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.
We don't use text books in our class, we make them. Each student is given a binder at the beginning of the year. The binder becomes a reference book for the students as they fill it up with the lessons they have completed. Many standard textbooks have become a diluted hodepdoge of information, hard for most students (and even myself) to decipher. This binder allows me to create a resource tailored to my students.
I have weekly check-in's with students about how they are progressing through the lessons. This ensure face-to-face time with each student and allows me to hold them accountable to the goals they are setting. I ask a standard set of questions "What lesson are you on today?", "What lesson do you plan on being on in a week" ,"Is there anything you need to help you reach your goal?" I record all their answers and keep a running log so I can refer back to these notes each time I conference with a student.
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.