The Source


An ELA 11 Simulation    Canvas Course

What Is Canvas and What Do I Have to Do?

Canvas is the online part of our class where we will do many of our practice assignments, writing tips, test-taking strategies, and explorations of philosophy and culture–basically, anything you want to learn in preparation for the SAT and more. There will be chances to work together and on your own to improve your writing and thinking skills. The simulation is divided into Levels, each about four weeks weeks long. The “due dates” for most of the Canvas assignments are therefore flexible: you can complete them any time within the unit due date. Larger assignments on Canvas will hit the Standards for the course.

Work on Level 1 Due:








What is The Source?

The Source is the online role-play game that leads you through the Canvas course. Each of you has been contacted mysteriously or randomly to a home occupied by a strange woman. She enlists you to uncover the mystery of a missing professor, one who sought The Source of all Knowledge.  As you study, there will be challenges based upon the Canvas assignments, connections to make to uncover the game’s secrets, and even some danger to your character as you work to advance in levels and skills. While the game is fun, its story line is also working to help teach you another dimension to our class curriculum. There will be some overlap between the game,, and our live classroom, so don’t think that The Source only happens when you’re logged in! Doing well in the game, especially on the various Puzzles, can sometimes grant you additional opportunities to learn some fascinating things or to modify some of the assignments I offer. Finally, though, if you’re not into the gaming/story part of Canvas, know that only the Canvas assignments count towards your grade, not the game aspects of the course. If you decide to ignore the game events (or even if you are injured in the game!), your grade cannot be affected in any way.

What’s On Canvas?

  • Practice exercises and projects of all kinds
  • Summative Standards to meet
  • Content to learn
  • Helpful strategies and tips
  • Most of the simulation activities

Think of Canvas as you might daily homework in a math class or similar. It’s designed to give you the practice and materials you need to succeed on the SAT, our course content, and beyond. The practice you do there will help prepare you for the more formal projects. About 25% of your total class grade will be based on your Canvas work, your practice, either in Standards or points for productivity. That said, there is far more to “do” on Canvas than you are required to do or–more accurately–there are more opportunities for practice and learning than are technically required to score 100%.  This is because the learning and practice are more important than the “points” you receive. Finally, by practicing well, you earn skills and experience in The Source simulation. The more skills and experience you receive, the more likely you will succeed in the storyline (and the less likely you will die in it!).  In addition, the more practice you do, the more likely you will “unlock” benefits that other players do not receive. Likewise, successful game play will likely teach you more than the mere activities will!

For every successful point you earn on Canvas, you earn credit towards your overall Canvas score (each chapter has a “denominator” target goal) which counts towards your class grade, and you earn experience points for your game character.  The more points you receive, the more experience you have. Experience points move you up levels which makes you more powerful in the game, and all points are cumulative.

Note: At no point will your Source successes and failures negatively impact your class grade. Successful quiz scores earn you game experience, but being trapped or failing a game Puzzle cannot prevent you from practicing the quiz for class credit.

Also, note that the key word for all of this is “successful” points.  Game points which fall below a certain threshold of success do not count toward either score.  This prevents “point scrounging,” moving brainlessly through the activities to pick up a few quick points here and there. The goal is to earn success by learning. The threshold for success is set fairly low early in the game, but it increases as the year moves on. The success threshold will be posted with the activity, where applicable. Therefore, if a Vocabulary Quiz has a posted success threshold of 60% and you earn 40%, you know you have earned no points towards the denominator with that effort (but most times a new opportunity will arise).  

Students who work conscientiously through Canvas will require an estimated 30-45 minutes of work per week. However, this is across a four-week window. Therefore, if you wish to work 90 minutes every other Saturday, you will keep up with us. Each game Level will post an estimated number of minutes required to earn the denominator in points across the six weeks (though this varies depending upon the activities you choose to do). 

Take this Advice to Heart:  Work routinely, with others, and consistently, planning to meet the regular deadlines. Students who procrastinate always end up failing more assignments and feeling rushed, pressured, and even angry.


Here are a few ideas to keep your Canvas scores strong:

  1. Log on frequently, if for no other reason than to double-check due dates. Missing a Workshop deadline, for instance, can be really damaging. The right sidebar of the Canvas page notes upcoming deadlines. You can also Export the calendar to your phone or subscribe to it.
  2. Review all of the new assignments when a chapter opens. Procrastinators have been surprised to find that the higher-point projects actually take a little planning to do well, sometimes with other students.
  3. Watch for new opportunities:
    • Success on some assignments (or combinations of assignments) can open new opportunities, clues, side quests, and other resources.
    • Additionally, even failures at some assignments can offer you additional opportunities to learn the material, second chances to pass a quiz, etc.
  4. Review the rubrics carefully when they are attached to assignments. If an assignment requires that you reference two readings and you only reference one . . .
  5. Print out poetry and other readings that you will be quizzed on. Annotate them in advance of the quiz, too. That way you will know the reading well and score higher, and it’s a lot easier to refer to the page than to switch back and forth between screens, especially on a timed quiz.
  6. Didn’t do well on something and want another opportunity?  Ask!  The assignments here exist largely because they were requested by students earlier!

