Unite These States


Students will learn the location of the first 13 colonies and familiarize themselves with the location of all 50 states.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will learn the location of the first 13 colonies and familiarize themselves with the location of all 50 states.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies


  • 2nd
  • 3rd

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups

Terms and Concepts

  • Landmark
  • Spatial


  • "Colonial Shapes" work page
  • Overhead transparency of the map of the "Colonial Shapes" work page (page 12)
  • Overhead transparency of the labeled United States of America Map Template (page 28)
  • Copies of enlarged blank United States map template (page 13), several per student and one for teacher demonstration
  • One bag or envelope per student
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Scissors
  • Book about the 13 colonies (optional)


  • Plan student groups.
  • Prepare overhead transparencies.
  • Write in state names on the transparency of the Eastern United States.
  • Copy the "Colonial Shapes" work page (page 12).
  • Copy the labeled United States of America Map Template (page 28).
  • Copy the blank United States map template (page 13). 
  • Prepare a sample puzzle by filling in the United States map and outlining state borders.


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Engage students in a brief review discussion about the 13 colonies and some of the important historical events and people associated with the times. You may wish to read the students a book about the 13 colonies.
  2. Explain that students will be starting the process of learning the geographic location of the original 13 colonies and, ultimately, of all 50 states. Hand out copies of the "Colonial Shapes" work page (page 12). Ask students to fill in the names of the states they know. Then place the completed transparency map on the overhead so that students can check their work and accurately complete their maps. Discuss ways of remembering the locations of states.
  3. Next, go over the directions and questions accompanying the map.
  4. Give each student a copy of the enlarged blank United States map template (page 13). Ask them to fill in the state names as best they can. Most students will not be able to fill in many names (unless you have studied U.S. geography before!), so you may want to remind students that you are aware of this and that this is an exercise for them to later measure how much they have learned.
  5. When students have done as much as they can, show them the completed version and allow them to complete their maps. Ask students to use a thin marker or colored pencil to go over the outline of each state (teacher's discretion on how students should handle the smaller Atlantic seaboard area).  Make sure that all maps are accurate before beginning the next step.
  6. Tell students that they will now make puzzles out of their maps. Model for them the process of cutting the map along state lines. Students can cut their map into as many pieces as they like. Remind them that the more pieces they cut, the more difficult their puzzles will be.
  7. When students have completed their puzzles, ask them to take a moment to recreate the map with the puzzle pieces. Then hand out bags or envelopes for puzzle storage.
  8. During independent work times, encourage students to work on their own and with other classmates' puzzles to familiarize themselves with U.S. geography.
  9. Periodically ask students to complete a map of the states from memory.  You may want to ask students to chart their progress so that they will be able to see how much they have learned since this project began.


Begin a class collection for the U.S. Mint 50 State Quarters™ Program and collect one coin for each state.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Disciplinary Standards
Cluster: Geography
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • guide learners in the use of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
  • enable learners to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
  • assist learners to analyze the spatial information about people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand the physical and human characteristics of places
  • assist learners in developing the concept of regions as a means to interpret Earth’s complexity
  • enable learners to understand how culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions
  • provide learners opportunities to understand and analyze the physical processes that shape Earth’s surface
  • challenge learners to consider the characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface
  • guide learners in exploring the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • help learners to understand and analyze the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics
  • have learners explore the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface
  • enable learners to describe the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • challenge learners to examine how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface; help learners see how human actions modify the physical environment
  • enable learners to analyze how physical systems affect human systems
  • challenge learners to examine the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
  • help learners to apply geography to interpret the past and present and to plan for the future
  • enhance learners’ abilities to ask questions and to acquire, organize, and analyze geographic information so they can answer geographic questions as they engage in the study of substantive geographic content