Geography… Yawn. While we love learning about the world and about different cultures and all about American History, we quickly discovered that learning the states wasn’t being much fun. We couldn’t have that. We don’t like flash cards. We really, REALLY don’t. Once you pull out the flash cards you have just sunk into the dark and dreary depths of memorization. You are consciously forcing your mind to recall information by beating it in there with repetition, one card after another, after another, after another. This method works, eventually, but once you have learned them that’s all you have, the knowledge. The knowledge without some hands-on fun in the pursuit or a really great story delivered is just not the same. It’s not what we are trying to do here at, The Little School. When T looks at a map I don’t want him to recall those flash cards. Precious moments of his life gone while he mechanically and unemotionally delivers “Texas” “Maine” “Alaska”…. No, I want him to recall moments. And so my quest began. How could I make it fun?
I searched blogs and found that most everyone seemed to be in agreement that puzzles were the way. I just couldn’t get excited about that. If we do a puzzle we want a 3D giant dragon or a castle complete with working drawbridge. I didn’t see a puzzle of the states as a big improvement to the dreaded flash cards. I read on. I found parents being creative with games such as Pin The Plane On The Map. Not really for us. I also discovered that a lot of parents loved The Little Man On the Map but it seemed to target a younger student than mine. What to do?
I headed over to Fat Brain Toys, a favorite website which offers tons of educational games and toys. I typed in Geography and bam – 56 Products appeared. Hope resurfaced. In the first page of results I saw something I had seen mentioned on some other blogs but dismissed because I thought they were using flash cards. In this image, I could clearly see it was a game and had a rating of 4.76 stars out of a possible 5 stars. Not too shabby for a board game. There was a total of 55 reviews and parents insisted this was the one! The Scrambled States Of America. I added it to the Wish List and made a quick trip to Amazon. 4.5 stars from 202 reviews. We may have a winner here. Still, if you have a child with ADHD you know that teaching is best done when you have a Plan B available as well.
Plan B, I eventually decided would be 10 Days In The USA. This game looked kind of cool. The object is to manage a trip, connecting your destinations by airplane or car, by using the cards you trade or collect. The first one to successfully make the 10-day trip is the winner. I ordered them.
We like to include music as much as possible and I found this fun video on YouTube by Marbles The Brain Store. It’s cool to watch him draw and T even likes his music. It’s called, Tour The States Official Music Video. Check it out, you’ll smile.
The lesson plan we were on was simply to learn the locations of the states. We didn’t need to know Capitals or any of the cool things that make each one unique. Not yet. I felt prepared. Still, I loaded Stack The States, a highly recommended iPad app that I had read about. I decided I better give it a run through, and twenty-five minutes later I had collected 5 states, almost burned the chicken and had some fun. OK, now we were ready.
We were going to learn the states. We were going to do it with board games and popcorn and music playing in the background. Or, we could take these with us to the lake or the park and play these outside if we decided to work out there. We could make a scoreboard and offer an incentive for every ten victories, a trip to the treasure box. (The Treasure Box is full of goodies like Match Box cars and NatGeo Weird Facts books). We could do this without flash cards. And so we are.
We are in week one and it turns out learning American Geography is not so yawn, it’s kind of fun.
UPDATE: Both of these games are definite winners but when I let T choose, he always picks the Scrambled States of America so if you are only getting one, that’s the way to go. Within two weeks he was able to pass his state test and by week 4 he also had his capitals! Woo Hoo! We played our way through learning them!
I should mention…
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