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U.S. Geography for upper elem/middle school

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So, after DS10 asked me today .... Is Virginia a state?  :confused1:  I said, um, yes - you know we live in Virginia, right?  :crying:


Apparently we need to learn some U.S. Geography. I think I have Trail Guide to U.S. Geography, but I'm not sure I love it.


So give me some recommendations - next year, kids will be 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades.

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We have a large, laminated US map instead of a tablecloth, and DS sits facing north. He has learned a fair amount just from that everyday exposure (as well as some travel and talking about friends/family in other states, playing the board game Ticket to Ride, etc.).


We have a set of cards with the state on one side and the capital on the other to practice with next year.

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Way below at the bottom of this response,  I copy-pasted my suggestions from the recent thread "US Geography that's mostly independent?" which was requests for grade 4 & 5 level materials.


Maybe as a family enjoy doing the Beautiful Feet Geography Guide and Map Pack with the 4 Holling C. Holling books...? Three of the 4 books focus on different areas of the US (Paddle to the Sea = Great Lakes states; Tree in the Trail = mid-West to south-West; Minn of the Mississippi = states along that river), while Seabird is world geography.


Or take 10 minutes daily of your family morning time and make a set of state flashcards together with the capital, the 2-letter state abbreviation, when it became a state, and a few key geographical features and historical events for the state. Make 2 state cards a week, and then use them to practice as flashcards for knowing key things about each state. (And just for fun, as you make your cards, add a sticker for the flag and the state bird)


For example, for Virginia:

- capital = Richmond

- abbreviation = VA

- became a state = 1788 -- the 10th state of the U.S.

- state nickname = "Old Dominion"

- history fact = location of the first US settlement (Jamestown)

- history fact = one of the original 13 colonies

- history fact = during the Civil War, VA was a Confederate state, and Richmond was the Confederate capital; over half of the battles took place in VA 

- geographical feature = VA borders the Atlantic Ocean

- geographical feature = 3 major mountain ranges run through VA: the Appalachians, the Allegheny, and the Blue Ridge


Also, regularly doing jigsaw puzzles, or the Shepperd Software or other online geography state/capital games is simple. For more ideas, below is a "replay" from my post in the recent thread "US Geography that's mostly done independently" (which was a request for grade 4 and 5 students).


Also, while you're learning US States/Geography in 10 minutes a day, maybe this would also be a good time to set aside your regular History for 6-12 weeks and do a special state unit to go more in-depth into Virginia state History / Culture / Geography / Native Peoples?


Have fun! Warmest regards, Lori D.




The Complete Book of Maps and Geography (gr. 3-6) has a section on each of the 50 states. I love that big fat workbook! Enough material overall for 2 years of geography. So fun, because it really doesn't have the *feel* of being a workbook, yet can be done solo by the student.  :)


MCP Maps Charts and Graphs can be done independently. The gr. 4 / level D and gr. 5 / level E workbooks are about the U.S. Your students could do "D" in the fall semester, and then do "E" in the spring. They are short enough that you could do 2 pages/day 2x/week and easily knock out a workbook per semester.


Not a curriculum, but a couple of great go-along resources for independent learning:

Yo Sacramento -- fun book for learning states/capitals

Kids Learn America

Our 50 States

US Landmarks Mazes

I Love the USA -- CD Rom -- this was fun

- Sticker USA Activity Book

Sheppard Software Geography games online -- we enjoyed these


And here's a fun video of the reading of the book 



You can just schedule in 15 minutes 2x/week for pulling out a workbook one day, and then doing a supplement independently on another day. Learning the location of states, the capitals, and some basic facts about the states can pretty much be done independently and informally.  :)

Edited by Lori D.

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We use maps, charts, and graphs workbooks although they're more theory and map reading than drill and memorization. I like to give the kids a road atlas and travel books and just field questions as they come up. Sometimes I require intelligent questions to be asked.


Coloring books are good too, even for older kids. Dover makes some good geography coloring books.

Edited by airforcefamily

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When my kids were younger (K-2 or 3ish), I used The Complete Book of Maps and Geography.  That was very good.


For my older kids, they do Maps, Charts, and Graphs workbook every year.


In addition to that, my middle schoolers work on learning how to draw all the continents, countries, and 50 states from memory.  If they can draw it, they generally remember it.  We use this program which I have found to be excellent and very affordable:


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