Chunking is a teaching strategy that breaks down large amounts of information into smaller units that are easier to understand. To do this with states and capitals, break the US into five regions: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest. Focus one region (and one state) at a time to give students a chance to slowly build their knowledge of the states and capitals. You can use the worksheets linked below as you introduce each state. These pennants will also work.
5) Connect with Prior Knowledge
Information has a better chance of being remembered if it is meaningful. This is why connecting the information with prior knowledge is so powerful. Developing mental images, or stories, that connect with as many of the senses as possible help students retain information. Memory experts refer to this strategy as creating a memory palace. Click here to see a video of the process. When students form associations that connect different details, the information becomes more memorable. Students can make up their own stories, or you can use the book Yo, Sacramento! It provides a visual and a connection for each state capital.
6) Students Become Teachers
One of the best ways to remember information is to explain or tell it to someone else. Scientists call this the protegé effect. Explaining the states and capitals to each other will force students to solidify the information. Something as simple as think-pair-share will work because it gives students the opportunity to engage with the material individually, with a partner, and with the class. All of which will help strengthen working memory.
7) Active Learning
Active learning applies to any learning activity that involves the student in the learning process. Examples of active learning include brainstorming, discussing, group work, making connections, annotating, and solving problems. You can use jigsaw puzzles to promote active learning when teaching students about the states and capitals. This puzzle is made out of wood; its durability is great for the classroom. If you think your students need more of a challenge, go with this magnetic puzzle. A puzzle students can finish in one sitting is ideal.