When I was a child, I hated geography. Trying to memorize the names and locations of hundreds of continents, countries, states, and provinces all over the world frustrated me. Recalling long lists of capitals and natural resources was a task that made my head spin. Now that I’m charged with teaching geography to my children, I’m determined to make it a pleasant experience for both teacher and student.
This year, Sweet Pea, my fourth grader, is studying the United States region by region. As she studies each of the 8 distinct regions (Northeast, Middle Atlantic, Great Lakes, Upper Plains or Heartland, Southeast, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Far West), she completes a variety of activities. As part of her study, Sweet Pea must complete an in depth study of one state from each region.
A thorough teaching of United States geography requires lots of preparation and a number of varied resources. If you’re teaching regions of the United States, the following information may help you organize your thoughts and plan your course of study.
Here are the resources we use as we study the regions of the United States.
- Which Way USA: Recently, a friend introduced me to Which Way USA, a fantastic series of books and puzzles for each state. You can sign up for a delivery from Highlights. I considered doing so, but the books are only delivered every 5 or 6 weeks and books are sent randomly. There was no guarantee I’d get the books I wanted in a timely manner, so I purchased the entire Which Way USA set from Ebay at a very reasonable price.
- Spectrum Geography: I’m using Spectrum Geography Grade 4: Regions of the USA to guide us in our study of the 50 states. It is an inexpensive but thorough consumable workbook that lays the foundation of our study. The book offers a general exploration of the regions of the United States including map skills, history, and culture. This is where we learn about the characteristics that bind the region together.
- Lapbooks: I purchased and downloaded the State by State lapbook from Hands of a Child that can be used with any of the 50 states. I’m also using these free state lapbook printables from Homeschool Helper. Lapbooking is a neat and organized way to present all the information about the state.
- Sheppard Software: As we progress through our study, I allow Sweet Pea to visit this site to play games that teach her more about the states. Sheppard Software teaches her about capitals and land forms.
Here is the technique I use to teach the regions of the United States.
- Our study always begins with a trip to library. I check out ten to fifteen books about the region and the states within the region. My favorite books include The Young People’s Atlas of the United States by James Harrison and Eleanor Van Zandt and the From Sea to Shining Sea state series by various authors. These books remain in an accessible area so Sweet Pea can use them as she wants or needs. As she reads, I instruct her to choose a state from the region she’d like to learn more about.
- After she’s read about the region and its states, she completes a few pages in the Spectrum book. Sweet Pea is always required to complete the map work and cultural studies, but we often skip the book’s projects because she will create a state lapbook as a larger project.
- Once Sweet Pea has selected a state to study, I assemble her lapbook using sturdy colored file folders. During the next week or so, Sweet Pea begins to fill its sections and flaps with information about the state. Information includes a map of the state, history of the state, state flag, physical features, popular state recipes, famous state residents, state bird/flower/animal, and any other information she finds noteworthy. She uses the library books we have checked out to find useful information about the state.
- As she works on the lapbook, Sweet Pea learns even more about the region by reading and completing activities in the states’ Which Way USA books.
Teaching geography can be intimidating, but if you have an action plan and good resources, your teaching will be out of this world!