"I've Been Everywhere" - Using an Atlas to Find Locations from Lyrics

Presented by: Steven Inzer

Subject Area(s):

Grade Level(s):


This lesson is a collaborative effort between the music teacher, the 5th grade (social studies) teachers and the teacher-librarian. In this lesson, 5th grade students in Music class will listen to and learn to sing the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” made famous by Johnny Cash in 1996. This song contains references to 76 US cities, states and geographic points of interest. In Social Studies class, students will compile a list of all the sites listed in that song, taken from the lyrics sheets provided by the music teacher. From that list of locations, the students will then, after instruction on the use of atlases from the teacher-librarian, use the atlases provided in order to find these places on a map. They will then indicate on their own blank map where these cities and states are located. Lastly, the students will perform the song during morning program (all-school assembly).



Mark Werchowski, Music Teacher; Sandy Inkawhich, 5th Grade Teacher; Deanna Chirillo, 5th Grade Teacher;  Kim Montanarelli, 5th Grade Teacher;  Lisa Wilk, 5th Grade Teacher.


Day 1

Modeling and guided practice:

Music Class:

Students are introduced to the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” and are told to listen for the geographic references.  They will all learn the chorus, and then each group must learn one verse (out of four) that they will perform in Morning Program.


Day 2

Sharing and reflecting:

Students will use the lyrics page and fill in their “I've Been Everywhere” worksheet (see SM1_BeenEverywhere and SM2_BeenEverywhere) listing the locations from their verse that they are to work on.  They will also discuss any locations that seem familiar to them.


Day 3

Direct instruction:


Students arrive in the library to the music of “I’ve Been Everywhere” (Johnny Cash version).  TL is dressed like a hitchhiker (“totin’ a pack along the dusty Winnemucca Road”).  The TL introduces the project in detail. 


Modeling and guided practice:

Once project overview has been explained, TL distributes atlases to each student.  Discussion about what an atlas is and why it can be helpful ensues.  TL points out the index and explains how it works (using a familiar city as an example).  TL then helps students to find the proper page and grid location of that city.  Using the board game Battleship and a 10x10 square grid poster labeled with numbers and letters, TL demonstrates how to locate a place on the map using the coordinate number and letter.  Students then find example city in their atlases.


Day 4

Independent practice:

Students move to library work areas and begin the process of identifying the various locations on their worksheet.  Once a location has been found in the index, and located on an atlas map, students create their own map (see supplemental materials for website to download blank map for student use) by transferring each location from the atlas to the blank map of the US provided.  This map, along with the worksheet will be turned into the Social Studies teacher for assessment. (See SM3_BeenEverywhere)


BORDOM BLOCKER!!!!  (if needed)

Midway through the activity, or when it looks like the motivation level might be starting to dip, interrupt their work by playing “Dancin’ in the Streets” (by Martha and the Vandellas).  Get the students up and dancing and have them jump up and raise their hands whenever they hear a city mentioned in the lyrics.


Day 5

Sharing and reflection:

The capstone to this project will be the performance in Morning Program.  The entire 5th grade will sing “I’ve Been Everywhere” with each of the four verses being performed by each of the four groups of students.  Audience participation will be encouraged during the chorus as the lyrics will be displayed on the projection screen, along with a map of the USA.




NOTE:  Copyright law prohibits the creator of this lesson plan to provide the actual lyrics to “I’ve Been Everywhere.”  However, for your own teaching purposes, you can find these lyrics (as well as the mp3 available for purchase) at a number of websites, including:





Supporting Files: