer for students to find.   @sweetera  shared her real life experience as a student in a course with too many access points, including too many course menu items: 

I was a student in a course where, at the end of week 3, over 1/3 of the class hadn't found the actual course content in Modules but they thought they had. 1/3 of the class had clicked on Assignments and Quizzes…. ...and attempted them without even knowing there was anything else to see!  …..[students felt] angry and betrayed by the experience.”


Design your course so students navigate to one place instead of five or six places. Avoid sending students to:

  • the Assignments index page to search for their Unit 1 Assignments, 
  • the Quizzes index page to find their Unit 1 tests and quizzes,
  • Discussions to find the Unit 1 Discussion, 
  • and the index pages for Pages and Files to find content and files related to Unit 1.
  • Note that there is also no easy, clear, or consistent way to organize content on some of these index pages.


To help direct students to the content, and so they don’t get confused and miss important information, clean up the course navigation menu and remove the links to the index pages for Assignments, Quizzes, Discussions, Pages, and Files -- these features, which are native to Canvas, can still be used when hidden from students in the Course Navigation, and they remain visible in the menu for the instructor to continue accessing.  Add all the Unit 1 items to the Unit 1 Module, so they are all together, in context. Make sure you do not hide Modules from the menu.  Once you Publish a Module, your Modules menu link becomes active for students.


What about all the other items in the menu?  Probably many can be hidden. The list below may help you decide what to hide from your course menu:

  • Chat, Conferences, Collaborations:  These are awesome tools, but unless you are actively and intentionally using them and providing students with guidance or direction for specific tasks, I recommend disabling/hiding these to help students stay focused on the course content (and not chatting, etc).  Enable these when you are ready to actively using these tools.
  • People:   I recommend hiding People, especially if you’ve created Sections for differentiation, otherwise students can see who is in the differentiated sections.   However, if you plan to have students Self Sign-up into Groups, you do need to have People active in the course menu -- otherwise they can’t access the Groups tab to then access the Self Sign-up. (Student Guide: How do I join a Group as a Student?)  If you add students to groups yourself, you can hide People, and students can access their Groups from the Global Navigation.
  • Syllabus:  [EDIT] Syllabus has a Course Summary which can be overwhelming since it lists in chronological order Every. Single. Assessment. (Published or Unpublished). In. The. Entire. Course.  This might make sense for Higher Ed, but maybe not so much for K12 (especially year long courses).  But now you have the Option to Exclude Assignments from Syllabus - which makes using Syllabus much more attractive and usable.  Other options are to create a link to their syllabus from the Home Page, or create an “About this Course” module, and add a File or a Page with your syllabus. 
  • Attendance:  Do you take attendance in another system? If so, remove Attendance from your menu.  If you give a Grade for Attendance (our district does not), then this could be helpful. You might like Attendance for other things (clubs or other extra-curricular activities, maybe?).
  • Outcomes: Outcomes are used to track mastery -- this is great of Standards Based.  But unless your district has loaded Outcomes, or you are manually adding your own, this too can be removed.  If you are using Outcomes, it may be sufficient for students to see the Outcomes and their progress in Grades under the Learning Mastery Gradebook.
  • Hide/disable any Integrations or External Tools your district has added that you don’t use for your particular course (such as Textbooks, etc).  And if you don’t know what it is, it’s possible you don’t need it for your course.  If you have integrations such as Nearpod or can able to add FlipGrid, these will add a lot of interactivity to your courses -- but get a little training first, and then add them, for sure!


Time to clean up your course menu!

So, how do you hide/disable those items from your course menu?   Enter your Course => click on Settings => click the Navigation tab.  You’ll see a list of features/tools.  There is a top half and a bottom half.  Of the items in the top half, notice that the Top of the top half are tools native to Canvas, and the bottom of the Top half are Integrations.  Keep at the top the tools you want to be visible/enabled; drag and drop items below the line to the lower half to hide/disable. Last step: SAVE!!   Then go to Student View to see how much clearer it is for students to navigate your course!

Instructor Guide: How do I manage Course Navigation links?



Next let's look at how you can...

...Bring Clarity to your Canvas Course: Course Navigation + Modules + Home Page

Part 2:  Modules

Part 3:  Home Page

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Community Novice


EEEK! I’m not an online teacher but I’ve been told the possibility of virtual teaching could be a reality due to the possible spreading of COVID-19.

You may be more prepared than you think you are! It’s safe to say that some of your lessons will need to be adapted for at home learning but you probably have access to tools that can help with this already! Tools to help you think through this possibility:

Learning Management System. Our school has access to Google Classroom for our lower school teachers and Canvas LMS for our upper school teachers. The ability to add content and share it with others is something that many of our teachers are doing on a regular basis anyway. The ability to have students share their learning back through various assignment options opens the door to many possibilities. For teachers of younger children, use SeeSaw Learning Journal to have students turn in work to you as a teacher- whether it be a video, a photo of something, or a worksheet that they can upload.

