I have a vivid memory of taking the 50 state capitals test when I was in 4th grade. Now, some 25 years later, I teach my own 4th graders about the state capitals and locations.
Over the years I have gotten some push back from parents about the importance of learning the state capitals. Some have seen it as a waste of time, but I explain to them that it is part of learning the geography of our country. We learn where each capital is because that is where the state government is located and, in many cases, it is also the largest city in the state. I also have my students learn where the capital is located within the state.
Knowing where all 50 states are located is also an important skill to have. Students are constantly traveling for family trips, sporting events, etc. and knowing where they are headed is important. Along with learning where the states are located students learn to use cardinal directions and begin to understand how each region is unique- from the mountainous west to the humid southwest.
To help my students learn the state capitals and locations I have several activities that they use throughout the year. Check them out below.
States and Capitals Wrap
In this easy to use activity students will connect the state (on the left) with the capital (on the right) by wrapping the string around it. The best part is that students can monitor their success by flipping over the wrap to see if the string is in the correct position. These wraps are the perfect addition to any social studies classroom.
Mapology USA with Capitals
This is such a fun activity for students to complete together. For this one, I typically have 3-4 students working on the map. First, they place all the states in the correct location. Then they take the capital flags and place them on the correct state. Finally, they can check their work using the map that is included. An added bonus of this activity is that the flags have a picture of a fun fact on the backside. This has prompted my students to research and learn more about the states. Grab this fun resource for your classroom today!
State Capitals & Locations Dry Erase Boards
This is one of the first social studies activities I do in 4th grade. Students fill out the board using a dry erase marker. I know most students will not know all the state locations and capitals, but I explain to them that by the end of the year they will be able to fill (almost) the entire board. It becomes a competition with themselves as the year goes on. I use these with early finishers and when students finish a social studies assessment. Some students will even ask to do them during indoor recess or Fun Friday. Check them out here!
States and Capitals Flashcards
I use these cards in two ways. First, students can use them to learn the state capitals. But my favorite way to use them is for students to learn the state locations. The front of the card does not say the state, but has a picture of the state within a US map. I also love that each region is color coded so you can easily separate out the region you are studying. Check these flashcards out here!
100 PICS US States & Capitals
This is a fun game for students to play with partners. When my students play I have them cover the state letters at the bottom and open the 100 doors one at a time until they guess the state. If they guess the state correctly with some of the doors still closed they earn that many points (if one door is still closed the student will earn 100 points). If they are not able to guess it with all the doors open the student can use the scrambled letters at the bottom to help them. There are 50 cards (double sided), so students can play this over and over again! Learn more about this game here!
Various Print-and-Go Activities
I also like using some activities that students can turn in so I can check for understanding. I use flashcards and cut and glue activities, along with students locating states using cardinal directions. I have also created a few digital activities for students to complete for state locations. These are a fun change up to paper and pencil activities.
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