A Metaphorical Breakdown of Canvas

We tend to fear things we do not understand. In this post, we will face the big Canvas “Monster” and begin our process of understanding how it really works at a practical level. My hope is that as we confront this challenge together, we will see that it is not as scary as it seems. It is actually a brilliantly constructed program that can become our biggest ally.

First Impressions

The Canvas LMS was sprung upon many of us teachers the week before classes were supposed to start. Our thoughts were, “So… in addition to responding to COVID and the chaos of virtual learning, you want us to learn a whole new set of software skills? Hmmm…you’re funny.” Except it wasn’t really funny. It has actually been a very traumatic experience for many teachers. Nonetheless, we are teachers and we never give up. Sure we complain a bit but we always bounce back and do what needs to be done.

Since teaching music has been placed a little lower on our district’s priority list, I have had the pleasure of substituting for grade-level teachers and helping to coach them as they navigate this new fangled program we call “Canvas”. During this process, I have fallen in love with the program and realize one of the only reasons why our “can do” teachers are shying away from it is that it has been introduced with trauma. 

If you are in this boat, I would like to re-introduce you to this amazing program and help guide you as you set up your Canvas Course.

Enjoy My breakdown of Canvas in video form or read about it below:)

The Metaphorical Breakdown of Canvas:

As Teachers, we often desire the resources to spruce up our hallways, classrooms and learning materials. Well now we can, digitally speaking. You get to customize the appearance of each of these items below.

The Canvas Icon = School Building: Clicking on the Canvas icon from the desktop is very much like students entering the school building. It is where all of the learning is hosted. 

The Dashboard = School Hallway: As soon as students click the Canvas Icon, they will immediately be taken to the Dashboard. Think of the Dashboard as the school hallway. It is an entry point for all of the classrooms the students will enter during the school day. 

The Course Card = Your Doorway: Your Course Card should appear in the dashboard and is very much like the doorway to your classroom. It should have your name (and a nice picture) on it so students can easily find their way to class. 

The Home Page= Your Classroom:  Students will land here after clicking your Course Card. Your homepage is your classroom. Imagine, all of the wonderful things you can add to express yourself and connect with your students. In my opinion, this is the most important part of your Canvas Course (well other than actually teaching.) We want to make sure that students can easily navigate your course and extra resources from your homepage. If you would like more ideas on how to do this, check out my article and video on creating a user-friendly Canvas Course. 

Modules = Teacher and Student Desks: We can think of modules as teacher/student desks. It is where all of the assignments, readings and supplies are kept. Every activity that is completed and graded will take place here. The great news is that Think Central, Journeys, Epic and all of your beautiful Google Slides, Google Docs, Google Drawings etc. can be used in the same way you have been using them- with way more bells and whistles. See my article and video on Best Practices for Canvas Modules to learn how to maximize the tools offered to you in this program. 


Canvas is a very architectural program and it does require a bit of planning and goal setting. I have created a series of videos and goal sheets that can help you through this process. Remember, this is not something we can finish in a few clicks. It takes time. Therefore we must pace ourselves and be patient as we navigate this new way of learning management. If you follow these steps and put your love into it, you will be very pleased with the outcome. 

Published by DeniseCastro

I am an Elementary Music Teacher who loves to support other teachers in using Technology and Performing Arts to enhance student learning.

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