Google Suites for Education. Cloud-based computer application software allows for realtime collaboration without needing to physically be together. Students can open a Google Doc, Google slide, Sheet, and Email, to communicate and collaborate with you teachers and fellow students in synchronous and asynchronous options.

Video Uploads to Share Learning. Have students record their learning and upload it to you in video format (or try something like Flipgrid). For instance, a math teacher can assign a Khan Academy video to their students to watch to learn a new concept and then have them do a problem that shows they understand what they learned! Options like Screencastify, Quicktime, or just using the camera option on a device allows students to video learning and share it with the teacher.

Video Conferencing. Teachers can lead courses via options like Google Hangouts, Zoom, or FaceTime. These videos can also be synchronous or asynchronous in nature. Have students log in during 3rd block and teach as you normally would or ramp up the possibilities by having students video conference with subject matter experts, authors, or teachers from around the world for a day of learning outside the box.

Digital Discussion Boards. Discussion boards can happen inside your LMS- both Canvas and Google Classroom have options to keep the classroom discussions going. What a great way to talk about digital presence and expectations for appropriate use when it is happening inside a closed digital discussion board.

Consider assigning options that can’t be done easily at school! Have students cook things in the kitchen as a design thinking process. Have students interview family members for their views on a subject being studied and critically consider their view against that of their family members. Create a project based learning opportunity that students can do at home to share learning. Learning can happen anywhere, not just in the classroom. Send students to code.org and have them learn how to code- attach it to the learning in your classroom. Work with the teachers in other departments and create a learning activity that you both can add feedback on. Send students to Brainpop, have them practice math facts with their home Alexa device, or visit an art museum around the world virtually. What are the websites or apps that you have students visit? Give them more opportunities to work with those.

Will the learning look like it does normally? No. You will have to push outside your bubble of comfortability to come up with ideas to turn your class into an online option but with a bit of creativity and planning it can happen!

Here are some other posts I’ve made in the past that might aid teachers in thinking about digitizing their courses:

Differentiating in Canvas:https://medium.com/voiceedu/differentiation-of-instruction-in-todays-connected-classrooms-33068c575b...

Discussion boards: https://medium.com/voiceedu/online-discussion-boards-for-learning-d785e7cc7888

Benefits of Digital Testing: https://medium.com/voiceedu/data-benefits-of-digital-testing-7b578da9bb8c

Free Apps that Integrate with Canvas: https://medium.com/voiceedu/free-apps-that-integrate-with-canvas-lms-ab068fc4d9ad

Rethinking Teaching with Available Canvas Tools: https://medium.com/voiceedu/rethinking-teaching-with-available-canvas-tools-6afc84e0d5d6

The Value of Relevant Teaching: https://medium.com/voiceedu/the-value-of-relevant-learning-41194c93b82

Teacher Tips for Canvas: https://medium.com/voiceedu/teacher-tips-for-canvas-361a9ad693aa

Digital Testing Safeguards: https://medium.com/voiceedu/digital-testing-safeguards-ee39e0d10a39

Digital Course Design in a Nutshell: https://medium.com/voiceedu/digital-course-design-in-a-nutshell-eye-on-the-prize-8fb38d071fd6

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This PDF was used as a handout and Google Slide deck presentation during recent professional growth sessions with our teachers.  It is an overview on how different features in Canvas can be used to personalize learning for our students as well as for staff.  While it does not dive deep into details, hopefully it will spark some ideas for others to personalize learning using Canvas too.

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Community Novice

One of the first things I do when I want to learn anything about a specific platform, problem, or concept is to Google the idea and then look for discussion boards to read on the topic. I do this because I have learned that those resources often bring the specific understanding I’m looking for. Most adults see discussion boards as a tool for aid even if they don’t add anything to the posts or not. Whenever I become aware of technology that adds value to the lives of others, whether it be efficiencies or resources, I feel it is something our school should be equipping our students with for their futures.

I literally imagine our students with a giant tool belt on at graduation day and I yearly look at the tech tools I feel we have equipped them with for their future. I start going through the things in my head:

  • Keyboarding skills- check
  • Resources for self-directed learning- check
  • Understanding of a learning management system — check
  • Knowing how to choose the right tool for the task at hand — check
  • Communicating responsibly with technology — check
  • Curating information and discerning what is good from the internet — check
  • Knowing how to leverage technology for a global perspective — check

Some years I wonder if I am pie in the sky in regards of the hopes I have for our students understanding of technology. Am I expecting too much understanding? I remember when both my daughters graduated from high school I would ask them if they felt prepared for technology use at their colleges. Their honest answers helped me to form an informal assessment of how we were doing to prepare our students forward.

Cue discussion boards! The value of using discussion boards in the classroom is three-fold:

A. Discussion boards allow students to start looking at this mode of communication from a perspective that learning can happen there. A value they may not even recognize at this point in their lives.

B. Discussion boards allow for asynchronous communication and asynchronous communication leads to extending conversations outside the ability to meet face to face.

