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Canvas for the Foreign Language Classroom

Canvas for the Foreign Language Classroom

As the educational landscape has shifted to more of a hybrid and/or online environment, foreign language instructors have had to face many unique challenges to their teaching practice. Some of the issues many have recently encountered include:

  1. Practicing a foreign language
  2. Comprehending the nuances and complexities of a foreign language
  3. Immersing students in the foreign language

While these challenges are not representative of every hurdle foreign language instructors encounter, they do present opportunities for various tools within Canvas to rise to the challenge of helping foreign language students flourish in their respective studies. Let’s take a look at each question and see how Canvas can help facilitate engaging and meaningful learning experiences for foreign language students (and instructors!): 


Practicing a Foreign Language

Practice, especially when learning a foreign language, comes down to participation, moderation and repetition. Canvas can help to promote and facilitate this type of learning through a couple of different tools.

The first tool available to teachers is a video-based discussion where students respond to a prompt by the instructor with a video:




From there, students can respond to each other via media-based discussion replies to build upon their learned skill set and grow in real-world application:



Inserting media for both teacher and student is found by clicking on the “Media” icon located on the Rich Content Editor Bar: 


Along with a video-based discussion, a rubric that communicates expectations and criteria for success can facilitate a more effective foreign language learning experience. Elements of a great foreign language rubric can include criteria that rate grammar, grasp of native speech patterns, and sentence construction.To attach a rubric to a discussion, click on the “options” menu in the upper right hand corner of the discussion once it is created: 


Combining media-based discussions and rubrics within the foreign language classroom provides opportunities for conversational practice, fluency acquisition, and clear expectations, all of which are essential for a successful student experience. 

Comprehending a Foreign Language

Comprehension in the foreign language classroom is vital to vocabulary building, sentence construction, and grammatical principles among other elements. To aid in student comprehension and retention of knowledge, foreign language instructors can create media-rich content pages to deliver content and differentiated assignment submission types to tap into various learning modalities. 

To create media-rich content pages:

  • Click on “Pages” in the course navigation menu
  • Navigate to the page index  
  • Click on “+Page” in the upper right corner of the screen:



From there, the Rich Content Editor bar provides a wealth of options that you can utilize to insert powerful media content. Here are a couple of examples:

  • A video or audio file on your device (record/upload media button)
    • Recording instructions via video or audio for an assignment in both the foreign language and native language can facilitate vocabulary building and immersion. 


  • A Studio video (studio button)
    • Studio is a video creation tool that allows you to embed annotations within a video. Record a discussion, read-aloud of a passage, or even instructions in the instructed language before adding annotations so that students can have natural pauses for understanding and comprehension (link to Studio Annotations)

Feel free to select from one or several options on the Rich Content Editor bar to piece together relevant, meaningful media selections that you believe will help your students succeed in comprehending and retaining the language being taught. 

You can also create differentiated assignment submission types for your formative and/or summative assessments within your foreign language course:

  • Navigate to “Assignments” on the course navigation menu
  • Click on “+Assignment” and scroll down to the “Submission Type” field
  • Click on the drop-down menu and select “Online”:


Different assignment submission types are enumerated in greater detail at this link here (assignment submission type link).  The two I want to focus on are the student annotation and media recording submission types. 

  • The Media Recording submission type allows students to submit a video or audio file to you as the instructor. Students can recite a monologue, practice going through vocabulary words and/or sentences as well as explaining grammatical principles with examples. 


  • The Student Annotation submission type allows you to upload a document or chart where students can insert text and annotations to interact with uploaded content. This works very well for diagramming sentences and identifying vocabulary in passages. 




Both of these submission options within Canvas can help your students comprehend and retain the linguistic concepts presented in class. 

Setting Up a Course for Immersion

Arguably the most critical piece of a foreign language course, immersion in the instructed language within the classroom environment can be facilitated through an “immersion design” lens when creating Content Pages and Modules, as well as utilizing the Immersive Reader for more complex passages. 

When creating Content Pages and Modules, employing an “immersion design” model can help students acclimate to interacting with the language being taught. Purposefully including Content Pages that have instructions, reading passages, dialogues, and even videos in the target language can facilitate an immersive experience for foreign language students. Also included on these immersive content pages could be links to resources that explain the concepts in the native language of the learner or translated content at the bottom of the page in the native language; both of these choices can help scaffold the language learning process for all learners. 



One can also have modules that are titled with dates, times and/or unit names that are in the foreign language. In addition, the items within the module can also be titled in the foreign language with the native language equivalent:



Another tool for immersion is the Immersive Reader. Available on Content Pages, the Immersive Reader can be customized by each student to experience the content on the page in the foreign language along with the native language. Turning on the Visual Dictionary can further help concretize connections between foreign and native languages. 

Bringing It All Together

The foreign language classroom provides a set of unique challenges that must be considered in order for students to succeed. By combining the concepts and tools discussed in this post, my hope is to ensure your foreign language students are receiving the most meaningful foreign language instruction possible. Feel free to click on a few of the links below for some other resources you can utilize.



Studio Information: Link

Microsoft Local Experience Pack: Link

Apple Language Input Controls (type in another language!): Link

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