50 Nifty United States!

When I was home in the US for Christmas break, I did some post-Christmas Christmas shopping for my friends in Spain. I wanted to buy my co-workers and landlords things that were typically American, so naturally I went to Target. On my way in, I took a look at the $1 deals section (can I just say that I love that section?) and I found 2 sets of flashcards that I snapped up right away: a deck with all 50 states, and a deck with all 44 presidents. I thought the English teacher at my elementary school would love them, and she was really surprised and pleased at my gift. However, American geography and history is not something that she normally teaches, as our textbooks all come from England, so she asked me to put together some presentations to introduce the material. Spending $2 to give myself more work? Merry Christmas!


No, seriously, I was excited to prepare the presentations. My first idea was a PowerPoint, but then I remembered the JClic software that I have been learning how to use, and I thought this would be the perfect time to break out my new skills. I brought the states cards home first and started sifting through them, putting them into categories by region. I built the first screen with the 13 Colonies, relating the states with their capitals. Already I started running into problems, because if the idea was to group the states by regions, what do I do with Maine, West Virginia, Florida, and Vermont, which are in the same region as the 13 Original Colonies, but were not created until after independence? I suppose I could have grouped them together on a screen to themselves, but I was having a hard time picturing West Virginia and Maine being related in any way.


But before I even got past finding a picture of the flag of New Hampshire, an even greater obstacle popped up. I was getting bored. That is a major problem, when the creator of a presentation is too bored to continue. I just kept imagining trying to present 50 states by regions and capitals to a group of 11 and 12 year olds, and I knew it would never work. So, I stopped working on it . . . and stopped working on it . . . and never continued.


Flash forward to last Friday. I still have a presentation with only one half-finished screen on the 13 Colonies, and Monday is the week I’m supposed to start presenting. Instead of doing anything about it, I went to Ronda with a friend and complained to her about the whole mess. Her incredibly sage, brilliant response was, “Why don’t you do something with nicknames? You know, like New York City is ‘The Big Apple’.” Genius! Inspired! It sounded way more interesting than “Georgia is in the south of the United States. The capital is Atlanta”. So on Sunday I left Málaga early and got back to my apartment at 3 pm, at which time I sat down and re-prepared the presentation for 6 hours straight.


And it ROCKS. Instead of grouping by region, I grouped the states by city nicknames, such as nicknames having to do with food, weather, history, or local events. And when I did the presentations, the kids were able to review words they already knew, like apple, windy, mountain, etc. I am positive they will not remember that Honolulu, Hawaii is (somewhat jokingly) called “The Big Pineapple”, but by the end of the presentation, when I called out “Hawaii”, everyone shouted back “PINEAPPLE!!!” and when I called out “North Dakota”, everyone knew to respond “SNOWY!!!!!” About 80% of them were paying attention, which is good for 5th graders. And they were excited! This is my most successful class to date and I really feel like I’ve improved a lot with my elementary school teaching.


Oh, and any auxiliares who are reading and want the presentation, I’ll be happy to share! Just comment and tell me so and I’ll email it to you (you also need to download the JClic software).


One Response to 50 Nifty United States!

  1. Emma says:

    I would LOVE a copy of the presentation! I tried explaining a U.S. states project to my 3ESO this week and it was a complete fail.

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