A step-by-step guide to creating an engaging lesson plan with Canva

Saga Briggs
Saga Briggs

As educators, we’re always trying to balance efficient planning with engaging teaching, but we don’t always have the best resources to do so. Canva has a solution: all the tools you need in one place, with features that make teaching and learning feel more collaborative, intuitive, and enjoyable.

In this guide we’d like to share some of our best tips for creating an engaging Lesson Plan with Canva. Gone are the days when we had to rely on textbook templates and clumsy PowerPoint slides. Now, it’s not only simple and free to build your own Lesson Plan with a tool like Canva, but it’s also a chance to re-energize your teaching through the creative process.

Here’s our guide on how to create an engaging Lesson Plan with Canva so both you and your students can stay inspired (and engaged) throughout the school year.

01. The template

To get started, choose from one of Canva’s fully customizable Lesson Plan templates, which let you outline objectives, materials, activities, discussion ideas, assessment strategies, and more.

Objectives

Begin by outlining your main lesson objectives in your Lesson Plan template. What concepts or skills do you want your students to have mastered by the end of your lesson? For instance, in Apple Distinguished Educator Monica Burns’ lesson on Comic Book Creation, she outlines her objectives as follows:

  • Use graphics and visuals to tell a story.
  • Make a comic book that incorporates a variety of literary elements for the purpose of telling a story.
  • Develop an appreciation for graphic novels and comic books as a form of storytelling.

Activities

Decide which tasks, projects, activities, or assignments you want to include as part of your lesson. Be sure each task is designed to inform, engage, and build mastery according to the objectives you’ve created. You might even browse through some of Canva’s layouts and templates to get a few ideas for activities. For example, after you’ve given a lecture, students can use the notes they’ve taken to create an infographic, which will help them review and remember material learned during class.

Materials

Next, determine which materials to use in your lesson, as well as which materials students will need to complete the activities.

To boost engagement, you can use Canva’s features to add links into worksheets, posters, and other materials you’ve prepared. This makes it easy to share materials with students and encourage them to work either individually or in groups.

Check out some of Canva’s worksheet templates and infographics, like this White and Purple Geometric Math Games Worksheet and this Leading a Healthy Life Infographic.

Discussion Questions

Canva’s lesson plan templates also allow you to add discussion questions so that you can hold conversations with the entire class or divide students into groups to hold discussions amongst themselves. You can switch around the order so that the discussion is planned for the beginning of the lesson (to gauge background knowledge), the middle of the lesson (to develop ideas), or the end of the lesson (to summarize learning).

Assessment

How are you going to assess how well students have grasped concepts and mastered the objectives you set out in the beginning of your lesson plan? Outline your ideas and intentions in the template. You can include a link to a scoring rubric if it doesn’t fit in the space provided.

Homework/Extension Activities

Many teachers also include homework/extension activities at the end of their Lesson Plans. These can be either new assignments or extensions of activities students began during class. To keep the material fresh in students’ minds, you may ask them to use Canva on their own at home to complete an additional activity related to the tasks you did in class.

02. The strategy

What makes an engaging lesson plan, exactly? Well, let’s ask the experts themselves: the students.

In 2013, Ming-Te Wang, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, conducted a two-year study of 1,200 7th and 8th grade students in U.S. schools and found out what keeps them behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively engaged in their lessons.

Here’s what Wang and his researchers discovered, and how Canva can help.

Make it Clear and Consistent

In Wang’s study, students who reported that their teachers provided clear expectations and consistent responses were also more likely to be willing to participate in academic tasks and to identify in a positive way with their school.

When you’re planning tasks and activities as part of your lesson, consider using one of Canva’s list, schedule, or planner templates to outline instructions.

Try laying out crystal clear expectations for students with this Pastel Bordered Instruction Handout:

Make It Meaningful and Relevant

The researchers also found that students who felt that the subject matter being taught and the activities provided by their teachers were meaningful and related to their goals were more engaged than their peers.

“Their academic motivation fluctuated based on how enjoyable they thought a task would be, how useful it would be for fulfilling short-and-long-term goals, and how well it might meet personal needs and assist the realization of personal identities,” Wang says.

Get to know your students at the beginning of the year by asking them to create illustrations of topics they care about most. Then, in as many of your lessons as possible, try to address those topics and build engagement around them with graphics that touch on similar themes. As often as you can, try to ground concepts in real world scenarios.

Check out this Blue and Green Illustrated Environmental Protection poster for inspiration. You can use it in lessons about not only the environment but also about history (e.g. the Industrial Revolution), chemistry (e.g. turning saltwater to freshwater), math (e.g. calculating CO2 emissions), and even English (save trees by creating book reports in Canva!).

Tailor Designs to Student Level

“Greater behavioral engagement is more likely to occur in a school environment that responds to differing levels of academic ability with the developmentally appropriate provision of autonomy,” Wang says. “In other words, for choice to have beneficial effects, it needs to be tailored to student academic ability.”

