Activity Overview

Understanding state research means understanding the terminology that goes along with it. In this activity, students will display their knowledge of key terms relating to their research of the United States. Students will create a 3-cell spider map that illustrates and defines new vocabulary. Students should be encouraged to choose words that they recognize from the suggested word bank below.

Example Vocabulary for US State Research

  • Civics
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Landmark
  • Capital City
  • Border
  • Region
  • Culture
  • Motto
  • Population
  • Population Density
  • Climate
  • Landform
  • Natural Resource
  • Product

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a 3-cell storyboard that defines 3 key terms for state research.

Student Instructions:

  1. In the title box, type the term.
  2. In the description box, type the definition as it relates to the study of United States.
  3. Create scenes for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/4/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
  • [ELA-LITERACY/CCRA/L/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Define and illustrate each of the key terms.
7 Points
4 Points
1 Points
The vocabulary words are correctly defined.
The meaning of the vocabulary words can be understood but it is somewhat unclear.
The vocabulary word is not clearly defined
The storyboard illustrations clearly depict the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The illustrations relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words but it they are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

How to Effectively Teach State-Related Vocabulary with Spider Maps in Elementary School


Introducing State Vocabulary and the Spider Map Concept

Begin with a fun and interactive introduction to the specific vocabulary related to U.S. states, such as 'capital,' 'border,' and 'landmark'. Explain what a spider map is and how it can help organize and illustrate information. Show examples of spider maps to give students a clear idea of what they will be creating.


Selecting and Researching Vocabulary Words

Help each student select three state-related vocabulary words. Provide resources such as picture books, simple online articles, and educational videos to aid their understanding. Guide the students in researching each word, focusing on its definition and significance related to U.S. states.


Creating the Spider Map

Provide students with materials for creating their spider maps, such as paper, pencils, crayons, and markers. Encourage them to draw a central image related to U.S. states in the center of the map and extend ‘legs’ for each vocabulary word. On each ‘leg’ of the map, instruct them to illustrate and write a simple definition or fact about the vocabulary word.


Sharing and Discussion

Have students present their spider maps to the class, explaining their illustrations and the definitions they wrote. Facilitate a class discussion about the different words, how they relate to U.S. states, and why they are important to know.

Frequently Asked Questions about States Visual Vocabulary Activity

How do we select appropriate vocabulary words for the States Visual Vocabulary Activity?

The selection of vocabulary words for the States Visual Vocabulary Activity should align with the educational goals and the students' grade level. Typically, these words are related to U.S. geography, history, culture, or political terms specific to state studies. For younger students or those new to the subject, it's beneficial to start with more basic and commonly used words. As students advance, you can introduce more complex terminology. Additionally, allowing students to have some choice in their word selection can increase engagement, as they can pick terms that particularly interest them or relate to a specific area of interest within state studies. Teachers may also consider the current topics or themes being covered in class to ensure the vocabulary is relevant and reinforces the students' ongoing learning.

What are some effective ways for students to visually represent vocabulary words?

When visually representing vocabulary words, creativity and clarity are key. Students can use drawings or symbols that closely relate to the word's meaning, making it easier to remember and understand. For example, for geographical terms, simple maps or landscape sketches can be effective. Historical terms might be represented with timelines or iconic images. Students can also use infographics or flowcharts for more abstract concepts. Encouraging a variety of artistic expressions allows students to personalize their learning experience and caters to different learning styles. The use of color coding can further enhance the visual impact and organizational clarity of the representations.

Should the States Visual Vocabulary Activity be done individually or in groups?

The format of the States Visual Vocabulary Activity, whether individual or group, depends on the desired learning outcomes. Individual work allows students to delve deeply into the meanings and applications of their chosen words, providing a more personalized learning experience. It also ensures that each student engages directly with the vocabulary research and creation process. On the other hand, group work fosters collaboration and communication skills, and can be particularly effective in covering a broader range of vocabulary as each group member contributes different words. In a group setting, students benefit from shared knowledge and diverse perspectives. Both approaches have their merits, and the choice can be based on the specific objectives of the lesson and the dynamics of the classroom.

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