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HistoryFix: Riding a Train of States

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from HistoryFix
Historical Topic: States & Capitals Students Write: acrostic poem/train car

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Riding a Train of States

This writing across the curriculum lesson was proposed by Nevada teachers Christy Hodge.

Christy considers this history lesson to be appropriate for students in grades 3-5.

Lesson Overview:

Objectives/Overview: The purpose of this lesson is to help students memorize all fifty states and the capitals through classroom visual representation. The students will make a train car representing an assigned state. The teacher will make a train of states on the class bulletin to help students remember the states and capitals. The train will be used by the students to study the population, mottos, flags, and interesting historical facts about each state including important aspects of each of the fifty states.

  • The students will explore the fifty states of America through visual representation.
  • The students will learn the capitals and locations of the states.
  • The student will study the population, mottos, flags, and interesting historical facts about each state including important aspects of each of the fifty states.
  • The students will write and acrostic poem to make the state more meaningful to them through poetry.

Time Needed: This lesson will take 1 hour for five days.

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind; and putting researched ideas into one’s own words)
  • Conventions (spelling skills; punctuation skills; capitalizations skills; grammar usage and skills; indenting and spacing)

Materials List:

Background Information:

As citizens of America it is important for all of us to be able to locate the 50 states and be able to name the capital of each. The states are a part of who we are as a country. My goal of this lesson is to help students become proficient in locating and learning the fifty states and the capitals. The capitals of each state are crucial information for our students to know, as this is often used when referring to a state location. In daily conversation or on the news during weather reports or current events, states and locations are being discussed. It is important that we help our students locate our states and capitals and understand the states historical background and qualities of each. One day our students may have to move there. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could locate our destination?

Teacher Instructions:

  • Day One: The teacher will share the book The Train Of States by Peter Sis with the class. Each page represents a train car that showcases each state and its capital, landmarks, flags, historical information, nickname, and important aspects.

    After reading this book with the students have them choose a state to report on. You can choose a state for the students by going in alphabetical order or drawing names and allowing them to choose a state.

  • Day Two: Take your class to the library or the computer room to research facts about their state. Give each student a graphic organizer (lesson tools) .The students will fill out important information about their state in the organizer. If you choose to go to the computer room to research information have the students go to www.50states .com.

    This is a wonderful website for students to find information on the state in which they have chosen.

  • Day Three: Give each student a copy of the train pattern. See lesson tools for a labeled copy of the organizer. In the window the students will draw the State Flag. In one of the wheels have the student draw the shape of the state. In the second wheel have the student draw the state seal. At the top of the train car the students will write the state nickname. On one side of the window they will write the state name, and on the other side they will label the capital. Under the window have the student write the date of statehood and in the lower part of the train car have the student include all other information from their train car graphic organizer.

  • Day Four: The students will color the train car. Laminate them and hang them in a spot visible for the students. I have attached a train engine for you to use labeled train of states. Please see pictures attached. This will be placed in the same order as the book train of states which is in order of statehood. You will still have several states that will not be represented in your train. Make a train car and computer generate the flag and label the statehood to be placed in the class train. If you do not have time to do this give each student tow states to work on.

  • Day Five: Discuss the significance of the order of the train cars and how it relates to the statehood of each state with your students. Through daily visual representation the students will be able to recognize the states and capitals along with the statehood, and other important information. Have the students create an acroustic poem using the name of the state they are working on.

    Acrostic Poem Directions:

    • Brainstorm with students to determine good ideas to write into the poem.

    • Have them write their state down a blank piece of paper.

    • The students should include three to four words for each letter.

    • Encourage students to add pictures to their poem

    • Share the acrostic poems with the class.

  • EVERYDAY AFTERWARDS: In order to make this train meaningful to your students and help them continue to learn about the states you will need to refer to this train daily. Each morning give the students a scavenger hunt. Ask them to locate different information about several states. You will want the students to use the train as a reference for information.
  • Extension Activity: Have your students do a state report. Perhaps they can choose a different state than the train car they have already done.

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