One great thing about Canva is that it’s extremely easy to create and customize assignments according to student ability. You can start with a general template for a worksheet, for example, and adjust it for different students (or classes) as needed.

Take a look at this English I Writing Prompt Worksheet, which can easily be edited for a different book and writing assignment (e.g. 500 words on The Giver):

Incorporate Comic Relief

Northwestern University neuroscientist Karuna Subramaniam found that when professional designers and improvisational comedians took a cartoon caption humor test followed by a brainstorming test, the comedians generated 20 percent more ideas than professional product designers did.

Nothing keeps people engaged, alert, and creative quite like humor. Keep students interested in your lectures with cartoons or comic illustrations. You don’t have to be a comedian yourself to use humor effectively in a lesson; a funny image can speak for itself!

Chemistry teachers, especially, will love this Yellow and Orange Atoms Funny Postcard, but there’s something for everyone in our image bank.

Incorporate Gaming Principles

When researchers at the University of Akron examined whether a game like “Candy Crush Saga” had structural, social, cognitive, or emotional effects on learning, they found that it did, but only in the following case:

“It is crucial for each level to provide increasing challenges that motivate increased mastery but do not frustrate a player to the point of quitting.”

Equally important is for learners to achieve a sense of “flow” by identifying goals, meeting challenges, and receiving feedback. The researchers believe this may “encourage students to persist even when they are working autonomously, such as in an online environment.”

For this reason, design tasks are perfect activities to incorporate into your lesson plan. With Canva, students can take their learning to the next level while maintaining that “flow” state, since design tasks allow them to be increasingly creative while taking on new challenges.

You can create a “game-like” aspect to your lessons over time by making the design process increasingly complex but also increasingly fun.

Start by complementing simple assignments with simple designs like this Light Green and Gold Vintage Name Card:

Move on to more challenging designs for more complex assignments, like this Marine Conservation Sea Turtle Infographic:

Ask students to create even more advanced designs, like this Red and Yellow Photo Primary School Newsletter or this White & Green Vintage Biology Report as they build their knowledge base and design skills:

Encourage Peer-to-Peer Learning

Collaboration motivates students to stay engaged for several reasons. First, it allows them to build relationships with their peers, which can be emotionally rewarding. Second, it ignites curiosity, as different students are likely to offer different perspectives on the same issue. And third, it promotes shared responsibility for learning, as each member of the group must pull their own weight to keep the project afloat.

To keep students engaged in the lesson, encourage them to work together. Canva’s sharing features make it easy to co-edit designs and collaborate on group projects. But you can also be creative in the way you promote collaboration during your lessons:

Try out one of Canva’s invitation templates like this Red and Yellow Comics Superhero Invitation and “invite” students to join each other’s projects.

Make Your Lectures More Colorful

Engage the eye and engage the brain. Neuroscientists have found that even when students work on a number calculation, such as 12 × 25, their mathematical thinking is grounded in visual processing. Bottom line: the more visual, the better.

When you compliment your lectures with colorful images and text, students’ minds will be less likely to wander. Create a slideshow to illustrate each point you make with customizable layout, background, color, text, font, and images.

Draw inspiration from this Butterfly Timeline Infographic or this Geometry & Art Photo Collage.

03. The Presentation

Ready to put it all together? If part of your lesson plan includes a lecture or demonstration, you can use one of Canva’s Educational Presentation templates to present your material. These are great for compiling information, illustrating concepts, creating visual examples, reviewing homework assignments as a group, outlining instructions for an activity or project, using images or data as conversational pieces for class discussions, and much more.

The best thing about these templates is that they can be shared with anyone you like—students, parents, other teachers—any way you like—as a link, a social media post, an invitation to edit, a PDF, or even a high-quality print copy. Creating, presenting, and sharing lessons has never been easier.

A Bit More Inspiration

Need a bit more inspiration? Check out some of the Lesson Plans educators like yourself have created and added to our Teaching Materials section. As you browse through the resources, you’ll notice that Canva can be used to create lessons for a wide variety of subjects, from history and math to English and art. You can use one of these templates to get started and adapt it as needed, or simply derive inspiration from the concepts covered and apply them to your own template if you’d like to customize the layout yourself.

Each resource includes a lesson plan, a quick guide to Canva, and a few tips for great design. You’ll see how various templates—from infographics to post cards to charts and graphs—can be used as materials for lectures and activities.

Social_Change_Through_Persuasion

You can even view examples of work produced from lessons, such as this poster Mr. Hamilton’s class created:

Creating an engaging Lesson Plan in Canva is intuitive, efficient, and--best of all--an engaging process for educators themselves. Have fun with it and your students will too. If you’re feeling especially inspired, share your creations with fellow educators and other members of the Canva community by making your Lesson Plan design public.