Posts tagged “NapaLearns


As a board member of NapaLearns, an amazing non-profit committee that supports Napa County schools, I have the privilege of visiting a different school each month. Yesterday our meeting took place at Donaldson Way Elementary School in American Canyon, California. Part of our meeting involved visiting classrooms and seeing first hand what students were working on. I saw the small poster in the picture below in a first grade classroom there. Something on the poster caught my eye. Do you see it?

Procedural steps for reading time for both the students and the teacher.

Procedural steps for reading time for both the students and the teacher.This is a poster that shares the steps for the Procedure to follow when it is reading time.

This is a poster that shares the steps for the Procedure to follow when it is reading time. Students are reminded to –

Read quietly

Stay in one spot

Read the whole time

Work on stamina

Get started right away

The step that caught my eye was the one that asks students to “work on stamina.” I thought I had a grasp of what the procedural step was wanting, but just in case I asked a first grade student to explain to me what “work on stamina” meant. The student didn’t hesitate and described how it takes practice to read for longer than a few minutes, but that the class was doing better at it. The goal was to sit still and quietly read for like, a while.

I was excited about this approach for several reasons, all of the reasons in some way having to do with choice theory.

Reason #1
Procedures help things run smoothly. When lots of students in a classroom need to do lots of different things at lots of different times, Procedures just help everything work better. Procedures aren’t like rules where students get in trouble for not doing them. The Procedures are reviewed and practiced, and when students forget them they are asked to do the Procedure correctly. In the spirit of choice theory, this is such a humane way to create important routines in the classroom. As teachers we have expectations and we state these expectations to our students, yet there is a way to teach expectations without turning them into a power struggle.

Reason #2
The step that asked students to “work on stamina” acknowledged that 1st grade students don’t automatically know what stamina is, nor do they have great amounts of it when it comes to reading. The teacher anticipated that her students wouldn’t have a lot of reading stamina, but that it’s ok and they would work on it. No need to get frustrated at students or worse, to get disgusted at them for their poor habits. No need to try and control them or force them into quiet reading time. Stamina is something that can be learned. It is so choice theory to recognize the age-appropriate abilities of students, and to support them as they work to grow and improve those abilities.

The remarkable reading data chart.

The remarkable reading data chart.

Reason #3
When I had a chance to talk with the teacher about the “work on stamina” step, she pointed to a poster next to the window that tracked the students’ progress. It’s the picture above. I hadn’t noticed it before, but now I honed in on this simple, yet remarkable data. She explained that they were tracking how long everyone in the class, when it was time for reading, could quietly read in one place. The chart shows that the first day some students could only make it for one minute. The second day, though, all the students made it for at least two minutes. The third day they all read quietly for almost five minutes. By day six, all of them read quietly, in one place, for 22 minutes. Think about it. A full classroom of active, diverse 1st grade suburban kids and all of them reading for 22 minutes. Obviously, the teacher presented the Procedure in such a way that the students themselves bought into it. They wanted to improve; they wanted to read more; they wanted the bar on that chart to go higher. It wasn’t a behavioral issue. It was simply about working on and building stamina.

Student books waiting to be read.

Student books waiting to be read.

It would have been easy, common actually, to try and discipline these young readers into reading quietly. But the results would have been far different than the results in this classroom. Criticizing, blaming, nagging, threatening, and punishing would harm the relationship between the teacher and the students, and the students would most likely grow up to not enjoy reading. I like the Procedure and data chart a lot better.


Send me an example of how choice theory is showing up in your classroom. I would love to see it or hear about what you are doing!


Now priced at $17.82 on Amazon; 22 reviews have been submitted.

Now priced at $17.82 on Amazon; 22 reviews have been submitted.

The Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, can make a great Christmas gift. It’s easy to purchase the book through Amazon at –

For a signed copy of Champion of Choice, contact me at –

The book, plus shipping it anywhere in the U.S., comes to $26.

For international orders, going through Amazon is the cheapest way to go. I am happy, though, to sign a bookplate and send it to you so that it can be placed on the inside cover. Let me know.

