For whatever reason, geography is one of those subjects that I struggled hard to decide on how to teach and what materials to use. There are so many different resources and approaches, I ended up researching myself into analysis paralysis. Have you ever done that?
This past year when we made the switch to U.S. history instead of world history, I decided it was a great time to work on teaching United States geography to the kids. But where to start? In all my looking, I’ve landed on a very simple and basic approach to geography. You’re going to love how easy it is to implement!
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How We’re Teaching United States Geography to Kids
Our method for teaching United States geography to kids is super easy: they trace maps and label them. Part of my 9 year old’s daily work each day is to do “map work.” When he sees that on his task list, he goes and gets his tracing pad, United States map outline, and atlas.
We started with the NW since that’s where we live. First he traced Washington and used the atlas to spell and label the state and capitol. The next day he tried to do as much of Washington as he could from memory, then used the atlas to correct his work and trace and label Oregon. The day after that he did as much of Washington and Oregon from memory as possible, then used the atlas to self-check and then label Idaho.
Although we use tracing paper now for our daily map work, we started out with a big wall map. This is a great option for younger kids! They can loosely trace it or trace it in detail if they are able, and there is more room to write in. We used a laminated blank wall map and an ultra fine tip dry erase marker. Each day after I’d check his work we’d erase it to prepare for the next day. Eventually a drum set took over this corner of the school room. 😉 So we had to find another solution.
That’s pretty much it! Simple and very effective. When we got noticeably stuck we’d just sit a while with the states he’d already done and do them over and over. Sometimes I’d make spelling lists out of the states and capitols so we could practice with dictation. Once I felt like he had a good handle on it, we went back to one new state each school day.
I first heard about an approach like this through the book Teaching from Rest. It’s simple, effective, and easy to remember. As we adapted it to our needs and got into our groove, I started adding a few other pieces and now I feel like we have a well rounded U.S. geography curriculum. When we finish with this, we’ll decide whether to go back and do another round focusing on details like rivers, mountain ranges, or state facts, or move on to world geography.
Additional Resources for Teaching United States Geography
As I said, we’ve picked up additional resources that really add to our U.S. geography studies. Here are some that are definitely worth considering! Pick a few and get started!
Across the USA: Geography Printables for All 50 States – This is a fun new curriculum that helps you teach mapping, state history, and fun state facts.
Large maps – we keep a large map in our dining room as a reference to discuss geography as we learn about missionaries, come across geography points in fiction read alouds, pray over nations, and so on. We splurged on a fancy MapShop mounted and laminated one since it’s our main room decoration, but you can also find great map choices on Amazon.
Scrambled States of America – this is a fantastic board game that we came across during a homeschool family get together. It is perfect for family game night and does a great job of teaching states and facts! There is also an accompanying book, and you can buy the DVD separately.
Dover United States Coloring Pages – As you go through map work, color one state at a time and read and discuss the brief description. It’s an easy way to go a little deeper.
Our free U.S. State Cards printable pack – perfect for younger children in learning basic state shapes and facts fun learning activities.
This Post Has 4 Comments
Annette Breedlove6 Apr 2017
I love the idea of tracing the maps!! How fun! Thanks for sharing our new resource in the list too!
Tauna6 Apr 2017
Across the USA will be such a great addition to our geography program!
Aubrey6 Apr 2017
Is there a certain printable or coloring book you use? My 8 yr old hasnt had any geography and just this week i got the Scrambled States book, the Scrambled States game, and a beautiful book, 50 States. Its got neat info but not necessarily good for mapping/tracing. Ive looked online and found a blank US map, regular 8.5×11 size. I printed that and put it in a sheet protector and had him color in the state as we talked about it.
But, he likes sketching and i think would like map work. So you basically print a blank map, and use tracing paper, and have him trace one state at a time and label it? Then maybe draw it from memory by the end of the week?
I was looking at US states Dover coloring book last night, as well as another on Amazon, the Complete Book of Maps and Geography for grades 3 to 6. The latter is much more of a workbook and he doesnt like writing so that may not be good, but he really needs a starter in basic map reading and geography.
Tauna6 Apr 2017
“So you basically print a blank map, and use tracing paper, and have him trace one state at a time and label it? Then maybe draw it from memory by the end of the week?” – Yes! This is exactly what we do. We use a good atlas (the one I linked to) and every day if nothing else we get this state-by-state tracing and labeling done. The rest is to supplement that and just change things up and add some other learning methods. It is really simple, but it is so effective! I would just buy a tracing paper pad and use it with that blank map you printed. Then use the other materials, one or two at a time, for fun and reinforcement. Does that help?