The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller is a silly fictional book. I think we all know that the states are not alive and able to pick up and move to a new place in the country. Afterall, the states are just governmental divisions of land! But for an upper elementary school student, The Scrambled States of America is hilarious! As they pick up the silly jokes the states make to each other, they may just find some jokes that have an element of truth, leading the way to an easy guided research project to find true facts about the states and write a mini-book about a state.

By following simple steps to gather information, record sources referenced, and outline the facts that are known, we prepared mini-books about a state of our choice.

Finding Bits of Truth Amid Fiction

We began with reading The Scrambled States of America. I think my son was a bit amused that I said we’d start there in order to begin a research project! Yet there are tidbits of interesting fact in the story. For example, observed facts about the states: climate, claim to fames (cheese for Wisconsin, earthquakes for California) and so forth. At the end, there are two pages with stats about the states. The last two-page spread also has cute illustrations with at least one item from each state.

We started by discussing together which facts we read were probably a true and interesting fact about the state, versus which sentences were simply goofy. Discerning truth from silly is an important concept to understand. Scrambled States is a goofy place to start, but we had fun trying to decide which was silly and which was true.

It seems goofy but we started our state research by reading The Scrambled States of America!

Guided Research Project about a State

I call this a guided research project because I gave my son steps to follow. Once he chose a state, we looked at Scrambled States again. Then, we filled out a Know-Want-Learn chart to determine what we already know, what we want to learn, and what we may have learned about the state from the silly book. I will say, the book did not say much about New Jersey (his choice). But there are simple facts at the end. And by looking at the map, we can see where New Jersey resides (on a normal day, that is).

Then it is time for research in other texts, this time nonfiction.  I want to make sure Raisin knows to record the sources he references, so my research pages include a page to record those things. We also found a variety of different types of information, so we had to decide what type of information to continue reading about.

We tracked the sources we referenced, and then we could write the facts we found and put them in order.
We tracked the sources we referenced, and then we could write the facts we found and put them in order.

Making A Mini-Book about a State

After we’ve gathered the facts, it’s time to put them in order. We wrote some sentences with the facts, then we went back and decided which ones were most important. In research, we often get too much information for us to use in a simple project! Our project is a mini-book, so we have just seven pages (after the cover).

I want Raisin to learn about nonfiction text features, so I gave him some samples and asked him to include at least one on one of the pages. Charts, diagrams, timelines….there are lots of options here! The most obvious for this project is a map with labels.

I love the mini-book templates. They hold just the right amount of information. Not too much, and not too little. If the students doing this project find the pages a little too small, you can also use a larger size, of course! I’ve included two different sizes in the packet I made.

Here’s my how-to video for folding the mini-books.

Download the Lesson Idea

Once again, I’ve put together some simple worksheets to go along with the process I describe above. Because this was a little more time consuming to pull together, it does have a fee. Download it from my shop, TeachersPayTeachers, or Teachers’ Notebook.


This is the fourth in a 5-day series of Picture Book Writing Prompts for Elementary Students. See my landing page for links to more posts and ideas like this one and check back tomorrow morning for more.
Picture books are not just for little kids. Big kids may be inspired by the language, stories, and characters in picture books. Check out these writing prompts for ideas on using picture books with older elementary-aged kids.


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