Knowing Where You Are

Language Arts/Geography

Students research place names in their state and analyze the varied sources of these place names.

What You Need

What to Do

  1. Divide the class into teams of three students.
  2. Divide a map of your state so that each team can study one section. Tell each team they should choose and track down the source of up to 20 place names. Then they will create a chart to show their theories or findings. The chart should have two columns: the first column should be labeled PLACE NAMES, the second column SOURCE. Under SOURCE, students will classify the name source. Here are some examples of classifications:
    • Named after someone (Houston, TX; Jim Thorpe, PA)
    • Named after another place (Beverly Hills, CA; Bethlehem, NH)
    • Descriptive (Green Mountains, VT; Hot Springs, AK)

    Encourage students to research the meanings of non-English place names.

  3. Students may be able to use the following resources, as well as local materials, to track down name sources: atlases and gazetteers, to see if names exist elsewhere; a map showing where Native Americans lived in the state, which might give them a clue to Native American names; reference sources for Spanish, French, or Dutch settlements.

Teaching Options