C. Discussion boards give the quiet student a voice. Introverts often struggle with speaking up in classroom discussions and often have perspectives that are never shared. Creating a “safe place” for discussions to happen often empowers these students to speak out in class discussions.

The LMS Canvas allows teachers to use discussion boards between 2 or more people. These boards can be used between groups of students or as whole class instruction. Teachers can create discussions for a grade or just as a forum for ideas and information to be shared.

The settings within Canvas discussions can be used to allow teachers to check for understanding of a concept. Discussion boards are a tool that can support critical thinking of an idea. They enforce the 21st Century Skill of communication. They become a way to speak into digital citizenship because of the expectations of responsible use in terms of online dialogue.

To make sure students are really sharing their own ideas, teachers can turn on the option of “Users must post before seeing replies.” Some students have been known to try to work the system there and submit a blank response that they delete and this allows them to read the responses of others before answering. What they may not realize is that teachers have the ability to check for this by clicking on the eye under the question to check for deleted responses.

Giving students the opportunity to respond to each other’s comments in a respectful manner by allowing threaded discussions can lead to a rabbit trail of dialogue that extends way beyond the traditional class period. The use of digital discussion boards also supports the concept of teaching students to become digital stewards of their online footprint in a walled safe environment.

Not every lesson plan lends itself to an online discussion but looking for opportunities to use this tool allows teachers to show relevance to an impactful tool in and out of the classroom space.

3 0 1,461
Community Explorer

I have seen so many amazing Days of Canvas offerings in the community and social media! You know what they say about great minds! ( aaronlunsford‌ - 12 Days of Canvas  @akuntz ‌ with all the goodness on twitter of #HollyJollyCanvas)

Here is my version of the 12 Days of Canvas to add to the collection. It is a public course now and once I get all those days complete I'll add it to commons for remixing! 

Please share your creative Canvas training ideas, I'm always trying to find creative ways to engage our instructors with new things to spice up their Canvas usage. I need one for March Madness...we are in Indiana after all! 

2 1 774

As a new Canvas admin I am looking for ways to engage my teachers to help them learn the features of Canvas.  Because of this I created the Twelve Days of Canvas.  This Module has a different activity for the 12 days leading up to Winter break.  I have uploaded this to the commons and you are welcome to download and use, modify as you see fit.  I would love to be able to get feedback on any new activities I might be able to include for the teachers as I roll this out next year.  Below is a link to the module in Canvas.  

Twelve Days of CANVAS 

Hope you find it useful.

3 2 930
Community Novice

Data Driven Decision Making

Some days I’m for it, some days I’m not. What I do know is that I am not for banking the decision of labeling a teacher good vs bad based on one assessment platform. High stakes testing leads to high level stress for everyone.

But we live in a world where data collection is becoming more and more sophisticated. As an educator intrigued by artificial intelligence, I geeked out this week when asked if I would be willing to take part in a project my doctor was doing to have AI look for cancer when doing a colonoscopy. Yes, I want to be a part. No, I never want a machine being the only one deciding if my polyps are actually cancer but I love the ideas of a second set of “eyes.”

Today, due to technologies, we have the opportunity to assess and get immediate feedback in a faster way than ever before. We also have a better understanding of how individuals learn. This allows us to create new assessments to meet the needs of more students. This supports community vision by creating measurable goals. It allows the right players to be on the field to support student success. Today’s ability to access more quickly and formatively helps teachers become better teachers and students to understand what they don’t know- relevant information for everyone.

How are you using today’s technologies to:

  • Give more feedback
  • Allow students to have clear goals
  • Pay attention to individual needs
  • Review data to make decisions

While studying for the CoSN CETL exam, I’ve really found myself digging deeper into what we do with the data we collect, as well as asking myself if we are truly collecting the right data. I find myself questioning everything I’ve always thought. This statement that I found in my CoSN study course keeps haunting me and begging me to be dealt with: “[the] path to learning doesn’t have to be static or linear. One of the critical success factors identified for effectively using data at the classroom level was the importance of having teachers collaborate to review data and make decisions.”

What do I do with that thought? What platforms are we using that allow good data to be mined and are we using them to our students’ advantage? Teachers have spent hours and hours grading but what if we flipped that to be spent on short assessments that allowed teachers to focus on the data to adjust instruction that leads to mastery? What if teachers looked deeper at their assessments inside Canvas LMS (quiz analytics) and really poured wisdom and discernment over the “Student Analysis” and “Item Analysis” sections. What might that mean for our sense of purpose and for our students sense of success?

