Does one of your students want to know the motto of Kentucky ("United
we stand, divided we fall")? Is another searching for the highest
point in Michigan (Mount Arvon)? The answers to both those questions
can be found in this new and updated 144-page reference book. The
book will expand your students' knowledge of geography about the
United States through its clear maps, vivid photos, and fact-filled
text. Divided into the eight regions of the country, the atlas gives
information about every major geographical feature, including major
cities and state capitals, interstate highways, lakes, rivers, marshlands,
forests, and mountain systems.
The Did You Know? sections give unusual tidbits ("South
Carolina's coastal swamps are home to most of the poisonous snakes
found in the U.S."), sure to make the study of geography exciting
for the kids in your class.
Set the Stage
Get your students intrigued about U.S. geography by asking this
riddle: I'm thinking of a state in the U.S. that has more free-roaming
buffalo than any other state. Its nickname is the Mount Rushmore
State and its capital is Pierre. What state is it? (South Dakota)
Explain that students can find the answers to this and many other
questions in a book called Scholastic Atlas of the United States.
Explain that an atlas is a reference book with maps and often has
facts and figures, too.
Now talk with
the class about instances in which an atlas comes in handy: while
planning a vacation ("Which state has lots of fishing?"),
finding an interstate highway as you drive cross country ("Can
I take 95 all the way to Orlando?"), or researching a state's
flag for a class report ("What does the state flag of Idaho
to the way this atlas is organized (by region). Have students look
at the page for their state and point to their own approximate location
on the map.
Have them read
the facts on the page and see if they can learn one new thing about
their state. Point out the Contents and explain that it lists the
topics in the book. Show the Index and explain that they can use
it to quickly find a topic that interests them and the page where
information can be found.
Use these questions to measure students' understanding of an atlas.
Why kinds of information can be found in the About _______
(name of state) section?
What information is given in the legend for each state?
If you wanted an explanation of the origin of a state's name,
where on the pages would you look?
What one new fact did you learn by reading this reference
Students will apply their research skills to find information about
the states in the U.S. On this activity sheet, students will answer
seven questions, then identify a state by its shape alone.
and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:
- Wish You
Were Here: Ask each student to make a picture postcard of
a state of his or her choice. Students can draw an illustration
on the picture side and an interesting fact about the state on
the message side of the card. Then they can send postcards to
classmates through the class mailbox.
Texas!: Have each student introduce his or her state to the
class by making a cardboard shape of the state, wearing the shape
as a billboard, and introducing him- or herself to the class and
telling interesting facts. ("Hi, I'm Vermont. I'm the state
with the leading production of maple syrup.")
Reasons to Visit . . . New Hampshire: Ask students to work
in teams to make a travel brochure of a state or region found
in the atlas. Remind students that a brochure shows the best features
of the area.
- Bag It!:
Is that a bologna sandwich inside that student's brown paper bag?
Doubtful. Ask students to place objects or pictures in a bag that
represent a state they've selected. Examples? For Louisiana, there
may pictures of a magnolia (state flower), a brown pelican (state
bird), and a gasoline sign (it's the nation's fourth leading petroleum
by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more
than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education
from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received
special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods.
The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults,
Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.