[semester equivalent = 1.33 credits]



Mary Ann Johnson



“A great teacher is never forgotten.”  So begins the challenge to each teacher in the profession.  In Totally Positive Teaching: A Five-Stage Approach to Energizing Students and Teachers, Joseph Ciaccio has developed a list of five ways the great teacher lives a positive and effective life in the classroom.  While there are places that are simply over the top in the notion of how positive you can be, you won’t be disappointed in the substance and strategies of this book.  The five focuses are:  Meeting mutual needs; Changing counterproductive feelings; Ending behavior problems; Helping underachievers, and Using active-learning strategies.  Each focus is deceptively simple; some people would disbelieve the power of these strategies but each is based on emerging brain-based research.  It addresses classroom management, lesson strategies, and emotional intelligences.
The real agenda of Ciacco’s book is to show the power we all have to deal with the discouragement of ineffective results, classroom meltdowns and student and teacher boredom.  He illustrates how to think creatively and effectively to open different possibilities in tough situations.  You will wonder, at first, if such methods are really as good as they sound, but with plentiful examples, solid research and a huge collaborative resource bank, the author may just help you shift from a former strategy in favor of a much more exciting, humane and dynamic one.  Unlike most other methods-oriented books, this work puts a major emphasis on meeting both student and teacher needs simultaneously.  It sometimes makes the assumption that we, as teachers, are experiencing problems due to our own negative perceptions, but very positive and creative teachers will find much validation and inspiration in this book.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Learned how to develop strategies that meet the needs of their students as well as themselves.
  2. Learned how to prevent student behavior problems and build student leadership.
  3. Learned ways to use more active teaching strategies to help underachievers.
  4. Learned how to develop personal skills for dealing with negative situations.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



  • Totally Positive Teaching: A Five-Stage Approach to Energizing Students and Teachers, by Joseph Ciaccio. 185-page, ISBN 0-87120-880-6. ASCD, 2004.
  • For additional reading access an annotated Master Bibliography for this course that enhances any teacher’s toolbox. 

  • Totally Positive Teaching: A Five-Stage Approach to Energizing Students and Teachers
    ISBN# 0871208806
    by Ciaccio, Joseph

    Buy from Amazon


Text is available used from Amazon for about $12.



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Totally Positive Approach.

Please briefly introduce yourself and tell why you chose this course book. 
From “Introducing the Totally Positive Approach”  Looking at the five techniques introduced, which of these resonate with your current approach to teaching?  About which are ones you are most interested in learning more?

Assignment #2: Mutual Needs.

From “Chapter 1:  Meeting Mutual Needs” Even though the examples of bringing enthusiasm and talent to a lesson were from elementary teachers,  can you provide an example when you used one of your own talents, interests or life experiences to increase the effectiveness of a lesson?

Assignment #3: Counterproductive Feelings.

From “Chapter 2: Changing Counterproductive Feelings”  What is the difference between an internal and an external obstacle?   Why does the author suggest focusing on internal obstacles in a teaching situation?

Assignment #4: Ending Behavior Problems.

From “Chapter 3:  Ending Behavior Problems” The need for power is a serious problem for students because they perceive themselves as powerless. What do you think would be the benefits of increasing opportunities for leadership and positive attention?

Assignment #5: 4 Basic Student Needs.

The author identifies four basic student needs that must be fulfilled.  What are they?  Why is it crucial to fulfill these needs from the first day of school?  Can you give an example of how you have effectively helped a student meet one of these fundamentals?

Assignment #6: Total Acceptance.

From “Chapter 4: Offering Total Acceptance”  The goal of total acceptance is to increase the power of the teacher and bring about a self-disciplined child. You can increase your effectiveness with students by widening the range of disciplinary possibilities.  When a student misbehaves, use a positive approach suggested in this chapter.  Which of these strategies would fit your style best? Comment on the effectiveness of the approach you selected.

Assignment #7: Whole Class Strategies.

From “Chapter 5:  Helping Underachievers: Whole Class Strategies”  A teacher or principal who has experienced failure might be more empathetic to students who do not succeed.  Think about times in your life when you did not succeed.  What impact did failure have on you and on your confidence? What happened to help you regain your self-confidence?

Assignment #8: Helping Underachievers.

From “Chapter 6:  Helping Underachievers:  Strategies for Individual Students” Answer one (1) of the following options: Explain how you have used a self-fulfilling prophesy (or the Pygmalion Effect) with a student, and explain the results.  What did the author suggest was desirable in the preparation of students for peer tutoring?

Assignment #9: Active-Learning Strategies.

From “Chapter 7:  Using Active-Learning Strategies”  When the author suggests that students become “workers,” which active-learning strategies were described that make students play an active role in their own learning?

Assignment #10: COURSE FORUM.

From “Chapter 8:  The Totally Positive Approach in Action”  Of the subtopics in this chapter, which one (or ones) were most valid, or validating, for you? Why?
If you had the opportunity,  what is one question you would ask the author?  If others have already left responses, please comment on one(s) that caught your eye.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #11: Lesson Development.

Assignment #11:   (Required for 400 and 500 Level)
Assignment #11-A:
  • Adapt a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course.
  • Implement your lesson with students.
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by adding your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here.
  • For a sample lesson plan template click here.
  • Submit your modified lesson to your instructor via the online response box or file upload.
Assignment #11-B:
  • Adapt a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Share your learning with other teachers by contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here.
  • For a sample lesson plan template click here.
  • Write a 500+ word article about a noteworthy teaching success you’ve had with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article.
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Renee Leon THI blog curator and media specialist.
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website. 
  • Submit your lesson to your instructor via the response box or file upload.