2 1 884
Community Contributor

Thinking about ways we can use Canvas in teaching Science I came up with a few ideas including:

  • Using Simulations - finding online simulations to duplicate or try out dangerous or expensive experiments that are difficult to do in class.  these an be embedded directly into a Canvas page.  
  • Organising Inquiry projects - use the group spaces in Canvas to have students collaborate and store their files, documents, images etc  in a place they can all access anytime anyplace.
  • Science Journal -  set up individual discussion spaces (either use groups or assign to one student) for students to keep a reflective journal on their learning. Let students add files, record themselves or their experiments and use it for ongoing feedback.
  • Use videos - include video from the wealth of resources available online.  Have students record their own video to share. Record your own video and flip the classroom.
  • Investigate real time data - Look for real time data feeds for weather, energy use, population, traffic, disasters earthquakes etc. Embed the data in a Canvas page and students can look at the data as it happens and follow trends, look for patterns and make predictions.
  • Become citizen scientists - Students can participate in real science data analysis in many subject areas. Embed the website in Canvas and  be part of a real study.  Most areas of science have current projects.  Search for "citizen science" to find something that will fir with your current topic.
  • Communicate with real scientists - use communication tools to ask real scientists questions.  Many organisations including museums have a "ask a scientist" where real questions can be posed and answered.
  • Station rotation - If you lack devices for everyone in the class organise some different activities and have students rotate through.  Set up stations with different activities or experiments, paired or small group work, technology based activity, and dedicated teacher instruction.
  • Use playlists - let students choose from a list of activities, set up a Canvas page with lists of readings, interactive games, videos, projects, inquiries.Let students decide what to do by setting parameters for example -  watch 3 out of 5 videos, read 1 out of 4 articles,  do 2 out of 3 simulations and choose the final assessment from 3 alternatives. 

Can anyone add to these ideas?

4 2 2,058
Community Novice

Free External Tools

Our teachers are beginning to feel more confident with the not so basic “basics” of using the learning management system, Canvas. Viewing this confidence has inspired me to look for App integration options (LTI tools) for Canvas courses.

If you want to see what Apps are available to embed in Canvas courses:

  1. Go into your Canvas course
  2. Click on “Settings” at the bottom of your vertical course navigation list.
  3. Click the tab that says “Apps”
  4. On the “External App” page you can see “All” apps but right above that word is a link that says “See some LTI tools that work great with Canvas.” You can filter this page to see what works with Canvas and what is free.
  5. You can then go back to the “External App” page and add the app to work within your course as an external tool when creating assignments. (In most cases you will need to set up your account in the third party app in order for this to work seamlessly.

Below, I am sharing just a few free third party apps that I can’t wait for our teachers to take a look at for integrating into their Canvas courses:

  • Scootpad — Create an administrator or teacher account and access pre-made Math, ELA, English, Spelling, eBooks, and Writing lessons, assessments, practice, remediation, or intervention from students in grades k-8. We do NWEA testing, and teachers can enter NWEA MAP RIT Scores and generate personalized learning paths for students aligned to their MAP Goal Performance Areas! We talk about the benefit of data often but this puts testing data to practical work.
  • Merlot — Are you looking for information or an article on a topic that you would like your students to have access to? An Open Education Resource (OER) that “The MERLOT collection consists of tens of thousands of discipline-specific learning materials, learning exercises, and Content Builder webpages, together with associated comments, and bookmark collections, all intended to enhance the teaching experience of using a learning material. All of these items have been contributed by the MERLOT member community, who have either authored the materials themselves, or who have discovered the materials, found them useful, and wished to share their enthusiasm for the materials with others in the teaching and learning community. All the materials in MERLOT are reviewed for suitability for retention in the collection. Many undergo the more extensive “peer review” for which MERLOT is famous. MERLOT presents annual awards for various categories of materials added to or used in the collection. As described in Material Link Checking and Removal, all material URL’s in the collection are reviewed frequently for [sustainability.]” (http://info.merlot.org/merlothelp/topic.htm#t=MERLOT_Collection.htm)
  • Screencast O’Matic — “Record, edit and share video to connect with students, parents and faculty.” (https://screencast-o-matic.com/education). This is a great tool to screen record explanations of steps in accessing something on the web or annotating of math problems! The possibilities are endless. Anytime you feel the need to show students your desktop, use Screencast O’Matic to do so. It embeds seamlessly into assignments in Canvas.
  • Quizlet — is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, study and game modes (https://quizlet.com/89313049/what-is-quizlet-flash-cards/). Create flashcards for your students to use or have students create flashcards and share them with you. Either way, Quizlet is a great tool for test prep and integrates well with Canvas.
  • Flipgrid — “…is simple. Engage and empower every voice in your classroom or community by recording and sharing short, awesome videos … together!” https://info.flipgrid.com Flipgrid is my absolute favorite! Today I watched foreign language teachers create Flipgrid prompts for their classrooms seamlessly in Canvas. This integration is a great way for foreign language students to not only practice fluency but to hear themselves and others. Flipgrid has created this handy tool to help you set up your integration.

It had been over a year since I had really spent time looking at the external tools list available to Canvas. What I learned this week is that it makes sense to visit the site occasionally to see what new offerings are available for Canvas users. The beauty is that there are often free integrations that make your classroom experience more seamless because they can be integrated inside of Canvas. These integrations make it easier on both the teacher and the student for access and grading. There are plenty of apps out there, the above are ones that I am currently looking at more deeply for our school. Check out the list yourself and search for Canvas platform to see what might work for you!

