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Race to the Capital Geography Game

Play this game with your class, another class, or your whole grade! Race to match states, provinces, or countries to their capitals.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 30 Minutes or Less
  • Directions

    1. Which U.S. state’s capital is Pierre? What is the capital of Quebec? Tashkent is the capital of what country? Invite students to learn capitals of states, provinces, and countries. Invent games like this one to make memorizing fun!
    2. After everyone’s had a chance to learn the information, gather a large group of students together (at least 20, but not more than 100) to make and play this matching game. Adapt these ideas depending on how many capitals students are learning. These directions are designed for the 50 U.S. capitals.
    3. Use Crayola Washable Markers to write the name of a capital city or a state on cards (you need 100 cards). If you have 100 people playing, place all of the state and capital cards in two recycled boxes. Label the boxes "states" or "capitals." If you have fewer than 100 players, choose exactly the number of cards you need so there is one card for each student and every state has a matching capital in the game.
    4. Divide players into two equal teams. Each player uses a Crayola Dry-Erase Marker and an individual dry-erase board. One team chooses state cards to write on their dry-erase boards. The other team writes capitals. When the leader signals "go," work together to match up the state and capital partners, looking from board to board to find matches.
    5. When you think all matches are made, line up in a large circle to evaluate whether the group has correctly identified all states and capitals. Signal when you think you’ve done it correctly by sitting down on the floor all at once.
    6. Evaluate! How did everyone do?
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resource: Yo, Sacramento! (And All Those Other State Capitals You Don't Know) by Will Cleveland & Mark Alvarez

    Ask students to play the capital game with a time limit. Appoint one student to evaluate each round of the game. Set the time limit for the two teams. When time is up, the evaluator to assess correct matches and errors. Ask teams to try a second time to correct errors.

    In small groups, students match states and capitals to regions, continents, or founding dates. If done with large groups, this can be done as an outdoor game or in the gymnasium. Students can be challenged to race the clock, trying to get faster and faster at matching states and capitals, etc.

    Students play other versions of the game, matching countries to continents, major world cities to countries, languages to countries where they are spoken, etc.

    After a more in-depth investigation of each U.S. state, students match state abbreviations, flowers, birds, and mottos to appropriate states. For example, if the challenge is New Jersey, response would include NJ, Trenton, "The Garden State", American Goldfinch, violet, etc.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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