SOS Story: Peter Panico

The Spotlight On Strategies series (CDN) is one of Discovery Education’s most popular resources. First introduced 2012, this collection of strategies helps teachers use media in effective and engaging ways.

The best part about the SOS is that they are flexible and can be used across grade levels and content areas. We are excited to share SOS Story: a series that elevates and celebrates teachers showing how they put the SOS to work in their classrooms.

We would love to share your SOS Story. Visit this form to find out how!

Teacher:  Peter Panico

SOS Strategies:  Three Truths and One Lie (CDN Version), The Question Is (CDN Version), Make it Concrete (CDN Version), Six Word Story (CDN Version), ABC Summary (CDN Version), Paper Slide (CDN Version), Poetry Slam (CDN Version),  25 Things I Didn’t Know (CDN Version),  Puppet Pictures (CDN Version)

District: Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Role: 5th Grade Teacher

Twitter Handle:  @peterpanico

Peter’s Story

The Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies series has been an invaluable tool in my classroom for years, and because of them my instructional practice has forever changed for the better.

Because I use the 5E Instructional Model for elementary science, I wanted to use the Elaborate portion of my weekly instruction to organized around student choice and allowing them to show what they learned in their own creative ways. My solution was to create centers to address each instructional standard, and I provide students with many different SOS to select from and use.

When I first began these centers, I organized them around units of study.  For example, I had centers focusing on Weather, Matter, Forces, etc. I quickly realized these centers were being completed in one session, meaning that students were not returning to them. 

I wanted students to have multiple opportunities to learn and use the different strategies, so I changed the centers to focus on specific sub-standards and topics within each unit of study.

I intentionally reuse SOS to address all of these sub-standards, and in doing so I help students experience them as familiar learning that students feel comfortable using. I find that over time, students independently choose to return strategies they know and trust when it is time for them to show what they have learned.  

Using the Strategy

I am very strategic about the SOS strategies I choose for my centers. I organize the strategies into three different categories for students to select from: intensive, grade level, and proficient.

  • I encourage students who have already reached proficiency and need above grade level challenge to select strategies that encourage creative thinking and expression, such as Puppet Pictures (CDN Version) or  Paper Slide (CDN Version). 

  • I also incorporate creative centers where an SOS is attached to a creation tool such as Augmented Reality, Greenscreen, Scratch Coding, or Board Builder. As students visit the centers, the work they do as they complete each SOS is documented in their interactive notebooks, which they use as a learning reference throughout the year.

Strategy Adaptations

All the SOS work the same way: they ask students to use Discovery Education digital media to learn content and then apply and/or create something based on what they learned.

I take that framework and apply it in my centers, with a keen focus on individualizing for each student. The guidelines I use for my centers indicate what media students are to use, how they are to refer to other resources such as their interactive notebooks, or other resources they know of or have searched for in Discovery Education. I’ve found QR codes to be an easy, effective, and efficient way to help students navigate straight to a specific resource.


Including SOS centers has been a game changer in my classroom. Students always look forward to the day we use these strategies because it means they can be independent and creative. The strategies are easy to implement into any subject, grade, or lesson. Using them immediately increases student engagement, accountability, and comprehension.  


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