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Capital Ideas
(for Teaching State Capitals)


  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies / Geography


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Ideas and resources for teaching state capital names and locations. (Grades K-12)


Students will

  • work cooperatively with peers to learn and practice state capital names and locations.
  • identify the name of each states capital.
  • practice and reinforce their knowledge of state capital names/locations using a variety of tools.

Materials Needed

  • printable U.S. maps (links provided)
  • Internet access, for playing a variety of online geography games (optional)

Lesson Plan

About the Lesson
In this lesson, students will learn to identify the names of the 50 U.S. state capitals. Over time, they will be able to do this more quickly -- and more correctly.

Want ideas for helping students learn the names and locations of the 50 U.S. states? See our lesson, Speed State-ing

We doubt that few of your students will qualify for the National Geography Bee, but that is no reason to believe they shouldnt know the names and locations of the 50 U.S. state capitals. Getting to know the capital names is the purpose of this ongoing activity. This might be a daily activity for a period of time. Once mastered, you might continue to reinforce the skill on a weekly basis.

This lesson provides the resources and games you will need to give your students plenty of practice identifying the 50 state capitals. And isnt practice the key? Like the multiplication tables and many other skills, repetition is the best way to master the ability to identify all 50 state capitals on a U.S. map. Fun repetition is what this ongoing activity is all about.

This activity includes a handful of online games that you can use to give students a variety of fun ways to reinforce their capital-naming skills. See the Online Games section below for a list of games that can be used in the computer lab, as independent practice and fun, or as tools for setting up individual or team classroom competitions. If you have a classroom projector, all the better; you can use it to involve the entire class in the games.

The Lesson
Arrange students into pairs. Provide each pair of students with one of these printable U.S. outline maps that have on them the names of each states capital.

State Capital Maps
Use these maps (with capital names and locations identified) to help students become familiar with and learn the names and locations of the state capitals:
State Capital Map #1
State Capital Map #2
State Capital Map #3
State Capital Map #4

Have students work together in pairs to make a list of each state name and the name of that states capital.

The next day, challenge student pairs (the same pairs as yesterday, if you see fit) to write the names of each states capital on one of the maps below. How many state capital names do they recall from the day before? Once they have filled in as many state capital names as they can, they might use atlases, wall maps, and any other resources to complete the task.

State Capital Outline Maps
Blank State Capital Outline Map #1 State names are not provided.
Blank State Capital Outline Map #2 State names are provided.
Blank State Capital Outline Map #3 State names are not provided.
Blank State Capital Outline Map #4 State names are provided.

The next day: Have the pairs of students (the same pairs as yesterday would be ideal) repeat the activity without any resources. Give them 15 minutes or so to fill in their maps. How well do they do? Then give them time to use map resources to correct their maps and/or identify the state capitals they could not name.

In the days ahead, continue to repeat the activity. As the days pass, keep track of the number of state capitals student pairs are able to correctly identify without using map resources. Each day, the student pairs should improve their capital-naming results.

Eventually, separate students so they work individually to identify all 50 state capitals on a U.S. map.

Once most students have mastered the names of the state capitals, you might make practice less frequent. Check in each week or two to be sure they are retaining their capital-naming skills.

State Capital Online Games
Use these online games to help students master the names and locations of the 50 state capitals.

  • State Capital Games
    A variety of tutorials and games help students learn state capital names and then test their knowledge. For example: State Capitals: Beginner Game.
  • Capital Catch
    What is the capital of each state? This multiple-choice game lets you choose from four city names and receive immediate feedback.
  • State Capitals
    Kids, or pairs of kids, will enjoy this game because they get to choose the state, then identify which of three cities is its capital.
  • U.S. Capital Map Quiz
    Random capital city names are presented. Students must click on the state that matches the capital name.
  • 50 State Capitals
    This game requires a bit more precision. Move the capital city star symbol to the correct location on the map. The map determines by how many miles, on average, you miss pinpointing the exact location of the capitals. Students can keep trying to improve their precision.
  • Quia State Capital Games
    A variety of games (Matching, Concentration) help reinforce students state capital knowledge.


Students will continue to improve their scores as they learn the names of the 50 state capitals. Once they master the skill, occasional reinforcement will verify that the skill is sticking."

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions

NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools
NT.K-12.6 Technology Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Tools

More Lesson Ideas

Find links to more social sciences lesson ideas in these Education World archives: