Canva: A Fun Way to Assess Student Achievement

Projects and presentations ultimately assess student learning. There are many good resources out there for presentations in history. As I mentioned in 10 Elements for Teaching History, resources like Prezi and Youtube are fun and stimulating for students.

The free design tool Canva provides another great resource for a classroom, not only for history projects, but for all your classes.

What is Canva?

Simple answer: It is a FREE (!) point-and-click graphic design program. Easy to use and intuitive for the new user. Kids 8 and above can figure this out.

Probably one of the hardest things for someone who has not studied design is making something look beautiful: balanced in color, shape and picture.

This program has the design aspect already taken care of. You provide the content. That content demonstrates mastery of the material.

How it works:

After selecting the type of project, kids (and adults) scroll down to select the layout style they like. Then they choose from drop down elements.

Even though the free account “slightly” limits the images they can use, there is an upload feature (see bottom left of picture below). Students can search online for free-use pictures and graphics and simply upload them into the project. (This makes for a good lesson on copyright and royalties.)

–>Take a look at Pixabay for free-use photographs and Vecteezy for free-use graphics.

Long and short, Canva is simple and quick to learn.


If you feel you need to walk students through using Canva, here is a good introduction.

In my opinion, the best part of Canva is that students who use the program are learning elements of graphic design.

As they swap out this for that word, or this for that picture, they are sticking with a design that already works. And they are functioning as graphic artists as they do it!

Their final projects have a professionalism to them, which prepares them in a special way for the business world they will soon be a part of.

I have used Canva in my (homeschool) classroom and have been very pleased with the resulting projects. My students have also been happy with their projects.

Last year, my daughter used Canva to make a book cover for her serial novel. And my son is currently using Canva to experiment with logos and graphics for his Youtube channel, which is a part of his curriculum. It’s a great resource for large or small projects!

What kinds of school projects can be done on Canva?


Book reports: Make a new book cover for Tom Sawyer. Create a logo Katniss Everdeen could use to promote and explain her side of the rebellion. Design a Story board about the Giver, but change the story halfway through to create a different ending.

Blogging: Create an instructive 5-part blog series on common grammar mistakes 5th grade students make.

Newsletter: With your group, create a newsletter with articles summarizing the novels we have studied. Include sections with puns (plays on words), language-based riddles, memes, vocabulary puzzles or crossword puzzles.

Social Studies/History:

Compare/contrast: Create a menu for a restaurant in ancient Pompeii. Show foods they ate that are the same or are different from foods we eat.

Different perspectives: Create two certificates to be awarded to President Abraham Lincoln: one from a Union supporter of his policies and one from a Confederate opponent to his policies.

Cause and Effect: Make an infographic showing three main causes for the American revolution. Then show the effects the American Revolution had on both the American Colonies and on England.

(See this list of ways to analyze history)


Resume: Create a resume (C.V.) for Marie Curie, showing her education, accomplishments, and other vital aspects of her scientific career.

Comic Strip: Research how Louis Pasteur discovered pasturization. Design a comic strip illustrating a significant moment of his discovery.


Photo Collage: Gather photos of things with angles, intersecting, and parallel lines, then illustrate each the photo an angle rule we have studied in this chapter.

Teacher projects: Seating charts, lesson plans, worksheets, slides

Executive Skills: Calendar, Scheduler, graphic organizer

As you see, the sky’s the limit.

Wise men know that DOING proves comprehension much more than mindless worksheets and bookwork:

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
– Confucius

“Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing,
seeing is not as good as knowing, knowing is not as good as acting;
true learning continues until it is put into action.”
– Xunzi

 Other Ideas

Below is a list of Canva’s pre-design categories you can choose from.

Survey the list below to be inspired for more ways your students can apply what they have learned.

Blogging & ebooks album covers, banners, book covers, comic strips, infographics, magazine covers, photo collages, wallpapers

Documents: certificates, letterheads, newsletters, presentations, resumes

Education: graphic organizers, lesson plans, yearbook maker

Events: cards, event programs, ID cards, invitation cards

Inspirations: mood boards, scrapbooks, storyboards, postcards, seating charts, tickets wedding invitations

Marketing materials: brochures, business cards, flyers, gift certificates, labels, logos, posters, restaurant menus

Planners and Schedules: calendars weekly schedules

Headers: for Etsy, Facebook, Youtube, email

Social media: Meme generator, Social media graphics

Have fun!

Do me a favor–>Please comment below with suggestions for other ways Canva can be used to demonstrate mastery of the material, or describing success you have had with using this program in class.


disclaimer: These opinions are my own, I am not compensated by Canva for these opinions or for this recommendation. 



