Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Star Spangled States

This year we studied the 50 states. We used the Star Spangled States Book and workbook, by Joel King, as the backbone of our study, and this was a great way to go.

There is a page to read about each state-- we divided up each page's reading between the three of us who were doing the study-- Molly always read aloud a certain section, James read another section, and I read a third section.

We also read about each state from a book called,
The Arrow Book of States, by Margaret Ronan, published by Scholastic in 1972. This was a Goodwill find, and I was so thankful to have it-- the additional info was very interesting, and easy for kids to understand (not that the Star Spangled book was uninteresting or hard to read; it was just good to learn even more). By the way, this book is out of print, but can be found at used bookstores like www.abebooks.com.

On the same day each new state was read about, the kids also each traced the outline of the state, by puting blank paper over a copy of a blank outline map. Then they colored their drawing in, while listening to the
Arrow Book of States. The kids liked trying out different media for coloring in-- that was fun-- like watercolor paints, chalk, crayons, felt pens, color pencils, and tempera paint.

There are some
Star Spangled States workbook pages to do after each new state is introduced. These are for review of states already covered. After all the states have been looked at, there are more review workbook pages-- to practice what states border other states, and what the capital cities are.

At the beginning of last summer, when I was planning for this study, the kids had the great idea of making a
huge wall map. Then they would paste on/color on some things related to each state.

Drawing is something that comes easily for me, but this was a bit of a challenge. I bought a tall roll of paper and put it up across our dining room wall the week before school started. Then, by referring to an atlas book that had a U.S. map, I sketched the states in-- starting at the east coast and going west. As the states started to take shape I found I had to examine them, do some erasing, and revise . . . and revise . . . trying to get close to the correct proportion and location compared to other states. So this project took a while. After a couple of hours it was finished, and I went over the outlines with a gray felt pen.

This wall map was an important part of our study-- we took one or two days to put up facts/figures/images for each state. Doing this generally took some preparation on my part-- I made a list of things we could put on for each state, and the kids chose a couple of items to make. I made several more. Sometimes I drew a picture that James would color in. Sometimes James or Molly or I would look for images on the computer, using "Picsearch" on the internet. We'd print them out, add color highlights, and cut out the images.

It was fun to see the map fill in, through the year. Since we were going through the states in alphabetical order, spots that had facts and pictures were scattered over various parts of the map. Eventually there were more filled-in states than blank ones. And then one day the map was all done. It had taken about 2/3 of the school year to do. And it stayed up the rest of the year; we liked having it on the wall and looking at the fruit of our labors, as well as being reminded of various facts and state locations.

When the kids had a question about what states were near a certain state, it was simple to just look up at our wall map and point out the states. I think I, myself, also found it easier to learn all the locations of the states from this extra large map than if I'd only been looking at a small atlas page.

And having the map up made for some interesting table discussions at dinner, sometimes. My husband like to see the new things we put up, and sometimes commented or asked questions about them.

A couple of other elements to our study, added in as memory aids and also for fun, were a song and a chant. The song, called
Fifty Nifty United States, has been around a long time. It is by Ray Charles, and is popular in schools-- I watched several different You-Tube videos of it, and we slightly altered the lyrics to come up with our own version. We sang this song together about twice a week.

The chant was one I made up, that we used many years ago when our oldest children were younger and they were doing a U.S. Geography study. It is for all the capital cities with their states. It is a fun chant to say, and I would lead while the kids chimed in. (If anyone wants to hear it/have a copy of the words, let me know; a recording is in the works). We said the chant together two or three times a week, and it took all year to get good familiarity with it. Doing this chant repeatedly helped us remember the capitals, which came in handy for the second part of the
Star Spangled States workbook.

Oh, one more extra part to this states study-- we also used a cookbook called
The United States Cookbook, by Joan D'Amico and Karen Eich Drummond. We tried out some of the recipes for regional foods as part of our lunches and snacks (both James and Molly usually make some lunches and some snacks, as part of their school schedule). Some favorite recipes from this book were "Banana Berry Pancakes with Real Maple Syrup" (for Vermont), "Cincinnati Chili Over Pasta" (for Ohio), "Baked Apples" (for Washington), and "Cheese Quesadilla with Vegetables" (for Arizona).