9 6 26.3K
Coach Emeritus

Recently  @craig_nicholls  and I collaborated using the Canvas Free for Teacher instance. As we are from different states it just seemed easier that way. Although Free For Teachers didn’t have the usual bells and whistles we are used to in our own instances it served our purpose well. 

Craig and I had never met in person before, had only interacted in the APAC group and ‘seen’ each other about in the Canvas Community. But we had found a shared Canvas K-6 passion and wanted to spread the word at Canvas Con Sydney 2019. Our education worlds are totally different really, but we share the same curriculum and see the huge potential that Canvas offers our learners, even the little guys.  

Over a couple of weeks we developed our Canvas course to showcase the challenges and celebrations of Canvas K-6. We kept it simple and have made it accessible to participants of CanvasCon Sydney, then in Canvas Commons. Not bad for a couple of strangers. 

Eventually meeting in person, just before our presentation, was just so easy. Even doing a quick practice on the sidewalk of Darling Harbour seemed quite normal.   @craig_nicholls  Thank You you were a star to work with. 

Why let all that work end in Australia? Here’s your self-enrol link to share the challenges and celebrations too. 

4 2 1,413
Coach Emeritus

Some challenges get in the way of teachers giving Canvas a go. A big one that we have noticed is when there are limited devices in classrooms. Here are some ideas that we have either used ourselves or seen teachers create.

Timetables – if sharing devices with other classes is a challenge then excellent timetabling is essential. Revisit this occasionally to see if the system is fair and working.

Charging Devices – with classes sharing devices comes the challenge of charging. Perhaps set up a monitor system to ensure checking that devices are charging during and at the end of the day.

Station Rotation – set up activities for groups to use purposefully during the day.

Group Work – kids working together with a shared device encourages problem solving, collaboration and all sorts of learning goodness. Here’s an example Shared devices ideas

Booking System - even the little ones can manage this! Here’s a cute example of a Kinder teacher collaboratively setting expectations of device use. Creating expectations

Device Allocation – to save time with new students logging in and out perhaps assign devices to certain students Can logging in be simplified for younger students? 

User Names and Passwords – sometimes the little ones need reminding. Laminated cards help with this.

QR Codes – for quick log ins. Some schools use Clever QR codes

Dealing with digital distraction - classroom behaviour

Collaborative tools embedded in Canvas – even if one student has logged in to Canvas using online collaborative tools like Padlet and Answergarden don’t require individuals to be logged in to participate.

I’d love to hear about other ways people get around sharing devices with their classes.

5 1 1,136
Community Participant

  I am 3rd grade teacher. My students use Canvas classes in daily practice. Canvas helps me create differentiated assignments and support students with special needs. Kids love it. I believe that other teachers will use Canvas to engage and support their students!

For example, I use 3tabs page for reading comprehension/skill groups. Each student (depending on their reding level, or the skill that needs to be developed) has the group/tab/ they are assigned. After their done with their assignment, students may go on different page.

It looks like this:

Main page with 3 tabs:

Tabbed page

Each Tab has different assignments/videos for students .

Here is a Tab 3 view:

Tabbed page 3

Also, here is the link to the video from my classroom. Send me your feedback! UEN PDTV: Canvas in Elementary Schools - YouTube  

3 3 2,470
Coach Emeritus

When our team first started traveling around the state demonstrating the whys and hows of Canvas we used power points to present. It didn’t take us long to realise how clunky this was. We had to rely on screen shots or toggle between the power point and Canvas to get far too many points across.

It was a bit of a TTWADI thing (That's The Way We've Always Done It). We’d always presented via power point and naturally went that way. But then we slowly morphed into using Canvas only as our mode of presenting. No more toggling, no more screen shots. Just lots of modelling of Canvas capabilities in the one space.

We recently presented at the latest AADES conference on E-learning and Innovative Pedagogies where we shared the virtues of Canvas and told our state wide story with not a power point slide in sight. After all – why would you?

We’ve developed a few tricks along the way. We usually have all of the participants in the session put into a Canvas course. This is particularly helpful when we do repeat visits. It’s their ongoing Canvas Professional Learning space. The module we present is in the course but any interactive activities are all available to participants via an ‘Our Session Today’ button. F11 helps to keep the presentation a bit tidier as does the hamburger symbol in the top left.

Our biggest challenge is that we don't have a handy power point clicker any more. But that's survivable. 

Does anyone else present with Canvas?

Do you have any presentation tricks share?

5 16 3,462
Community Champion

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. 

308746_Practice By Topic Page.png

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.

308756_Randomly Select Questions.png

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

308757_Delivery Settings.png

(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 quizzes.next 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.

6 1 1,102
Coach Emeritus

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 manually assign students to groups? 

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 (http://www.pobble365.com/) 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. 


