STEM vs. STEAM, One and the Same?

According to the US Department of Education, approximately 16 percent of high school students in the US are interested in STEM careers and have the necessary knowledge to be successful in a growing and changing global workforce. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in STEM are the fastest growing sector worldwide, with too many positions and not enough skilled adults to fill them. That has forced a whole new paradigm in teaching, one that is focused on instructing children in a way that will help them compete and be successful in future STEM-oriented careers.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Although these subjects have always been included in the traditional curriculum, the way they are approached in the classroom is being overhauled to be more relevant to an ever-changing and technologically fast-paced world.

The Difference Between STEM and STEAM

A growing debate in the newly proposed STEM-based initiative is where arts and language arts fit into the curriculum. It's taken for granted that children need to learn the basics of language arts before they can even form conceptual or abstract thoughts. Language arts are the foundation for understanding and communication, without which STEM education could not exist. 

Given this fact, it's important to note that language arts education is not being taken out of the educational equation. It is, quite likely, at the forefront of it. Although STEM education is focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the real difference between a STEM approach and traditional education is the integration of subjects. Rather than being taught independently from on another, subjects are taught in an integrated manner, on a continuum. 

STEM Education

STEM education is a different approach from providing children instruction that revolves around nothing but formulas and theories. Kids are engaged in real-life experimentation and manipulation. Often employing various technological tools and aids, STEM instruction enhances a child's overall ability to understand higher level technological curriculum. A STEM approach typically offers instruction in advanced subjects like robotics and computer programming. This new approach is still grounded in the basic subjects that all children must learn. They are just introduced in a more coherent and integrative way. 

Although highly important to the middle and upper school curriculum as well, language arts and fine arts are the key to teaching a STEM-based paradigm in elementary school. If a child doesn't have the basics about how to communicate, understand, process, and proficiently read the written word, any integrative shift in learning to STEM will not change their success for career outcomes. 

So is it STEM or STEAM?

Due to a global workforce shift, those who want to be successful and compete on the world stage are better off having a STEM-based education, but STEM can't be successful without a grounding in the fundamentals of language arts. So, although some wrongly think that it is a one versus another curriculum, STEAM versus STEM, they are synonymous. Both are imperative at different stages of development. If you don't have the proper roots in language arts, then comprehension, communication, processing, and learning will be limited.

That is why Rockin Resources products are such an integral part of your child's learning, especially in elementary and middle school. Since you have to have the ability to communicate and comprehend to get along successfully in this world, a good foundation in concrete thought is crucial in order to unlock proficiency in abstract or integrative thought later on.


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Everything You Need to Start Teaching Analogies

Using word analogies with your students is one of the most effective ways build vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Analogies force students to examine the relationships between words, and in doing so, they gain a better understanding of the subtle nuances of word meanings.  Because of their great instructional value, I include analogy word work in my language spiral reviews and Greek and Latin vocabulary programs. I also have an extensive resource of leveled word analogies that contains everything you need to set your students up for success.

When students work with analogies, they...
  • expand and deepen their vocabulary.
  • understand the relationships between ideas and words.
  • recognize and understand multiple-meaning words.
  • think critically and apply logical reasoning.
  • learn to decipher word meanings based on context.
  • build a network of understanding that improves retention and aids future learning.
Word analogies can be a little tricky for students who are unfamiliar with them. Just like with any new skill, carefully choose word analogies that are appropriate for your students. I recommend beginning with analogies that are slightly below their instructional levels.

Begin with explaining just what a word analogy is.  

Explicitly teaching students to use "bridge sentences" will allow them to determine the relationships between word pairs. 
Students should be given plenty of opportunities to create bridge sentences for various word pairs.
They should also be shown how to write them in reverse since the order of the word pairs can vary.

Students can then use "bridge sentences" to think through the word pairs that make up an analogy.

Once students understand the concept of a bridge sentence, begin teaching them the common types of analogy relationships. 

With an understanding of bridge sentences and the types of analogies, your students will be set up for success!  Present them with leveled word analogies that will allow you to increase difficulty as their skills and vocabularies improve.  

Click here for a FREE PowerPoint of the various slides included in this post.

Morning Routines for a Successful Classroom

Starting your instructional day on the right foot is not as easy as you think. Morning routines in the classroom are a critical part of getting students focused and ready to learn for the day.  Having effective routines and meaningful morning work is essential, but there is more to the story. Here are some simple tips for having a seamless, stress-free morning routine in any classroom.

Tips for successful morning routines, morning work, classroom management, spiral review morning work. Free Morning Routine checklist planner


As teachers, we set expectations for every single part of our day. Our morning routine is no exception. When you are setting up your expectations, here are a few key points you will want to consider.
  • Talking or No Taling? - I always suggest allowing students time to socialize first thing in the morning. Just like us, they have a lot on their mind and are more than likely anticipating seeing their friends. Decide how much socializing time is okay and set those expectations. 
  • Stay Seated or Move Around? - Depending on what you are trying to accomplish during your morning routine, you may decide students can either move around the room, or they should stay in their seats. 
  • The Check List - What do you want your students to accomplish? To download my super helpful checklist, click below!

Tips for successful morning routines, morning work, classroom management, spiral review morning work. Free Morning Routine checklist planner


This is where you will need to decide what it is you want your students to accomplish each day. For me, it is simple. Here is my "morning routine" checklist.
I try to keep my list simple, three to five tasks at most. Morning time should not cause stress, but it should also be productive and set the tone for the day. One thing I do want to mention...I do allow my students to socialize during the first three tasks.  However, once morning work has begun, my students get focused on the work and talking stops.

Tips for successful morning routines, morning work, classroom management, spiral review morning work. Free Morning Routine checklist planner


Teachers ask me all the time, "What makes morning work effective?".  It's simple, really. Morning work should be manageable in the time allotted, relevant to what students are learning, and an informative tool for the teacher. If the morning work you assign is not manageable, students will never complete it. If it is not relevant, it is a waste of time. If it is not being used as a tool, you are missing out on an opportunity!

Here is what my morning work looks like...
  1. I use a spiral review system that consists of only 7-8 questions per day.
  2. It is a Monday through Thursday system, and students work off of one piece of paper for the entire week. 
  3. The problems students complete directly correlate to the concepts they have been taught and what we are currently working on in class.
  4. Each day, I take about 5 minutes to answer questions and review the work.
  5. On Friday, my students complete a mini quiz directly related to the material covered week.  
  6. I use the mini-assessment to collect data on where my students are and where they need to go next. 
Tips for successful morning routines, morning work, classroom management, spiral review morning work. Free Morning Routine checklist planner

Over the years, I have found this morning work routine to be highly effective.  If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to visit my blog and read "Morning Work that Works".  


By giving students a list of tasks they must complete in a specified amount of time, we are encouraging them to be more independent, take responsibility for their own actions and choices, and improve their time management skills. As we all know, some students will excel in this area, and some students will need lots of additional support.  Either way, students need to be presented with these types of opportunities if they are going to develop strong time-management and organizational habits.

If you would like more tips and freebies for YOUR classroom, come visit me at

Tips for successful morning routines, morning work, classroom management, spiral review morning work. Free Morning Routine checklist planner
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