NGSS Support Stations: Better Than Sliced Bread

Support Stations Can Foster Student Independence and Reduce Frustration!

NGSS-style instruction can be full of challenges unique to this inquiry or discovery-oriented approach.  One major challenge for NGSS teachers is that learning is occurring through a “figuring it out” or “puzzling it out” process.  That means that students are going to experience frustration. There is no way around it.  And we all know that when students get frustrated, behavior sometimes suffers.  Obviously, relationship-building can help students deal with this frustration.  But beyond using relationships to deal with the frustration you can’t avoid, there are some things you can do to help prevent students from reaching a level of “struggle” that results in that acting out or shutting down.

Solution Stations or Support Stations are one way to do this. 

A Support Station is a “place” (quotation marks here, because it does not need to be physical) where students can find help when they get stuck.  Support Stations can vary in the level of help students receive a Support Station can provide complete answers, partial answers, no answers at all but just tips or tricks (things to try out, things to observe, information that might be helpful, etc.)

I have used different types of Support Stations – and I’ll describe these in a moment – but I want to emphasize that no matter what approach you use you will need to have clear procedures that outline how students access and use the Support Station. And like all procedures, you will need to teach students these procedures and remind them regularly.


So how can you use Support Stations?

Support Stations can be a physical location where students can find help again, in the form of an answer key, partial answers, or tips and tricks.  If you are providing an answer key, I would recommend part of your procedure include EITHER that students leave all materials at their desk when visiting the Station (they can only check the answer and then return to their desk to complete the work based on what they remember), OR students record any changes to their answer in another color so you can see the original effort and response. 

Additional procedures related to Support Stations to consider may be the process for accessing (do they go independently or must they ask your permission?), is there a certain number of times they can visit?, how many students at the Station at a time (I would recommend keeping this to one or two, max), and how do these procedures change when its individual versus group work (can any and all students visit or is just one designated per group?)

Support Stations could even simply be these resources at the center of your stations.  I have had classes that I preferred did NOT leave their seats during group work. They struggled to remain on task when given the opportunity to wander, and we were moving quickly through stations.  To provide support without devolving into chaos, I created Support Station Folders with the same answer keys/partial keys/tips and tricks.  Students were either able to access the key when they were ready or on my cue (it varied), but either way, any corrections had to be made in a different color pen or pencil.  I always instructed them to leave their original answer – they could draw a line through it if they wanted, but I wanted to be able to see their original ideas.

Lastly, Support Stations could be digital resources. Perhaps you provide a QR code or a website that could help students puzzle it out, maybe it’s a list of steps to move through or a few questions to consider, or maybe it’s an answer key.  Either way, if you have access to technology, you could create digital Support Stations to help students when they get stuck. Again, you will want to have a system to regulate this and keep students from abusing the help you are offering. 


Final Thoughts

Support Stations are for those moments when students really need some help – they aren’t a way around the “puzzling it out.” It’s important students recognize this and use the resources you have provided appropriately. (And the procedures you establish can help with that!)


Are you implementing the NGSS? Are you in desperate need of support? 

Support student discovery is a VITAL part of implementing the NGSS.  If you aren’t doing it, you simply aren’t using the standards as they were intended.  For that reason, we devote a LOT of time in our iExplore Academy professional development program to developing instructional sequences that carry students from exploration to learning.  If you’re looking for more support as you implement the NGSS, let us walk you through creating those cohesive unit storylines that tie your standards together, assessments that evaluate students on all three dimensions, and carefully crafted instruction that fosters student exploration and discovery of the Disciplinary Core Ideas. End the course with a completely self-designed NGSS-aligned unit storyline while earning a certificate of completion from iExploreScience!

If you’re not ready to enroll in our full professional development program, check out the free mini-course – Kickstart AHA: Intro To The NGSS – to get a handle on the basics.  Discover what the NGSS really looks like in the classroom – from changes to your content and the shift to storylines to your three dimensional activities and the integration of exploration and discovery.

iExplore Academy: A Recipe For Developing And Implementing NGSS Storylines & Curricula

If you are anything like me, transitioning to the NGSS can be totally overwhelming.  Teaching is hard as it is – you’re busy keeping up with the “normal” lessons day to day and week to week, plus grading, meetings, IEPs, behavior management, so on and so forth. I get it. Who has the time or energy to figure out all that goes into these new standards and their impact on your curriculum, let alone what it means for your teaching!

Well, I’m happy to say there IS an easier way. You don’t HAVE to muddle through everything, and you definitely don’t have to do it alone!

Imagine feeling confident that the curriculum you designed is actually aligned to the standards, that your units incorporate the three dimensions and engage your students in Science and Engineering Practices that matter. Imagine classes full of students who take ownership of their learning, who thrive on “figuring it out” and “puzzling through it” and come to learn the content through discovery.  Imagine days where you DON’T have to stand in front of the class, battling for their attention, delivering boring lectures and notes, printing worksheet after worksheet, and wasting tons of time on review and reteaching — only to have your students fail to perform anyway. Imagine learning that sticks, and engaging activities (that you may already be doing!) but that lead to true understanding.  It’s not magic, and it doesn’t necessarily come easy, but it IS possible.  

Learn more at iExplore Academy.