February 26, 2013

Fun Games for Learning the 50 States

How well do your students know the 50 US states and capitals? If their knowledge is rusty, check out this terrific collection of fun review games and resources!
How well do you know your states and capitals? I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge gets rusty if I don't review them from time to time. I'm fairly good with capitals, but some of those state locations can be tricky to remember! I guess it's because I've never traveled to them, so they don't have any personal meaning for me. Imagine how difficult it is for students who've never traveled outside their own cities to learn all 50 states and their capitals! Fortunately, there are some great games and resources you can use to actively engage students in learning the 50 states.

Hands-on Exploration with Puzzles
One of the best ways to begin is to purchase a sturdy puzzle of the United States that includes the capital name on each piece. Place the puzzle in a center and let students work on it collaboratively when they finish other assignments. Over time, students will learn the state locations without even trying. I found this one online at Amazon.com, and it looks like the perfect item for states and capitals practice.

Online Interactive Games
Online interactive games also work well, and it's always a perk if you can find FREE online activities. I did a quick search and hit the jackpot on the Sheppard Software site. They have a terrific collection of free online games for practicing states and capitals, and I found myself stuck on the site brushing up on my rusty skills! It was a challenging test of my skills to listen as each state name was announced and then to click it on the map.

50 States Showdown Games
Online games are fun for some kids, but others quickly become bored with these types of activities. Playing on a computer just doesn't have the power to engage kids like playing with a real person. A more exciting way to practice states and capitals is with a fun cooperative learning game I created called 50 States Showdown. There are actually three variations of this Showdown review game, including Find the States Showdown described below. Students can play these games as a whole class or in teams of four to five. Each student will need a copy of one of the numbered state maps included in the packet and a dry erase board.

Here's how to play Find the States Showdown:
  1. The first Leader selects a number card from the State Numbers deck and announces the number to the team. 
  2. Everyone looks at the numbered map and, without talking, writes the name of the corresponding state (and capital, if desired) on his or her dry erase board. 
  3. When everyone is ready, the Leader says, "Showdown!" 
  4. Students compare answers and check the key to see who was correct. 
  5. Players who are correct earn a "Travel Token" for that round. 
  6. The next player becomes the new Leader, and steps 1 through 5 are repeated.
The game moves quickly and kids love it! It's a terrific way for them to have fun while practicing state names, capitals, and locations. 50 States Showdown is available from my TpT store, and the packet includes both color and black and white versions of the game directions and maps are included in the packet. If your students aren't ready for a game that includes all 50 states,  you can start them out with the five regional games in my States and Capitals Games Bundle.

US Regions & States Maps and Tests 
My talented daughter Wendy created the maps for this game, and she has a full collection of state and regional maps available in her Digital Classroom Clipart Store. She also created a huge packet of State and Regional assessment to test students' knowledge. There are three forms of each test, and one of them includes a place to record capitals and abbreviations. Answer keys are included of course! The US Regions & States Tests + Clipart Combo shown here includes both items. but you can purchase them separately, too.

Studying states and capitals can be fun for students when you provide hands-on practice with puzzles, opportunities to play games online, and the chance to test skills against classmates or team members. Do you have any favorite games or activities for learning states and capitals? Please share!


  1. Great ideas...

    There's also a really cool app on the iPad, if you're interested. I believe it's called "Tap Quiz" or "Tap Map Quiz"... I teach 5th grade, and it is a great learning tool!

  2. Stack the states from itunes! And Seterra for the desktop computer. Both excellent!

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