You Gain Power as You Give It Away

NapaLearns logo 2

I recently became a member of NapaLearns, a non-profit organization doing amazing things to support and improve the learning throughout Napa county. Our monthly meeting yesterday, which began with tours of two classrooms, took place at American Canyon Middle School. These classrooms are noteworthy because they are using Project-Based Learning (PBL) as the framework for their lessons. In PBL students focus on real-life challenges and demonstrate their answers or solutions. Technology is an important piece of this approach and the school provides classrooms with Chromebooks for students to use as they tackle the assignments. It was impressive for me to enter a classroom and see 100% of the students involved in the learning.

Find out more about NapaLearns at –

After our time in the classroom we were able to visit with our guide, a teacher from the school who is now a PBL mentor, and the school principal. I really appreciated what these gentleman shared with us, especially when it came to some of the peripheral impacts of the PBL approach. The principal explained that PBL changes the power structure in the classroom from the teacher holding all the power and telling or lecturing to the teacher now sharing the power with the students. Instead of the sage on the stage, the teacher becomes the guide on the side. While this shift may sound simple enough, it can be a real stretch for teachers accustomed to another way of doing things. We noticed that everyone on campus was wearing a card on a lanyard around their necks. The principal, who was also wearing a card, explained this was a trust card. When students misbehaved in some way (e.g.- looking at inappropriate sites on the internet, disrespecting a classmate) they had to give up their trust card. The plan is that students who lose their cards, and the privileges that go with them, need to take the responsibility to go to their teachers and work out how they can get their cards back. Some students are able and willing to work through this process and restore the trust that was broken. Some students, though, maybe because of pride, maybe because of fear, maybe because they have never worked with an adult in this way before, are unable to approach their teacher and engage in restoring the trust. This dynamic has called on teachers and staff to create an atmosphere of positive, caring relationships. They want their campus to be a safe environment where students learn to fix what they have broken. I don’t think that choice theory is driving their emphasis at American Canyon Middle School, but their program is definitely aligned with a choice theory approach. Teachers are learning to give up academic and behavioral control and to effectively share that power with students. It is true, you gain power as you give it away.


Along these same lines, the Los Angeles Unified school board voted yesterday “to ban suspensions of defiant students, directing officials to use alternative disciplinary practices instead.” The vote is viewed as a step back from zero tolerance policies that swept the nation after the Columbine shooting more than a decade ago. It was noted that harsh discipline practices did not lead to better behavior. In fact, such practices led to poor academic achievement and run-ins with law enforcement.

It is important to understand that willful defiance included all kinds of lesser behaviors, like not taking off a hat or having a cell phone in class or failing to wear a school uniform. Proponents of yesterday’s vote cited growing national concern that suspending students from school hurt their learning and disproportionately singles out minority students. The vote does not prevent schools from dealing with student problems. It just prevents them from sending students home for every little thing. In-school suspensions, for instance, are still an option.

I talked about suspensions in the Soul Shapers book. I am not a proponent of automatically sending students home for misbehavior. When students defy a teacher in some way or mistreat a fellow student they need to think through what they have done and make a commitment to behave better. Rather than students simply be sent away when they mess up, this is a time when they especially need support to help them resolve the problem. With the L.A. school board wanting school officials to employ “alternative disciplinary practices” it is a great time for choice theory to provide such a strategy.

The link to the L.A. Times article can be found at –,0,5454548.story

Reminder – The Soul Shapers workshops are just around the corner. Soul Shapers 1 is scheduled from June 17-20 and Soul Shapers 2 is scheduled from June 24-27. Invite colleages to join you in taking Soul Shapers 1, which you can sign up for at I encourage those of you that have already taken Soul Shapers 1 to sign up for Soul Shapers 2. You can re-take Soul Shapers 2, which is a great way to stay current in the choice theory conferencing skills.
Keep letting your colleagues know about thebetterplan blog. Let’s grow the choice theory community together.

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