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.
Many of our students come to us far below grade level, some still struggling with adding and multiplying. To support these students, my co-teacher Mr. Elizondo developed an alternative program for students not prepared for high school level standards. While we want every student to work their way through the high school geometry curriculum at their own pace, we felt that our class would become prohibitive and demoralizing for students with low skills or severe learning disabilities. In the alternative program, my students work at their own pace through a series of worksheets that meet the same standards as you would see in a high school geometry curriculum except the difficulty has been adjusted to make it attainable for students in the program. The Alternative Mastery Program is a step towards greater personalization of the curriculum to meet all of my students' needs.
By its very nature, learning in a self-paced classroom with digital resources can be an isolating experience for some students. While I want my students to take personal responsibility for and ownership of their learning, I also want them to learn essential collaboration skills and to leverage social learning to grow as people and as students of Mathematics. Buddy Time is a grouping strategy that requires my students to collaborate with peers working on the same lesson at a prescribed point in each lesson. During Buddy Time, students can collaborate or discuss their work with other students at their tables and they can use their collective knowledge and skills to help each other move towards mastery.
At the beginning of each trimester students are given a checklist to track their own mastery. As they progress through the lessons, they mark off what they have completed, in addition to the grade they received on each lesson. This acts as planner, letting students know at any given moment what they have completed, and what is left for them to learn to finish the trimester.