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

How do I link to a YouTube video in the Rich Content Editor as an instructor? 

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  

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 ‌.

13 7 4,039
Community Contributor

Today I worked with some teachers of K-2 students.  They did not want students to have to log on individually and they have about 1:5 ratio so the workload in logon/off management would be quite high and a barrier to using Canvas.  I suggested keeping reading logs using discussions.   We set up a group set where each student was the only member of their group.  Then set up a discussion and made it a group discussion on this set.   The teacher could then access a space for each student , record the student reading and make notes relevant to the reading assessment.  All as discussion posts.  The students don't need to log in individually but the teacher can keep a record of each students progress over time.   This changed the mind of several Early Childhood teacher who had come to the PL with the idea that canvas had nothing to offer them.   There is a solution for every (most) purpose teachers have.

6 3 1,507
Community Participant

291698_Cheesecake_Factory.JPG   Change is hard. Time is limited, but I truly believe we are on a good trajectory toward real change in our school. I have been telling the students in my demos that all this new tech is like the Cheesecake Factory Menu...Its massive and awesome with a few undesirables on the menu pending one's tastes. And just how one might want to order 5 different things the reality is your wallet and your stomach couldn't handle it all! Same with teachers and all this new technology, we need time and return visits to be able to try all that they have to offer. Or maybe we need to just team up with colleagues and share meals at first!

   We public school teachers have a fine line to walk between compliance/standardization and true progressive education through Project Based and Inquiry Based Learning. It will take time, but one thing we can all do is continue to make small adjustments in how we interact with out students. We must realize that they have spent their entire careers K-8 using a lot of technology and not seated quietly in rows for extended periods of time. This is something I had not even considered until recently when I attended an elementary back to school night presentation. So just like the students need to be patient with us and our comfort level or lack of  in regards to technology, we also need to be patient as we teach them "how to learn" which may be even more important than the actual content we teach.

   If you fear that students aren't paying attention and are using their Chromebooks to tune you out, then instead of looking for the Fort Knox software that condemns their Chromebooks to being paperweights...maybe we should look at modifying and redefining lessons! Now this doesn't mean we have to up heave all that you do and that your career has been a fraud, it just means that times change and the students' attention may not be about how they need to learn to just pay attention, maybe its an indication that we need to pay attention to what they are telling us through their actions. 

   I am currently reading a new book called Timeless Learning written by 3 Public School teachers (Ira Socol, Pam Moran, Chad Ratliff) and this quote really struck a chord with me.

"The 21st century world rapidly changes around our schools and swirls around our children...sustaining schooling as it has existed will not prepare children for the world they will enter as adults. We educators all must focus on helping children become creative and empathetic problem-solvers. We must help them be ready for a world none of us can define, but we all know will look nothing like the recent past" (Socol 54-55)

 Ira Socol later goes on to say that when he observes other teachers in their classrooms he never watches the teacher. He watches the students (even their feet if seated) to see if they are engaged.

"So much talent exists in children that doesn't get seen or heard because the potential of young people often gets lost in our traditions of worksheets, repetitive motion tasks, and teachers standing at the dominant teaching wall. When kids tune out, passively or agressively, because work has no context, little meaning, and makes no sense, we never see the strengths and assets of full range of the learners who are in our schools." (Socol 51) 

   Change is hard, but it starts with simple choices in even our language. So think about a lesson you have coming up in November. Let's see if we can't change it up a little and see how we can still preserve your style, but see if we can't engage your students in a new way that reignites some of the disengaged and maybe even reigniting you along the way! Let's do something great! Let's have fun! Let's change the world one day at a time.

Don't forget you are human, you are not perfect! 

(But as a teacher you're pretty darn close!)


Socol, Ira, et al. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand, 2018.

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Coach Emeritus

Getting assessment right can be a challenge. Especially in a busy primary school classroom where time is precious and the timetable action packed.

Making the most of snatched or pre-planned moments to work 1:1 with students to gauge how they are feeling about school while diagnosing exactly where they are at is an art. My hat gets taken off to teachers who manage so much with so little.

Thank goodness Canvas offers so many ways to assist with assessing. This gem of an article names up 10 great ways that could be adapted to use within Canvas for formative assessment https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/10-innovative-formative-assessment-examples.

High quality formative assessment is key to great teaching and learning. Here’s another beauty about formative assessment which pays particular note to HOTS Higher Order Thinking Skills. Love it! https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/formative-assessment-tip-guide I particularly like the point they make about great feedback having the potential to 'push our students to excel in ways they didn’t know they could`. Again I feel grateful that we have many facilities within Canvas to provide great feed-back and feed-forward.

Not much beats the magic that happens during the course of a school day, the gems of formative assessment that evolve during lessons between students and their teachers. This enables teachers to not only assess their students but their own teaching also.

New approaches to assessment are challenging, and learning new ways to do this within a Learning Management System can be a challenge and involve an initial commitment of time. That’s why it’s great that within the Canvas Community we can support each other to learn new skills, discover answers to questions, and become better at our craft so we can best support the learners in our charge.

