The best way I have found to ensure that students grow in their knowledge is to constantly question what my purpose is for each lesson. This questioning begins with unit development using a Backwards Design approach. I look to the standards or common core to see what students must be able to do. I then think of ways I can relate the concept or skill to some aspect of the real world. If I can introduce a unit or lesson with a real world application right away; and better yet, if the end product of the unit can be made relevant to how the student views the world, I find that students are much more engaged. More engagement usually means more content will be retained. I strive to keep building on that initial real world skill or concept as we approach whatever the end result of the unit may be. Having students write short reflections at the end of each class is a very good way to gauge what they are grasping from the unit. After the unit is complete, it is important that students continue to get practice with similar skills and concepts applied to a different contexts throughout the year. Keeping charts and posters of the key skills and concepts learned is a great way to help students maintain what they have learned and build on it as the year progresses.