States and Capitals Memory Aid

After years of struggling to get Peter to memorize the states and their capitals, I began to use this memory aid.  Posting it here so I can remember it for Mary and to share with others who may find it helpful.  Seriously, despite seeing a flash card with the shape of Virginia hundreds of times and hearing me prompt “Richmond….???” he still could not put the name to the state in which he was born.  After using these “stories,” he had the states and capitals for each area memorized in a few days.

I use these flash cards.  We would go over the stories, and I would hold up each state’s card as I introduced the prompt and told him how the prompt would remind him of the name of the capital city and the state.  The stories are corny – sometimes the crazier they are, the easier it is to remember.  And they definitely reflect our family’s culture and the things that interest us.  You might not get some of the references. The next day, I would go over the story again holding up the flash card, but I would pause before giving the clue to see if he remembered the prompt and also the capital city.  If not, I would give the clue and pause for him to name the capital, giving him the capital only if he still didn’t remember.  I would only pause for a bit – I’m not trying to torture the kid, only give him a chance to answer if he did know it but wasn’t quick.  Generally, by the 3rd or 4th day, he was able to name the capital city and state with no prompt, not even the story.  I assume he went over the story silently to himself.  The flash cards present the states in unequal groups.  I made stories based on their divisions.  Each week, I reviewed all known states and capitals in random order and then presented the new group in story order.  I would only work on the new group and any old capitals he missed the rest of the week.  By Friday, I was usually able to mix up the new group.

The stories:

The First Thanksgiving

The most famous attendee at our first Thanksgiving was none other than Caesar Augustus (Augusta, ME).  We toasted a wonderful year by raising glasses of wine made from Concord grapes (Concord, NH).  On one table was a mountain of peeled potatoes (Montpelier, VT).  For dessert we had Boston creme pie (Boston, MA).  We said a prayer of thanksgiving for Divine Providence (Providence, RI).  We thought we would run out of food, so the Indians went and hunted some harts (Hartford, CT).

The Middle States

In New York, all will bend their knee at the name of Jesus (Albany, NY).  The rent on New Jersey is expensive (Trenton, NJ).  Don’t harass the capital burg of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA).

Playground Recess

There is a game of red rover (Dover, DE) being played by some girls led by Anna and Mary (Annapolis, MD).  The poor kid, Charles (Charleston, WV), is getting into a fight with the rich kid from Virginia (Richmond, VA).  Other boys rally around to watch (Raleigh, NC).  There is a tall column (Columbia, SC) being used as a tetherball pole near the Atlantic Ocean which the playground is near (Atlanta, GA).  A tall lassie (Tallahassee, FL) is playing tetherball with Monty (Montgomery, AL) and Jackson (Jackson, MS).  A girl with a red baton (Baton Rouge, LA) is standing on a little rock (Little Rock, AR), twirling.  She drops the baton and it bounces off my fist (Memphis, TN) and hits a boy in the head.  Frank got hurt (Frankfurt, KY).

Murder on the Orient Express

The passengers are climbing aboard for the fateful journey.  The first one to get on is Christopher Columbus (Columbus, OH) who is carrying is sling (Lansing, MI) and a pole (Indianapolis, IN) and a Springfield musket (Springfield, IL).  Why all the weapons?

Next on board are Presidents Madison (Madison, WI) and Jefferson (Jefferson, MO).  Madison says, “I owe you da moyne.” (Des Moines, IA).  “What???” asks Jefferson.  “Sorry, I had my mouth full,” says Madison.  “I mean, the money.”  Could this be a motive?

Next on board is St. Paul (St. Paul, MN) carrying only some letters.  With that Elvis-like pompadour, he doesn’t look very saintly.  Blackmail, perhaps?  I would like to peek at those epistles (Topeka, KS).

Finally enters the victim, Lincoln (Lincoln, NE) who gets shot in the head.  His French poodle, Pierre (Pierre, SD), barked an alarm, and the first to respond was the famous detective, Hercule Poirot, who is not French, and who is traveling with Otto von Bismark who is also not French but comes from farther North (Bismark, ND).

Home on the Range

The cook, Helena Montana (Helena, MT), comes onto the porch to ring the dinner bell.  A noisy boy is peeling potatoes on one side (Boise, ID).  Bugs Bunny is there wearing his boots and hat and munching on a carrot.  “Carson City’s the capital of Nevada,” he tells you (Carson City, NV).  The rancher and his son arrive (you tall, I small).  They are drinking salt water (Salt Lake City, UT).  Another ranch hand, a bear named Colorado who lives in a den under the ranch house, crawls out in answer to the bell (Denver, CO).  Helena’s daughter is hiding in the kitchen.  They call her Shy Anne (Cheyenne, WY).

Quirky Slogans

It’s O.K. to be from Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City, OK).

It’s awesome to be from Austin (Austin, TX).

There is no snow in Mexico for Santa (Santa Fe, NM).

Free Nuts in Arizona (Phoenix, AZ).

Pacific State Party Time

We’re going to a big party in Hawaii – a luau in Honolulu (Honolulu, HI).  A friend approaches you with two other people.  He asks you, “Do you know the capital of Alaska?” as he introduces you to the man (Juneau, AK).  And then he indicates the woman, who looks like a Greek goddess in her toga and gold crown.  “And this is his wife, Olympia,” he says (Olympia, WA).  You look out past the beach to the water and see some sailboats and from them comes organ music (Salem, Oregon).  On every table are sacksa memento of the best luau ever (Sacramento, CA).

3 thoughts on “States and Capitals Memory Aid

  1. I had a French poodle named Pierre. He was fuzzy, black and kind of cranky.

  2. Please note that the capital of Tennessee is NOT Memphis. I was, uh, checking to see if anybody was paying attention…yeah, that’s the ticket.

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