This just popped into my inbox. Worth a read too 22 Simple Daily Assessment Strategies That Really Work . And some more loveliness here How to Fix 5 Common Formative Assessment Problems Teachers Have

And a belated find: How To Quickly and Successfully Measure Learners' Understanding  

I’m curious to hear how primary/elementary K-6 teachers have been using Canvas to assess their students.

I've collected some ways of assessing using Canvas here https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-15603-assessment-and-the-little-people-part-two 

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Community Novice

I recently started using the Peer Review feature with assignments and found it to be a great way for students to edit or asses each other's work and offer feedback and suggestions. I have used it primarily in math class when I do daily review at the start of the lesson.

I post an image or a PDF of a daily review sheet from the teacher resources and set the Submission Type for Online. I tend to have them do the work in their notebook and usually set the Online type to Text. This way they just type their answers into the assignment. This cuts down on slow typing and trying to type out their work for the problem. 

After clicking the "Require Peer Review" option, you will have to decide if you want to manually or automatically assign the peer review. I have been doing this manually and assigning peers based on students that I know work well together and would feel comfortable having that person review their work. The idea of peer review with any subject is new for some students, so I want them to feel comfortable with the process and who is working with them.


When the rest of the settings for the assignment are done, you will be able to click on the Peer Review section of the menu. You can assign several peer reviews to each student, but I have only been doing one per student.



When the students are finished with their assignment, they will be able to click on the name of the peer they are assigned to and see what they have submitted. They must leave at least one comment in order to save their review and have it posted. I work with elementary students and we are still practicing netiquette and good digital citizenship. I stress to them the importance of being positive with their reviews and keeping it on-topic. For example, if all the problems are correct they simply write "All correct" in the comment section. If one answer is wrong, they write "Check #7 and submit again". 

The Peer Review feature gives students the opportunity to collaborate, review work, and explain math concepts to others in ways that might be different from mine. I hope that this feature will make students feel safe and confident with sharing their work with others. I feel that this feature is a great way to not only review and assess math concepts, but to also establish a sense of security and respect online and in the classroom.

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Community Novice

      I will admit... I am a newbie to Canvas. As a kindergarten teacher, I never thought that Canvas would be an appropriate tool for my to use with my young students. I am moving down to pre-K for this upcoming school year and still struggle to see how I can effectively use Canvas with my students. After getting some advice and suggestions from other learners in a "Canvas Expert" class, I think I have finally figured out a way to be able to implement this great program and resource into my curriculum for my students: their parents!

      Just like any upper elementary, middle or high school course, there are standards, goals and expectations in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. While these young ones are probably not going to be able to maneuver a Canvas course on their own, there is most likely an adult in their life that can figure it out! Even if it is someone else clicking through each module, video, presentation or assignment, young students can still have exposure to the material that they are expected to learn in these early grades. In this case, using a Canvas course will also hold my students' family members accountable for their learning and progress.

      As I begin to build a course for my pre-K class for this year, I know that I need to consider the types of assignments and content that is included in my course. I plan on using modules to separate different skills/standards. I plan on using YouTube to help embed interactive and engaging content for my 3-5 year old students. I plan on trying to use mastery paths to provide extra practice or enrichment opportunities for each student. I plan on including assignments that require uploading videos or pictures of student work that is completed at home.

      I am open to any other advice, suggestions, tips! Has anyone else used a Canvas course for these pre-K or kindergarten and found it to be effective? What issues have you run into regarding parents using Canvas for their young children?

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Community Novice

            I think all of us, as educators, frequently lose sight of one really important thing. We get caught up in the everyday tasks, overwhelmed with constant planning, and lost in our metrics. We make daily decisions and by all means do our best, but we struggle with challenges day in and day out, all year long. Whether you are a classroom teacher, an administrator, or support from the district level, thinking about this one thing could solve all our problems. Ready for the secret recipe to success in today’s schools?


Here’s what we forget…

If students are engaged in their learning experience, all other “issues” are positively impacted (and can even fade away).


Engaged students are motivated to receive higher student achievement scores, exhibit less frequent behavior problems, have better attendance records, etc…. etc…. etc…


Why isn’t student engagement and creation of dynamic, exciting lessons currently the focus for most educators? If you’ve ever taught or attended PD, we’ve all heard the same reasons why not. “I have no time.” “My administrator told me to do it this way.” “I’m following the framework word for word.” Educators, we don’t have time for boring lessons and information either.


Here’s what I’m here to help you think about. Using these 3 student engagement strategies below (and more...), we will bring student engagement back to the forefront of the instructional experience. We will create innovative, unpredictable lessons and inspire students to take their learning to the next level. We’ll put students back at the center of all our choices and engage them in learning about the things they both need and want to learn.


Engage K-12 Strategy #1: Activate Learning


It’s up to you, educator, to activate a student’s learning experience. What does real learning look like in action? Probably not students sitting in rows completing their own worksheet. We can get students truly engaged in learning with strategies to engage today’s learner and make it relevant, connected, and meaningful.