We have all been hit by OUTLIERS.  In school, when the teacher grades on a curve, outliers are the death of our grade. Everyone bombs a test, but because one kid gets a 90 it knocks down everyone else’s grade.

The phenomenon of OUTLIERS is an important topic to discuss in life. Is it so bad to be different?

My question crept up last April when I reread a very interesting report with a theory built on reasonable evidence, about Roswell and the Operation Paperclip connection.

Why is it that people who make connections like this are called wackos,

but people who say that the world created itself out of nothing are called deep thinkers?

–To find the problem with something out of nothing, you need to spend time thinking about what you mean by Nothing. If your Nothing is really nothing, how can anything happen at all, and if it’s not nothing, you’ve contradicted yourself and have to create a new theory.–

1. Why are there outliers?
2. How important is it to NOT be an outlier?
3. Why do people try to make us conform? or call us quacks if we do not?

Case One: Astroturf

Case Two: Aliens and Poltergeists

Is it so wrong to ask questions about aliens and poltergeists? It is a common dividing line to say that those who TALK ABOUT aliens are wackos and those who DON’T are normal. But why do we not ask? Who is it making the rule that says asking makes you an outlier. It is important to know. NOT asking should be suspect.

As an historian, I must ask about the testimonies. All the people who have spoken about alien-contact saw something. Even if a few hallucinated or made up their stories, the changed lives testify that SOMETHING happened.

I happen to know what actually occurred. Without a doubt.  I have done my historical and sociological research. My reasons are defended by common sense, intelligence, reason and loads of facts. But my problem is not what IS going on. I know the truth.

My problem is that PEOPLE WANT US TO NOT ASK.  Why is the topic taboo?

Case Three: Christian Clubs on Campus

When I was in high school, I was in a start-up Christian Club. We called it Agape Club. I found peace and meaning in my relationship with Christ, in my knowledge of God. But I was an OUTLIER.  Classmates usually do not want to associate with outliers. Outliers certainly do not pick up the guys, and being associated with them taints your reputation.

But what if the status quo is part of a great big conspiracy? Like the conspiracy of the drug companies and their use of the media and Wikipedia? What if I am the whistle-blower? What if I am the one without the blindfold? The one ‘unplugged’ from the Matrix?

Who is it claiming us unreasonable if we determine the world has clear evidence of design? I say denying that is not using common sense.

Who is it claiming us unreasonable if we determine that people have seen something on those dark roads? I say denying it is plugging your ears to a very loud message.

Who is it claiming us unreasonable if we go against the Status Quo? If you depend on reason, and pursue it to the very end without compromise, there is only one conclusion you can come to and be honest. Bending to the status quo can cost your very life.

I know who it is claiming these things and I know why.

What is truth? Do you really care?

I appeal to John Gerstner, and his Lecture Series on Handout Apologetics. He shows why it is normal and reasonable to be the way I am, and how the lemmings and the outliers are those who deny the Reasonableness of the evidence.


Pi: Meaning or Message?

What is Pi? Is there a pattern?

I came across this interesting page where the author tried to turn Pi into an image using binary. Here is the 2D version.

And the 3D version:

(download here: pi_turn_movie)

Is it a Fractal of sorts?

It looks amazingly like a 9th itineration fractal…

(Elementary School Champions! Third grade students in Ms. Renner’s class at Alief ISD’s Chambers Elementary in Houston, TX made this this 9th iteration Jurassic Park Fractal.)

Is it a Message?

The connection to 9th iteration begs the question, what about the 99 Sequences in Pi and the other patterns it holds?Some people have been trying to decipher pi, as if it is a cypher from God.

  1. The Pi Code
  2. Cracking the Pi Code
  3. Flying Spaghetti Monster (from Binary Pi)

Not only do people look for meaning in English, because of COURSE God would make his cypher in English–but Hebrew scholars look for meaning in Mathematical constants.

  1. Pi in Hebrew
  2. In another search for meaning, here is Phi (the Golden Ratio) in the Tetragrammaton

Why do we search for meaning in Pi? For the simple reason that we expect intelligence at the base level of life. In a way, the hope that Pi contains a message or a pattern comes from our understanding that God is the author of Reason and Math. Galileo Galilei said that the Universe is written in the language of Mathematics.

Most likely, the future holds some more secrets about Pi. Meanwhile, continue to pursue Math and Meaning in your pursuit of Truth.


Tips for Teaching Kids to Write Their Own Stories

As an author myself, I find the task of planning, writing, and editing a story challenging. How much more so for kids when they are told to write a story.

“What am I supposed to do, Teacher?” they ask.

Then they give you what they wrote. Sometimes the stories work, sometimes they don’t.

