Our Homeschool

Memorizing The Fifty United States

[From the 2011-2012 School-Year]

This fall, one of our goals (as part of Classical Conversations Foundations Cycle 3) will be for my sons in Kindergarten and 1st grade to memorize the names and locations of the 50 States, and for my 3rd grader to learn the capitals and state abbreviations as well.   These kids have a great start on geography in general, because we own a set of Montessori Puzzle Maps, which I will explain how to use in detail below.  Here’s a free download of a simple matching worksheet for review or testing knowledge for grades 3 and up:  [button link=”https://helpingchildrenlearn.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/usgeography_matching.pdf” color=”silver”]US States & Capitals Matching[/button]

In CC, we will study 5 states each week while using the supplemental materials found on the CC Memory Work CD.  There is also a very catchy song to memorize called the “States and Capitals” song, and the children will be encouraged to draw and color many of their own maps for their geography binders.

I have printed 50 copies of the US map and colored in one state per page to make it easier to present the individual states each week.  We bought some States & Capitals flash cards from Trend that are great – these are hole-punched, put on a ring, and kept in the van for study while traveling.  (Product link below.  I have found these cheap at Target & Hobbylobby.)  I also recommend two fun, free, online games, Place the State and GeoSense.

The Montessori puzzle maps are a delicious investment. They are quite large, so storage can be an issue.  Instead of ordering an expensive, wooden stand for them, I am using a $30 stand from Target that is working sufficiently.  Each puzzle map is precision cut along the borders of each country, with a knob attached to the location of the capital city.  To use the puzzle map, the child sets a labeled control map beside it, picks up one piece at a time from the puzzle, and sets it on top of the control map.

While doing this step, either the child reads the name of the country, or an older student or the teacher reads it for him.  Once the puzzle has been re-built on the control chart, then the process is reversed.  This time, the child grasps the knob on a piece, but hesitates a moment while attempting to recall the name of the country.  When the piece is then lifted, the child can read the label to check himself, then put the piece back onto the puzzle.  These are materials I would purchase even if my children were enrolled in school full-time, they are that wonderful.

There are also some free worksheets here (from Super Teacher Worksheets) that look helpful – see the numbered USA map, for example. Finally, there is this fun board-game I recommend.

Have you helped children memorize the US States?  What worked for you?  I’m all ears.







4 thoughts on “Memorizing The Fifty United States

  1. We are trying “mapping the world by heart” this year to work on our U.S. geography understanding. I’m hoping that with just consistent use we will accidentally memorize. (me too). We will be using some of the books written for each state. Like C is for Colorado with interesting facts about each state. Results will take perhaps a year. 🙂

  2. Hi:
    I’m writing a short piece about puzzle maps and would like to include your picture of the maps on the Target shelf. It is a good example of an alternate map stand.

    May I have your permission to use the photo? I will provide a link to your site underneath it.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Yes, please use the image. This is also the type of shelving that can be easily “re-purposed” after the children have grown up!

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