Let’s encourage students to develop and use their voice to impact the world.


Engage K-12 Strategy #2: Use Project-Based Learning  


If you’re anything like me, one of your biggest pet peeves is seeing students do projects for the sake of doing projects and not experiencing the magic of true project-based learning. Students should be encouraged to inquire, explore, and critically think to solve essential questions and engage in real-world problems. True project-based learning lets the creation of a product, presentation, or project guide the learning for the students. Yes, dear old-school teacher, that means that the project doesn’t come AFTER all the learning has already happened. It means that the learning occurs in conjunction with the process to create meaningful products or learning artifacts. Of course, sharing the products and projects with a real authentic audience always increases student engagement and buy-in.


Let’s try using project-based learning to encourage a student-or learner-centered approach in your classroom.


Engage K-12 Strategy #3: Student-Centered Learning Quests   


What kinds of things engage you as a learner? Maybe you’re an enthusiast about choose your own adventures, escape rooms, vlogs, podcasts, or content that you can control the pace, path, time or place? Educators, we can engage students through student-driven learning quests where students are in control of their own learning. Teachers can guide students through different kinds of quests or “mystery paths” to present the information students need to learn in fun, innovative ways. Choose an engaging theme for the students, toss out an unforeseen roadblock, and keep the information relevant as students engage with content in ways you don’t’ see in every classroom today. 

If you’re interested in Engaging K-12 students or creating engaging PD for adult learners, join me @nicholinac 

& Canvas this summer on Tuesdays 4-5 PM (EST) to discuss the 3 topics above. Sign up to attend the CanvasLIVE sessions using the links below.

BUT, remember this: Even the most boring of topics can be brought to life and activated when presented to students in a truly engaging way.




 235964_Engage K12 Marketing Flyer.png

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Community Participant

This is my first blog post in the Community, so it might be a little underwhelming.

Just yesterday, Canvas published the first wave of breakout sessions from InstructureCon 2016 on their YouTube Page. Today, I burned through all the posted sessions.  They were all informative but there was one that is really going to force me to rethink the way I design my course in Canvas. It was a session entitled "Canvas in Elementary? Yes, You Can" by Courtney Cohron I started watching it thinking that I'd be sharing out to the elementary educators in my PLN.  But, I think it has essentials for great course design for all educators.

I'll embed the video of the presentation below, but I was amazed by the great resources designed in her district and her willingness to share them. In designing courses in Canvas, the district has designed a checklist to ensure effective instructional design principles across all...Courtney works as a District Elementary Instructional Technology Coach for Noblesville Schools in Noblesville, Indiana.  I just love this document.  She framed it as something used at the Elementary school level.  But, I think it speaks to all students K-12.

In her presentation, Courtney also shared out some sample Canvas sites from her elementary school teachers. They can be f...  There are great examples of course design here to navigate.  In addition, on this page you can find a link to a free iBook the district created to walk teachers through the process of setting up a Canvas course.

I had lots of takeaways from this session.  The biggest one, though was doing a better job with my home page.  My students will be 1:1 with Chromebooks this fall, so their primary experience in the classroom setting will be through the browser interface.   This means they will encounter the home page first the majority of the time they access the site. In the past for me, this would simply be the Modules page. Courtney walked through some options her district recommends for home page content. One of those was having the home page be an introduction for the day.  It would include the learning outcomes for the day and direct links to the assignment(s) for the day. It would also include links to the other assignments from previous days.

I really love this idea for a home page.  It will require a bit more upkeep, but this will defiantly help crystallize the "why" of the day's work. What I envision is a home page where I do the following:

  • State the learning outcomes tied today's work and highlight other objectives from the unit that we have been working on.
  • Include a fun YouTube clip associated with the day's work.
  • Provide direct links to the day's assignments/quizzes
  • Catalogue direct links to assignments from the week

I look forward to using the checklist Courtney provided to ensure effective design for my Canvas course.  I highly recommend watching the entire session in the video below.  Thank you so much for sharing the great work you do Courtney!

I look forward to returning to blog share some of the other great sessions I was able to view even though I wasn't at InstructureCon 2016. Maybe 2017?

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Community Novice

Successful implementation of Canvas in first grade!

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Community Novice

This white paper discusses how a reliable and secure infrastructure can help your K12 school or District support greater student achievement with digital learning.

We are in the middle of a six year iPad deployment to our middle and high school students. Year 4 would see iPads going home with students in grades 7-10. That's more than 25,000 kids in a diverse district with a high number of free and reduced lunch and ELL learners.

We have had many challenges and our 1-1 program is far from perfect but I liken it to a road trip. If you've ever taken one, you know that half way to your destination you and everyone with you wants to go home. Complaints about the loss of creature comforts, patience, and vision make everyone long for the good ol' days.

Papers like this help reset the purpose and provide a solid rationale for traveling forward, not going back.

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