Yes and no. Remember that the goal of the Canvas work is to practice and learn in order to prepare for the larger assessments for the course later. Cheating–whatever that means–seems like a self-defeating strategy designed to grub points, instead. Since there are so many points available each chapter, “gaming the system” doesn’t make a lot of sense. More, it’s an approach that has backfired on many. But can you work together to help each other learn?  I wish you would!  That doesn’t mean offering quiz answers (see above, and this strategy is often impossible–you’ll see), but helping each other understand the ideas will always benefit all of us!

The Puzzles

Puzzles, riddles, etc. form the primary challenges around the regular activities of Canvas. Solving them (either alone or in teams) can offer great benefits. Failing at them can sometimes mean game injury! Eventually you will be able to design some to intentionally thwart competitors. 

In the end, they form an environment to solve the larger Mystery of the course . . . . 

The World of The Source

While the world of The Source is like our own, it may move in time and location form time to time. Many characters who are dead historically are alive here; characters who are alive in the present (like yourself) are also here.  This does not mean that death is impossible, but that the conditions for how and why a character dies are different.  As the world appears to be somewhat contemporary in technology, equipment to compete and assist in your success are relatively simple. Rather than puzzle over the logic of this, think of it this way: the items you see and use, the characters you meet, are not so much logically or rationally real, but more conceptual or even symbolic or mythological in nature. It is the representation that matters here.  And, like all things literary, you may be better advised to think of the events in terms of their literary value than their physical ones. 

The secret history you may uncover may also be symbolic . . . or not.

Philosophy and Power

I will be teaching you various philosophies through the year. However, for reasons which will become clear, classroom instruction and readings are not sufficient for you to understand all of the implications and arguments for and against the various theories. The game fills in these gaps. Therefore, play it for fun. Or, if you are cautious and thoughtful, you might also make an entirely new set of connections between literature, writing, and philosophy that the classroom experience alone will never approach. The characters are not speaking idly, and your choices in the game are not merely “game consequences.”  The Source is another curriculum sitting on top of (or beneath) ELA 11. Good luck. 

What Can I Do?

There are two kinds of “actions” you can take in the game: limited and open.   Limited Actions are those offered by Choice Activities, Meetings, and other Activities on Canvas that offer you multiple choice options. These become clear to you when you open them intentionally (or unintentionally!) and are compelled to choose. These choices most often work to determine storylines, which vary year to year depending on how students choose. Think of it, perhaps, as a giant individual- or class-sized Choose Your Own Adventure progress chart. Open Actions are from a wider array of choices you can make. These are in equipment purchases and use, setting puzzle traps against other characters (players or otherwise), and possibly a few surprises along the way.  Finally, communications to the other players and to the non-player characters (NPCs) offer a wide range of options and teaching. Often these NPCs are represented by real people that aren’t Mr. Chisnell, so think carefully about how you interact with them!  (Yes, the game has “guest actors”!)  Communications in the game are almost always done through Canvas messages.  Don’t worry too much about these actions for now–each area of action will be taught to you in the first few chapters of the game.

The Canvas App


There is a free Canvas app for iPhone and Android. It is handy and recommended. Nearly every kind of activity for the course can be handled easily with the app!

I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery. –Luis Barragan

 One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.  –Albert Einstein

What is Karma?

  Karma (K) is something you gather for your thoughtful, provocative, or spirited work on  It may be found through posting regularly to the forums, through class contributions, or perhaps some other ways.  Karma is good energy, and your karma points on may be spent on equipment to assist you on your journey.  

Equipment? Why do I need it?

Players may receive equipment through their various actions in The Source. However, with karma, you can also purchase equipment. Gear for the game falls into three categories. Each option is explained more completely in our Store.

              1. Keys (which unlock some Puzzles automatically);
              2. Traps (which set Puzzles up against other players or teams);
              3. Escape Equipment (which provide escape should a failed Puzzle damage you).


What are Skill Pts?

As you increase levels of power, you gain Skill Pts or Game Stats Pts. These generally take the form of increase Hit Points, and/or Skills in unlocking or creating different types of Puzzles. You choose where you want to allocate points as you increase Levels.