Teaching kids to write excellent stories is actually not difficult. All they need is a handle on the structure of story.

How can you teach your students to write a good story?

First, students need to know what makes up a story. Secondly, they need to put their story idea into that kind of structure. Thirdly, they need to write the story. And fourthly they need to edit their story.

The basics of a story are:

Three Point Plot development:
  • Set-up
  • Climax
  • End

1. Start your lesson by making a chart like this on the board.

<<Keep Reading>>

10 Elements for Teaching History 10

10. Presentation Resources

The method of presenting post-debate historical theses is as varied as the imagination.  Here are some suggestions.

I) Prezi is a visually-stimulating slideshow/animation that keeps the interest of the audience. When my students use prezi, they are required to have every primary source text in red, and each slide labelled with the FORCE or the ANALYSIS CATEGORY they have used there.

II) Five paragraph/ three point essays. You can never write too many of these. Knowing how to express yourself this way is essential for success in university.

If you do not know how to teach students how to write one of these, please see my FREE ESSAY OUTLINE, with the direction links.

A high school essay does not have to be long to be done right.  The main purpose is to persuasively use facts to defend a thesis.

III) Quix Essays. This is what I call a twenty-minute essay-write.  It is great practice for the AP or SAT exams. After a sibling presents on a topic, using Prezi, I select an AP history sample essay question on a topic related to the presentation. They have to immediately analyze and formulate a thesis, and defend their idea.  Sound like torture? Perhaps, but they come forth shining!–plus it’s over in 20 minutes.

IV) NaNoWriMo (or Camp Nanowrimo). While this takes a month to do, the month of November (or April) provides a perfect opportunity to research and apply history to analysis. The role of ideas. The individual in history. Compare and contrast. Cause and effect.

The assignment could be this: Write a novel that encorporates what you have learned about the Fall of Rome, what it was like to live there and then, and what the people thought about why Rome gave way to the barbarians….  This way, the purpose for the primary-source research becomes finding props and ideas for their characters and their troubles.

V) Comic Life.  I have assigned Comiclife for a very detailed worldview analysis story, and though it is very challenging, the medium makes the task less intimidating. To be fair, it is a semester-long project on a topic that overreaches all units of the semester.

VI) Canva. This graphic design program can be easily used to present post-debate historical conclusions. (Take a look these ideas of how to use Canva, not only in history but in all classes).

VII) YOUTUBE CHANNEL: As this team of homeschool kids did in their BONES IN MY BACKYARD channel, you could make a Youtube Channel to post your research investigations.

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Love and Logic Review

lovelogicI recommend the Love and Logic program. Before we used this program, we had a lot of trouble in the management of our children. But incorporating the principles behind this has enabled us to see obedience in a different way. Love and logic works on the principle of reasoning with your child. Letting them have choices that are within your acceptable framework.

Do you want bananas or strawberries on your cereal?

Do you want to wear this shirt  or that shirt?

It looks cloudy. Do you want to wear a sweater or not wear a sweater?

Do you want to go to the park or the museum today?

As they get older, the choices get more complicated.

Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner?

Do you want my suggestions for how you could do better on your homework?

The principle is to teach the child to make decisions. And let them fall.  When kids are small, their falls are much smaller. If they learn to crash their bike or fall off the playground equipment, they are developing not only physically–learning how much tighter to hold on–they are also developing the awareness of what will happen if they do not master that skill.  Because the negative is they don’t learn the pain of falling until they’re zooming down the road on their motorcycle. Big falls are much worse. Let them fall and make the wrong decision while the cost is small.

If they choose to wear a sweater on a cold day, that is great and wise. If they choose to not wear their sweater, they will shiver. And the shiver is a small lesson where they (hopefully) make a note to not forget a sweater on a cold day–or at least to look out the window to see the weather.

The important thing in this system is to give them a million choices that don’t matter, so that when it does matter you have the freedom to say, “I give you many decisions to make all the time. This is going to be my turn to make a decision.” For example, when your child could fall very far and get very hurt, that would not be a ‘your choice’ time.  It’s a parental choice time. If they are used to having freedom with the choices YOU give them, the choices you’ve already filtered through, then actually anything they choose is okay with you already.

One more point. Learning to live with the results of your own decisions is a part of growing up. If the decision works or doesn’t work. While children easily want to make choices, their own reasoning through options is not always spot-on. This is why choices should be filtered through parent-permissible options.  The bigger the child gets, the less you give them choices. Instead you ask, “What are you going to do about it?” Keeping the monkey off your back.  If they’re stumped, you can ask them, “Would you like some suggestions?” Then you give the choices.

I recommend reading the books.