Assignment #12: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete one (1) of the following assignment options:
Option A)  Create a PowerPoint presentation for a group of colleagues. Focus on key ideas and inspiring innovations to augment current practices.
Option B)  Compare and contrast this book with another related book or online research of articles.  For online research be sure to include URLs.


Assignment #13: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Mary Ann Johnson, M.Ed Adm. has worked with students of all levels, from alternative high school to gifted classes. She has also been a junior high vice principal and is now working with teachers for continuing education in classes, distance learning and building leadership groups. She is a teacher emeritus who has led seminars for educators which focus on developing a quality learner environment for students and for teachers. Her courses are research-based and resonate with user-friendly and energizing content.



BENDER, William N., 20 Disciplinary Strategies for Working With Challenging Students, 2016, pb 246 pages, Learning Sciences International.
The author says, “Classroom discipline isn’t just about how strict or relaxed a teacher is.” In this book he provides three tiers of strategies;  whole class and whole school preventive strategies; immediate strategies to deal with disciplinary problems that could otherwise lead to further disruptions;  and  individually-targeted strategies for serious behavior problems.  His list of  twenty strategies  is practical and relevant to the changing times. He uses widely respected research to see what really works.  Since the information can be applied at many grade levels, the author suggests using the book to individualize by dipping into the book for the specific situations relevant to your school/classroom culture. The publisher has provided a webinar for this book by the author. (Webinar 10: 102-482-907)
BENSON, JeffreyHanging In:  Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us the Most, ASCD, 2014, paperback, 181 pages. 
ISBN 978-4166-1955-6  The book illustrates the value of tenacity and building connections with the most needy students through detailed portraits based on actual students and how they eventually succeeded. Strategies for analyzing and developing individualized plans are given with examples of plans in action.  Recommendations for teachers, support staff and administrators are shared.  Inspiration and field-tested ideas for the most demanding cases are plentiful in this book.
CURWIN, Richard, MENDLER, Allen N., & MENDLER, Brian D. Discipline with Dignity: New Challenges, New Solutions, 3rd Ed, pb, 251 pages, ASCD, 2008.
The refreshing importance of  this book on dealing with daily discipline decisions in the classroom, is that, for this 3rd edition, the authors have culled information that no longer seems relevant, and have added some focuses to deal with the changing realities of the American classroom culture.  At the start of each chapter, there is a review of “What We Have Learned,” to anchor the information with current, realistic, and positive ways to address the needs of students in your learning community. There are helpful dialogues to show how to direct a conversation with a student who, for instance, isn’t doing assignments, or who needs consequence options.  The book is full of directly useful examples of a whole range of typical everyday decisions about respectful discipline strategies to use. It ends with a School Discipline Survey with 9 factors to score by individual teaches, and then used, possibly in a group tally of these responses.
ERWIN, Jonathan C. The Classroom of Choice, Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want, Alexandria, VA.  ASCD. 2004. 229 pages.
ISBN 0-87120-829-6.  Based on Glasser’s beliefs that people have these motivators:  fun, freedom, power and belonging.  Give students choices, and they will pick what meets an unmet need. It is rich and wonderful, full of practical and engaging strategies to achieve important intellectual goals while helping students meet their developing social and intellectual needs.  Erwin believes that while learning is hard work, it doesn’t have to be painful:  Fun is both a prerequisite for and a byproduct of quality learning.
ERWIN, Jonathan, Inspiring the Best in Students, pb 210 pages, ASCD, 2010.  When you wonder what would be the greatest gift you could give your students, it would probably be the skills of social and emotional development, and in a classroom, it would include helping students meet their most basic needs.  Both are the focuses of this book.  The intrinsic needs defined as Choice Theory by William Glasser  include  survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.   Erwin translates that information into specific lesson plans to teach students how to enjoy feeling good and emotionally safe,  having friends and feeling accepted,  feeling  a sense of competence and importance,  experiencing  independence, and being able to laugh and play.  The teaching strategies are specific and will guide you to the joy of teaching what really matters to students.
FERLAZZO, LARRY. Helping Students Motivate Themselves:  Practical Answer to Classroom Challenges, 2nd. edition.  Larchmont, CA.  Eye on Education. 2013. 190 pages.  ISBN 978-1-59667-181-2.  Find a dozen categories of strategies to engage the thinking and processing of your course information.   In this book by award-winning author Larry Ferlazzo, you will see:  How to motivate students, help students to take personal responsibility, deal with disruptive students and classes, find best ways to maximize the chances that a lesson will be successful, and more.  Each section of the book provides stimulating ideas and down-to-earth tools, including lesson plans, and even downloads of the handouts that save you hours. 
SORNSON, BOB. Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Love to Teach and Students Love to Learn, pb, 180 pages, Love and Logic Institute, 2005.  Bob Sornson is the warm-hearted author of this book (and many others, including children’s books about empathy and bullying.)  In this book, he writes a narrative of a relationship between a teacher who is really discouraged and another teacher who is a warm and caring mentor.  Mrs. Peterson, the frustrated teacher, in addition, faces the fact that her own  son, Jimmy, is very difficult to handle when she comes home from her teaching job.   When she gets called to a parent conference by Jimmy’s teacher, Mrs.Bjornstad, she fears the worst.  But a great friendship results, and Mrs. Bjornstad provides step-by-step strategies that brought peacefulness and effectiveness to the professional and the personal life of Mrs. Peterson.  This is a very helpful book to help learn the power of love and logic in the real world.  It is a helpful guide, as well, to show the bridging between teacher and parent.