Chemistry is a combination of the comprehension of scientific content and the application of mathematics to those concepts. My students have to be prepared to think deeply about difficult concepts the minute they step into my room. Starting the class with a relevant "Catalyst" helps them initiate their own thinking processes in preparation for a productive day in the same way that biological enzymes catalyze chemical reactions. During The Catalyst, I model my thinking process for how to approach a mathematical problem by having my students identify the key steps in the calculation and establish a foundation that students who struggle with math can fall back on when they're confused.
In a self-paced class, students need to have access to any lesson, at any time. Thus, I created an area at the back of my classroom where every lesson is printed out and organized sequentially for students to take whenever they are ready to move to the next lesson. This allows students to continually work at their own pace. It also changes the dynamic of the learning process - students are no longer passively given assignments by the teacher and are now actively choosing which assignments they want to do.
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
The class pace is always posted at the front of the room, including the lesson that should be completed by the end of class as well as the following class. The class pace serves as a benchmark for students, letting them know how many lessons they should have completed by a certain date. The grading system I use is primarily based on student progress, so for students to get a good grade on their progress reports, its essential that they keep with the pace of the class. This is essentially a guide for students to use as they go through standards at their own pace.