Thursday, February 25, 2016

Canvas - Using Modules for Engaging, Independent Practice

Today's blogger, Carissa Holloway, is a 2nd Grade teacher in a 1:1 iPad classroom at Pleasant View Elementary, Yorktown Community Schools. You can find her on Twitter @HollowayKids.

Canvas, a learning management system, provides one of my most favorite tools for engaging, meaningful, independent practice. Modules within Canvas allow you to compile resources, instruction, and activities for student access. This open-ended tool for compiling digital content can be extremely powerful to you and your students.

Using Canvas modules in a 1:1 classroom provides various opportunities for independent practice. I love using Canvas to create a module that guides students in review and practice of reading skills. I’ve also found it beneficial to create multiple modules for focused, digital literacy centers. There are benefits to both. For young students, like my second graders, one module is ideal at first. This minimizes the time spent navigating and increases time spent on task. If you have a lot of content to present, breaking up the content into separate modules/centers is less daunting for students. With practice and consistency in where you place the resources, students quickly get the hang of navigating the LMS. Eventually, it’s no longer a time-consuming event. Instead, it becomes second nature and part of everyday learning.


Most recently, I created 5 modules to serve as literacy stations. There was a need for reviewing a few reading skills from previous weeks. I also wanted to provide resources for students to review and practice our current phonics and language skills.

Our theme that week had been groundhogs and the skills for the modules were as follows:
  • Reading #1: Character, Setting, Plot
  • Reading #2: Fact and Opinion
  • Word Work: -tion and -sion
  • Language: Suffixes
  • Writing: Support Response with Reasons 
In a typical module for independent practice, you’d want to consider including the following:
  • A reteaching piece 
    • Authentic teacher-created video created using various tools, like Explain Everything, PowToons, screen capturing software, etc. 
    • Embedded resource from YouTube 
    • Directions for accessing video on outside sites, like BrainPop Jr. 
  • Content & practice activity ○ Directions/Pictures for accessing content on other sites, like myOn, Pebble Go, Epic, Raz-Kids 
    • Include choice as often as possible - students as creators 
    • Differentiate resources/tasks as needed 
    • Add voice/video directions as needed 
  • Teacher example 
  • Directions for sharing finished creations 
    • Twitter 
    • Seesaw 
    • Padlet 
    • Upload to Canvas 
Using modules provides you with the opportunity to “clone” yourself onto each device available in your classroom. It prevents the need for repeating directions and allows students to listen to your reteaching piece as many times as necessary. Students who tend to work at a slower pace can do so. Students who work at a faster pace have the ability to go on as well. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to meet with individual students or groups and progress monitor knowing your students are engaged in meaningful, independent work. My students know not to interrupt for help when working on a module. They know I will say, “Have you looked back in the module or problem-solved with your friends?” ;-) Modules have taught my students so much more than the content presented. My students have been provided with opportunities to be problem-solvers (and finders!), collaborators, and communicators - all while facing challenges and developing a growth mindset.

Within your modules, you can also provide opportunities for choice and voice. Meet students where they’re at, allow them to show their creativity, and let them share their knowledge in the way they feel most comfortable. You may even start to realize that some of your quiet ones actually have quite a bit to share. Incorporating this type of learning can give your quietest students a voice. Students who are often overshadowed by their louder peers and tend to shut down during in-class group activities suddenly become the most vocal and involved. How empowering!

Even primary students, like my second graders, can fully utilize and benefit from an LMS. This type of tool provides opportunities for learning to happen anytime and anywhere. Your resources can be differentiated. Student pace and product-creation can be as well. An LMS is not too advanced for your younger students. It may very well seem like chaos at first. Logging in and navigating can be tricky. Taking the time to allow students to log in and explore is key. Provide guidance when necessary, but be sure to give them the challenge of figuring things out for themselves (even if it interferes with some of your other plans for that day). Primary students can and will figure it out. Like I mentioned previously, it will become second nature...even for your young learners. Just like anything else, it takes time. You will be thankful that you took this time and embraced it.

Whether you are 1:1, 2:1, or have few devices available to you, modules can be designed to meet the needs of your unique classroom. Though difficult to do, it is crucial to accept that not everyone will be doing the same thing at the same time. They may not be using the same apps or resources. At times, some may not even be on a device if you’re not 1:1. To be honest, some may not completely finish the tasks you’ve provided. As long as they are on task, it’s all about the process and the journey. An LMS is an amazing tool, but the outcome of using one is even more incredible. It may seem like chaos at times, but a tremendous amount of learning is happening!. Whether you’re using Canvas or a similar LMS, the concept of modules is transferable, and it is powerful!

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