Last school year we did Around the World studies. We learned about 17 different countries in 6 continents. (You can find the master blog post to all our country studies HERE.) North America was the continent we ended with and is why we are now studying the 50 states this school year. My kids have been super excited and really looking forward to learning about the different states. I’m excited to brush up on my geography too!
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We are using Traveling the States from The Waldock Way as our main curriculum. This curriculum has a simple teacher guide with extra book suggestions, QR codes with a YouTube playlist for each state, and lots of printable games. It also has a student journal that contains the state flags to color in, coloring pages, state outline/map, and note booking pages for each state. I printed one student journal for each of my older kids (4th and 2nd grade.) My Kindergartener is studying the states alongside us but isn’t doing any of the writing portions in a student journal. He has just been enjoying coloring the state flag each week.
I started the year with no clear plan of how we were going to complete our state studies but knew that we needed to complete about 2 states each week to get through all 50 in one school year. We started out the first few weeks with just one state per week till we found our groove. We are doing it just one day per week right now but might do it 2 days a week as we add in another state.
The most challenging part was figuring out the books that fit us and our needs the best (sharing more about the ones we didn’t like at the end of this post,) and what we wanted to complete vs. leave out. However, 4 states in and I think we figured out our rhythm and how we are going to continue on throughout the school year. So, I’m going to give you a quick run-down of how we are using this curriculum, our favorite books, and additional resources.
These are the 3 main books we will be using throughout our state studies: National Geographic Kids Beginner’s US Atlas, Only In America, and 50 Adventures in the 50 States.
My initial goal was to pair up some of the states to go with our weather/natural disaster unit study for science. Example: learn about Oklahoma while learning about tornados too. And in a perfect world I could also line up some of the original 13 states to match up with our American History curriculum. But that all sounds like a LOT more work for me. LOL.
So, with the help of my kids and their idea, we put all the states into a jar and are randomly drawing 1-2 states each week. I printed an extra set of the state bingo cards provided in the Traveling the States curriculum, folded them up, and put them in a large mason jar. Each week when we get ready to do our state study, they choose a new state card from the jar. This has made it really exciting, and more spontaneous, to see what state we will get to learn about next. It has become a favorite part of the school week!
After they choose our state, we grab their student journals and find the state flag coloring page. We open our Beginner’s United States Atlas from National Geographic Kids to the correct state and check out the map. My kids then color the state flag while they listen to the YouTube video playlist from the curriculum. These videos have fun songs and facts about each state. Then they turn their notebook pages over and complete the state map and fill in the facts (capital, largest cities, statehood, any large rivers/lakes, etc.) I’m having them write the state motto in the “interesting facts” section.
After that, I read to them from Only in America: The Weird and Wonderful 50 States by Heather Alexander. This has become a book they really enjoy because it is simple and full of all the fun/funny stuff they are interested in learning for each state, like their strange claims to fame, unusual or popular places to go, favorite foods, and different state lingo. After reading the state page in this book, I have them pick their favorite fact and write it in their journal under “moments to remember.”
On the following journal page, they go back to the Beginner United States Atlas and fill in the state bird/animal, state flower, and state tree. I just have them illustrate a picture and write the name; I don’t expect them to write a bunch of facts about each unless they are interested.
Finally, when we have completed their journal pages, we color in the state we learned about on our large US poster. I grabbed this poster years ago from the Target dollar spot and put it up on our bulletin board this year. HERE is a very similar one you could use as well. (Just a note to check the measurements, because it is larger than ours.) As we learn about each state we will color it in. I can’t wait to see it fill up throughout the school year!
Last but not least, we have been adding 50 Adventures in the 50 States by Kate Siber, to our bedtime stories. This book features one amazing adventure/activity that you can do in each state. Whatever state we are learning about, we have been reading about its adventure page before bed later that night. This book has beautiful illustrations and simple text that we have all been enjoying.
And that’s it! I know many are expecting me to do lots of extra crafts or art projects, or read more picture books on each state, but we just don’t have the time to do it all. Since we are randomly selecting states each week, I also don’t know what state we will be learning about ahead of time. If there is any additional picture books on each state, we have been listening to the read aloud version on YouTube while they color. This rhythm of learning has been simple, yet effective enough to learn the states and enjoy it.
Here are a few extra resources we are really enjoying with our studies:
We were recently gifted this blanket from Birdy Boutique and it has been SO much fun! After learning about our state each week, I’ve been having my kids grab a toy car and then I quiz them to “drive” to past states we have learned about and tell me their capitals to review. Sometimes I have them jump around to certain states to review also. The opposite side of this blanket has the state bird and animal of each state. They have been using these to fill in their journal and draw their illustrations. I’ve caught my kids playing or cuddling up with it many times as well (they are super soft minky!) + By purchasing through this company, Birdy Boutique, you are supporting disabled Veteran Women. They have MANY other blanket design options too, so be sure to check them out. We have had the City Block Play Town print blanket for years and love it. They are great to take on vacations!
This game is fun to practice the geography of where the states are located and to learn a lot of great facts. It says it is for ages 8+ and has separate cards for grades 3rd-4th and 5th-6th, but my Kindergartener plays with us too with just a little help.
We don’t own this yet, but as we get into learning more and more states, I’ll definitely be getting this puzzle to practice where the states are located and memorizing their capitals. This will be a great review option that my kids can do on their own anytime.
This is another fun puzzle option that has large pieces, is double-sided, and glows in the dark!
My kids LOVE this game! It is a fun way to practice their US geography and learn fun facts when they want some screen time.
Why we are no longer using these 2 books:
Nothing wrong with either of these books, they just aren’t a good fit for us.
I have owned The 50 States by Gabrielle Balkan for years. It is such a beautiful book that I will keep and use as my kids are older, but for now this book has been way too overwhelming for my kids and myself. There is SO many illustrations and information on these pages. Because of that, it is almost a little hard to even find the major cities and state capitals. While it also has great information, a lot of it is over my kids head for their age or not something they are interested in. Every time we tried to read it, we got overwhelmed and they would glaze over while I read.
Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America by Lynne Cheney was the same way. SO much going on for each state on one page that it was really hard to follow. A lot of the time we could barely tell where the state map/outline was.
Both of these are beautiful books but were way too overwhelming and overstimulating for us. We wanted something simpler and found a good balance in the 3 books I shared above that we will continue to use throughout the year now. I really like and appreciate having a more realistic map in the Beginner’s Atlas and just a few basic facts. Only in America has some fun information that they enjoy reading about, and the 50 Adventures has been a fun extra to read about each state at bedtime.
I always say simple is best, and that is how we are keeping our state study. We are really enjoying it so far and are excited to continue our studies. At the end of the year, I might have my kids choose their favorite state and do a small in-depth report on it, but we will see what I come up with. Of course I will share our plans when we do. 🙂
Have a great week!