Canva for the Classroom



Canva can be addicting. The other day my husband was putting together a few simple signs for guests at our cabin, explaining how to use different things.

"Here! Let's do it on Canva!" I said, racing for my computer.

"Umm. They're just really small...." he replied.

So yeah. You can't use it for EVERYTHING, but practically. Canva is a lovely online tool that allows anyone and everyone to design posters, flyers, social media posts, banners, stationary, infographics, resumes, postcards, programs, desktop wallpaper, and more. (I'm not an affiliate, just kind of obsessed).

I heard its founder, Melanie Perkins, interviewed on NPR's How I Built This, and I love the mission she set out with, to make design approachable and doable for everyone, without so much technical skill and access to industry programs. Canva actually began as a site to easily design yearbook pages, but it's become much more.

Scanning over my draft projects in Canva from the last few years, I have easily hundreds there. And once you get the hang of it, I have a feeling the same will soon be true for you (and your students).

So let's just agree at the top here that you're not going to get intimidated by the tech, because it's so doable. If you've used Word or Powerpoint or Docs, and you're willing to spend ten or fifteen minutes monkeying around, you can do this. Seriously, you can do this.

Before we dive into all the ways you can use Canva in class, I want you to feel confident that you can use the program. So I've done a quick screenshot tutorial of the steps to design a project tin Canva below, or you can check out the short video tutorials on their site if you prefer to learn that way.

Simple steps for using Canva:

#1 From the scrollable menu of options across the top, choose one (such as "poster").

#2 Now inside your chosen genre of design, scroll down through the many layout options available to you and choose to see "all" for one (such as "school poster"). 


#3 Now you'll see MANY options for layouts. Choose one you like as you scroll through them all along the left. 


#4 Now that you're inside a design, you can use the toolbar across the left to add elements. This toolbar allows you to upload your own images (click the "upload") button and drag them into your poster to replace existing photos or just to add to what's there. You can also add text, illustrations, icons, shapes, and other items using this lefthand toolbar. 


#5 You can adjust the text within the poster using the toolbar across the top. Simply click into the text you want to alter, type what you want it to say, and then you can adjust your colors, fonts, sizes, etc. Or you can delete sections of text if you want to by dragging them off the screen. You can also move them around by clicking them and then pulling them around the design. 



#6 Now just monkey around for a while until you have the hang of the program. Below, you'll see a poster layout I chose and the poster I created in a couple of minutes by tweaking the colors, changing one font,  deleting the bottom box and text, and putting in my photo. As long as you don't add any of Canva's copyrighted photos or illustrations, you can then click the download arrow in the top right and get a lovely free PNG or PDF of your design.




OK, just play around for a little while over at Canva. Once you have the hang of what I have found to be a pretty intuitive program, you're ready to implement some fun ways to use Canva for your classroom. Keep in mind, as you peruse these ideas, that I made each example in Canva in just a few minutes so I could show you a range of possibilities. You could spend longer and get more beautiful results.

About the Teacher

However you want to introduce yourself to students, whether it's with a poster on your door, a sidebar on your syllabus, or a flyer that goes home to families, Canva is an easy way to make it. For the example below, I used a Pinterest template and just added my photo, an e-mail address and a brief description that would give families a tiny glimpse of my life. You could go way more in depth, of course.



About the Kids

Similarly, in the first week of school you might enjoy teaching your students how to use Canva with an introductory lesson and then a chance to make a poster about themselves. Have them send you their PNGs at the end and print them for an amazing initial display on your classroom wall. I suggest giving them a few specific requirements to help them go into some depth with introducing themselves.

Syllabi

Making syllabi as infographics is all the rage right now. Choose one the infographic templates on Canva and start plugging in your info. (Or grab these free syllabus templates if you're not into infographics).



Book Posters

If you'd like to have your students sharing their favorite books with each other (and why wouldn't you, right?!), Canva is a really easy platform for this. Just have them snap a selfie with their book and turn it into a poster, then send you the PNG. Or they can send you the selfie and you can make the poster. You can also encourage students to make book posters on Canvas to submit to the Modern Voices Project and share their recommendations with other teenagers around the world.



Class Events

Have a poetry slam coming up? A class play performance? A one-pagers festival? You can use Canva to design a program or poster for anything you've got going.



Parent Newsletters

Trying to keep parents involved in classroom work? Canva can help you out. They've got a whole section for classroom newsletters. Just choose your favorite and drop in whatever you want, then send it out by email or print it for parents, whatever you prefer.


Novel-Based Social Media Posts

I love pulling social media into projects, and Canva would make it easy for students to put together professional-looking work. Maybe they're designing an Instagram feed for Jay Gatsby, a Pinterest board for Starr Carter, or a Facebook page for Ponyboy. When you teach them Canva, you'll empower them to elevate the level of their work, and help the kids who don't like drawing find their wings.



One-Pagers

Are some of your students asking if they can make one-pagers digitally? Canva would be an ideal platform for this. Just let the kids open the posters section and begin adding their images and text.


Infographics

Just as you could easily use Canva to make an infographic syllabus, you could assign infographics as a student project. You could do a mini research project culminating in an infographic, or create novel-related infographics featuring themes, main characters, historical context, etc.

Memes

Want to do funny Hamlet memes? Or have students create 1984 memes that show the role of Big Brother in the modern world? Memes to show what makes a good discussion participant versus a not-so-stellar one? Canva is a great place to have students create memes. The Instagram photo templates (like this one) work well.


So there are some starting points for you! Once you get started on Canva, you'll probably find even more wonderful ways to use it. I hope you'll jump into the comments below and let me know what you're excited to try or share other successful ways you've used the program.

Looking for more creative teaching ideas? Have you given The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast a listen? It's just waiting for you and your earbuds...




8 comments

  1. My kids and I already loved Canva but you gave me some great new ideas. I took your advice and made an infographic "Meet the Teacher" for the new school year and Open House. I always enjoy your blog; thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm so thrilled to hear that! How wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  2. Wow! I’m so inspired and can’t wait to get started. Thank you for sharing the basics and so many fun ideas for students. This will be a fun new tool to teach my students the first week of school. Do you print these at home or have things printed professionally?

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    1. I'm so glad you're excited! I get so excited about Canva too. It seems like it can do anything. I've never done any professional printing - my biggest tip is to print things on cardstock rather than regular paper. It makes a huge difference in keeping posters and programs looking nice. I always have a stack of it in my office. Good luck!

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  3. I just made a poster for "Meet the Teacher" for the new school year and it was simple! Thank you for your encouragement to start with a poster before digging deeper into the site. The site was user friendly and your instructions gave me confidence to try it! I can't wait to share Canva with my students and use your suggestions!!! Game changer.

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    1. Yaaaay! That's so thrilling to hear. I'm so glad you decided to try it ,and I hope you will just love it more as you explore the site and see all your options. I'd love to see what you make if you're in the mood to tag me on Instagram @nowsparkcreativity. :)

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  4. I’m excited to try this! I’m not to tech savvy but I know kids are all about it nowadays. This is a simple, consistent platform I can use. I’m thinking quick grade from PNG and NO Papers to grade #winwin!!!! Thanks for the tips. I plan to try with my 4th graders! Do you think it will work for them??

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  5. Super eager to weave this into my independent reading as a form of check-in!

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