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Learning States and Capitals

Students will remember much better that which includes action. Here are some easy ideas to implement for learning states and capitals (or countries and capitals). Some of these ideas were taken from Trail Guide to World Geography and Trail Guide to U.S. Geography.

1. Cut 3 x 5 cards in half. Label one side of each card with the name of a state, the flip side with its capital. Lay a large outline map of the USA on the kitchen table. Students learning the states place the cards with state side up on the appropriate location of that state on the map. Learning capitals? Place the capital side up on the correct state.

2. Got any more of those 3 x 5 cards? Cut 50 in half. Write states on half and capitals on those left over cards. Play GeoMemory by matching states and their capital. Place all name side down in several rows. Players turn up two cards at a time trying to match the name of states with their capitals. You know the rest of the rules. Play with regions of the USA at first rather than all 50 states.

3. Build a driveway size map of the USA. Copy an outline map of the USA on clear overhead projector plastic sheet. Project the USA map onto a wall. Tape butcher paper to the wall and trace each state boundary to scale. Cut out and use as a template to paint on driveway. Use sidewalk chalk or permanent paint depending upon your dedication. See what creative games your children will make with such a large map. (Here's one example: toss a beanbag on map and take turns standing on the state where the bag landed and naming it or its capital.)

You can download a template for tracing a map of the USA on your driveway. This is available for a nominal fee from the eBook section of this website. Follow the link from the "Related Products" list below.

Keep these points in mind to get the most out of the learning experience. Let students make the cards or draw the map. Even students who can't spell can copy and trace. Let them use their favorite color gel pens or colored pencils, and require they use their best penmanship on cards. On the memory game it's fun to decorate the blank side of the cards with stamps or stickers. You can adapt some of these ideas for learning vocabulary words, phonics, homonyms, math facts and more.

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