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Charmom3

What do you consider must know knowledge about the 50 states?

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I'm wanting to teach, or introduce, the 50 states to my 5th grader next year. I'm wondering what you consider pivotal info as far as knowing about the states. I don't ever remeber learning the capitals (I still don't know them....), and only learned to name all the states and location in about 10th grade, but I remember feeling lost as far as geographical location in historical contexts throughtout school. My daughter is a more struggled learner, she tends to learn and then accidentally combine or mislabel info later on. She also has a really poor sense of continent/country/state/city, and poor spacial awareness in general for map work, but I want her to have a general knowledge of the states. Overall my question is, outside of highschool, what info do you think is critical in learning about the 50 states, and how have you, or would you, teach that info?? 

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Naming them all and being able to at the *VERY LEAST* locate the general area on a map.  Cali is on the west coast, Florida is the finger down in the southeast, MI is in the midwest, that sort of thing.  Capitals...eh.  I mean I think it's generally important to know what big cities are in which states....like LA is in California, Chicago is in Illinois etc.  But since major cities aren't the same as state capitals, I don't know that capitals are more important than the major cities of each state.

In terms of historical references, I think it's important to know some major historical points, but I don't know if the are state specific.  For example, the Mason-Dixon line....which states were north and which were south...important, IMO.  Which state Lincoln was born in....not so much.  Knowing that the Alamo was in TX, that the Mississippi river is a border for several states including Iowa, Illinois, etc..those things I think are probably pretty basic.  But often, I think specific information about individual states is often interesting, but unimportant.  

 

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I liked that you mentioned important states versus capitals because some states have a few major cities, but the capital is meh, like CA. I agree too with knowing general location and regions. I think I'm going to formulate something based more on that.

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I would say read books that include travelling across states and their descriptions. For example, Walk Between Two Moons. We are Canadian, but between books and travel, I think my kids have a pretty good idea of states and areas. 

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I'd say location, and how they might group together by region in a general historical context.  So, knowing the east coast states that were part of the original 13 colonies, for example.  Or knowing the states that were part of the big push west.   Or which were the southern/confederate states.  

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I think that this sort of information is best learned incidentally, and the easiest way to learn things incidentally is through reading.  If you don't already, I recommend making reading aloud a central part of your homeschool day, so that you can highlight information that you think is important.  For example, if you read a story where the character travels from one state to another, keep a map next to your read aloud spot so that you can quickly point out where those states are.  If you have visited the states in question, at the same time you can mention what it was like--"I was in Washington state once, and as you travel from east to west it goes from open country dotted with sagebrush to being a place so wet that there is actually a rainforest."  If she has studied something that happened in the state you're reading about, make the connection for her.  That sort of thing.

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It's useful to have a sense of where it's hot, cold, what states have deserts and mountains, etc and important features like the redwoods, stuff like that. A general sense of production of some states would be useful for an older kid, especially depending on career paths the kid might be interested in.

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I think it would be helpful to also learn about US territories and understand how they "fit" into the US. 

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I think there is a lot of important geographical things to know by heart. But it can be learned over years. 

State abbreviations 

Regions and weather (where is it cold, where is it hot, mountains, desert) 

How far a state is from your home state

Locations of big cities (New York, LA, Chicago, D.C. etc) 

Locate each state on a map (games and puzzles are great for this) 

Famous land marks 

Overall shape of the U.S. 

Knowing that Alaska and Hawaii are not just little areas together at the bottom of the map, but where they really are in the world (lots of kids see maps over and over and don't know where they are in the world) 

U.S. territories (many people don't know these and it makes a big difference in watching news) 

Then the last big chunk is knowing history and big events and where they happened. For us this is best learned in reading and history. Books like the Little House give some great history overviews of the states mentioned. Learning about Native American groups in the different regions. Tall Tales in the regions too help in learning. 

We have a stack of blank maps that a lot of things can be practiced with. Geography really is best by making a mental image in the head, and seeing maps over and over really cements it in. 

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Y'all are forgetting the MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION EVER.... like where the biggest yarn ball is located or who has the most dinosaur fossils or what states are part of Route 66.  Stuff like that..

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National Parks.  Capitals.  Rivers.  Mountain ranges. Major cities.  

I'm-a gonna repeat myself (I've posted on this like 4000 times):  My parents set as a goal taking us to all 50 states before we left home.  I missed Alaska.  I cannot tell you the value of this.  We live in an wildly diverse country, culturally, historically, geographically, geologically, musically, financially, emotionally, on and on...  It has been enormously helpful to know of this diversity.  I still have the map of all the routes we drove.  Mom had a big ol' wall map with Sharpie lines all over it, tracing our paths.

Without hitting the road, you can do a lot of this using both paper and the internet.  

Edited by Patty Joanna
to reduce repetitive use of word "enormously" :::eye roll:::
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I think knowledge of geography is very important, but also feel that it's going to be best mastered gradually over a few years.
We make time to look over and discuss maps of the world/US most days. We trace or draw the maps by hand. We discuss the regions and mountain ranges and talk about the environment as well. We try and be clear about which major cities are in which states.

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