Sunday, June 17, 2012

Teaching the 50 States

It's shocking how little kids these days know about geography. From hearing a 5th grader say that China is a state, to having another student believe that New Mexico and Mexico are the same thing, it's enough to make you want to do something about it. Well, even though it's a stretch to fit state standards (or common core, depending on where you are), it needs to be taught. I've found a few resources to teach the 50 states that don't seriously impede on class time, and are engaging for students.

Right from the start of the school year, I play this little video each and every day before students head out the door to lunch (or recess, whatever suits your fancy).

The video is set to the lyrics, but if you'd like to have a copy to give to your students, go ahead and download the document HERE.

This song does a great job of teaching students the names of the 50 states, but it doesn't teach them shapes unless you actually show them the video each time (I just download the music to an mp3 file and play it that way), locations, or capitals. There are simple and effective ways to match states with their shapes, including these great Flash Cards (the site is already set up for printing).

If you have time, you might want to assign a research project to your students. I have done this both as a research paper and a poster. I prefer doing a poster, where each student gets a 2' x 2' cut of colored butcher paper (I'm assuming that most schools have rolls upon rolls of colored butcher paper), and must research something similar to the following information:

— State motto 
— State flower
— State tree
— Date of Statehood
— Nickname
— State flag
— State bird
— current events
— current events
— Drawing of the state
— Drawing of the state within the United States

If your students have atlas' with information about each state, or a set of encyclopedias, then these are great resources to use. If you don't, consider Enchanted Learning, they have great information on each state. 

Finally, your students are ready to challenge themselves with an activity that I'd be willing to bet a number of teachers and a majority of American adults couldn't do. Blindly placing each state on the map of the United States. The game is called Place the States, and is provided by Sheppard Software. 

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