1. Introduce States & Capitals by Region of the Country
When I first began teaching fifth grade, I made many mistakes when teaching the states, capitals, and their locations on a map. I threw all fifty states at them. I gave a specific deadline and somehow expected them to memorize them all. After many trials and even more errors, I have found that it is best to introduce the states and capitals one region at a time. I really like having them work to memorize 8-12 states and capitals at once, rather than 50. We can also really focus on the things that make each region special this way as well.
2. Bring in FOOD!
Speaking of making things special, I LOVE bringing in food! As I prepared my plans for this unit, I created a sign-up sheet asking my parents to send in food that matched each region. The kids really loved it. It made it so memorable for them as we worked through the unit.
Here’s the breakdown of what our week looked like:
Monday: We studied the Midwest and ate corn on the cob, wheat bread, and cheese.
Tuesday: We studied the Northeast and ate homemade clam chowder.
Wednesday: We studied the Southeast and ate Florida oranges and Georgia peaches.
Thursday: We studied the West and made homemade salsa as a class. The students in the picture above are cutting up cilantro for our salsa!
Friday: We studied the Northwest and ate California grapes, apricots, and strawberries.
3. Listen to Songs on YouTube
You can find SO many songs on YouTube that include the states in alphabetical order or that put the capitals to a tune. This song is SERIOUSLY so great. It gets stuck in your head, and my kids are always amazed by the artistic ability of the guy in the video. One of my students this year said, “He’s crazy good!!!!”
4. Assemble Puzzles of the United States
I had an old puzzle in my closet of the United States, but I hadn’t pulled it out in forever! I found some United States puzzles at the Dollar Tree last weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking up several. I bought six, one for each of the tables in my classroom. We’ve spent 5-10 minutes each day this week assembling the puzzle together and saying the states and capitals. They have asked each day if they’ll get to do a puzzle. They’re only 60 pieces, but they really seem to enjoy them!
5. Play iPad Games for Review
I think I’ve used a different app each year, but I really like this one. There are many levels, some of which are not completely necessary. My kids are challenged to constantly improve their high score on the levels which require them to select the capital of a particular state and find the state on the map. I have been giving them about ten minutes after recess to practice while we take turns restroom.
6. Partner Quiz
My kids really like to pair up with a partner to practice their states and capitals. I have a cheat sheet with all of the states, capitals, and locations. I print four to a page and give each student one.
Here’s what they do:
1. Partner one uses the cheat sheet. They ask their partner for the capitals of twenty (you can vary this based on time) states. They make tally marks for each correct answer.
2. Partner two uses the cheat sheet to quiz partner one. Once again, they ask their partner to name the capitals of twenty states. I always tell my kids to give them the “hard” ones. They don’t want their partner’s score to be higher than theirs!
3. Partner one uses the cheat sheet to quiz their partner on the locations of twenty states.
4. Partner two uses the cheat sheet to quiz their partner on the locations of twenty states.
5. Who has the highest score? They win!
7. Yo, Sacramento!
I checked out a book from the library called The Little Man in the Map a couple of years ago. My kids really seemed to enjoy hearing the silly stories to help them remember each of the states and their capitals. This year, I bought the book Yo, Sacramento and my kids seem to really enjoy the pictures a bit better. Some are much better than others, but they all make you chuckle!