Early in the year, I was thrilled to tag along on Elizabeth's Monday Night Geography trail. The concept was fun, fit in with my plan to study states this year, and ushered in a family tradition of Monday afternoons spent reading a great book, making postcards, and snacking on shelled peanuts and root beer at tea time--and, of course, gathering around the TV to watch the game that night. It really was wonderful. Now the Superbowl has come and gone, but we are unwilling to give up our Monday afternoon routine. And there are many more states left for us to explore with this beautiful series of books.
Elizabeth and I have decided to continue our Geography routine by incorporating the books into our Alphabet Path studies. We have laid out a plan for a full year's worth of Geography lessons using the books from Sleeping Bear Press. The books themselves are beautifully illustrated alphabet books that contain short rhyming text as well as longer sidebar text with information about the history, geography, and culture of each state. I was thrilled to find that my library carries the full series of these books. Still, I have purchased quite a few of them and would love to own the entire set someday. However, if you are unable to borrow or buy the book for a particular week, there are free teacher's guides to give you some ideas here as well as study activities for each title which could be make a great starting point for learning. Using these and the state's tourism web page would provide a solid background for study if the book is unavailable.
When we read the books together, I give each child a map of the state we are studying and we place our laminated US map in the center of the table. We locate the state on the map, name its capitol, and discuss its location within the US (Is it on the East Coast/West Coast? Is it in New England/the South?). We name the states that border it as well as rivers, lakes, and mountain ranges that lie within the state. We mark these on our individual maps, then color them. Then we read the book aloud while we have our tea time snacks. After we have read, I then let the younger kids (Gabriel 7/Brendan 4) copy or trace the name of the state onto blank paper and illustrate something they remember from the book. When they are done, they tell us about their picture. Quinn, who is nine, uses an index card to create a postcard from that state. He illustrates the blank side as he wishes and uses the lined side to write a note describing something he did, something he saw, and someone he remembers from that state. Here is a sample from his Louisiana postcard:
"I have been to Louisiana this week. I went to the Superdome and saw a Saints game. It was fun and loud! One really fun thing to do in Louisiana is go to a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are beautiful and you can catch a lot of pretty beads. Crawfish, alligators, and pelicans are some animals you find in Louisiana."
This narration process is fairly similar to the four-point narrations Elizabeth's kids are doing. More examples can be found here.
There is a wealth of information in these books and something new can be learned each time you pick them up. This process of introducing a new one each week and letting your child gather a few points of interest about each state is a gentle, fun approach to geography study. And the fact that it dovetails nicely with the Alphabet Path makes it that much more lovely. So brew a pot of tea, open a beautiful book, and come along on a geography adventure with us.
Here are some other ideas for using these beautiful books with different aged children.
~Read the large print rhymes in each state's book to the child.
~Do the activities for the state's quarter found here.
~Read the large print rhymes in each state's book to the child. Have the child choose two or three areas of interest to research more completely by reading the fine print sidebars. Then, have him make a four square like the one pictured here.
~Do the activities for the state's quarter found here.
~The child can read all of the state book to himself. For each state, draw a detailed map. Choose one historical topic of interest for each state and research it further. Write a well organized essay on that one topic.
*From the time they are very little, I teach my children to keep notebooks, journaling what they have learned in history. These notebooks become the Book of Centuries. At least once a week, I keyboard their oral narrations for them to illustrate and place in the notebook. The notebook is organized chronologically, in order to facilitate the child physically placing an event into the proper time period. Simply inset a tab divider for each century into the notebook. The child files narrations, maps, and other drawings behind the tab. the organization will help them develop a concept of time. (pg 92 Real learning)
The list that follows is the best arrangement we could configure to stretch the books out over the course of our alphabet study. For most letters, you will find two titles, sometimes fitting by the title of the book, sometimes by the name of the state. Obviously, there are exceptions. Some weeks you may move ahead to one letter on the Alphabet Path, but continue with the previous letter in your geography lessons. For instance, when you move to "Q" on the Alphabet path, you will continue with "P" titles in geography. There are a couple of weeks where there is only one title listed, and during your "M" studies you'll need to cover 4 titles. There are also some instances where the state fits in because of the second word in its name or because a hard-to-find letter is found within its name. You'll study New Hampshire as an "H" title and Texas as an "X". As it is listed, if you take two weeks to cover each letter of the alphabet, and you use these corresponding state studies once a week, you will cover the fifty states, Washington, D.C. and the general America title over the course of the year.
So without further ado, here is the list:
In addition, all the books are listed on the sidebar, alphabetically, according to the title of the book.