Planning Your School
The specific organization
and details of your school event will be determined by the needs
of your classroom and school. The following materials are intended
to help familiarize you with the judging process and planning
a History Day event.
Select a date and time that won’t rush your regional finalists.
Ideally, your school event should take place at least two weeks
before the regional registration deadline. Papers and web sites
must be sent to regional coordinators by the registration deadline
so judges can view them in advance, and regional finalists in
those categories should be allowed time to improve their projects
after they get feedback from the school judges.
Teachers have successfully scheduled school-level events on
a variety of time formats. Some teachers prefer to have their
events during a school day, while others organize evening or
weekend events so that families can attend more easily and students
don’t miss class. It all depends on your school schedule.
Keep in mind when your potential judges might be available.
Also, many parents enjoy a public viewing portion of the day,
when they will have the opportunity to see their child’s
work on display
Select a location.
This could be several classrooms, a library media center, a
gym, or any other area with sufficient space to accommodate
all projects. Exhibits will need table or floor space, typically
three feet wide and two feet deep. Performances will need a
stage area. Documentaries will need TVs, VCRs, or other hook-ups.
Papers and websites will need a room or area for private interviews,
with websites needing computer access to view entries. Judges
will need a place for their training session before their interviews
with students, then for discussing and ranking entries afterward.
Check availability and reserve facilities.
Start recruiting volunteers to judge a couple of months before
your event. At regional, state, and national competitions, three
judges are assigned to each panel. You might reduce this number
if necessary, but try to keep the panels to a minimum of two
judges. To recruit, send out a letter describing the program
and detailing volunteer responsibilities and time commitments.
Good candidates for judges are current or retired teachers,
administrators, local museum or historical society staff, library
media specialists, and journalists. Try contacting a nearby
university’s history or education department. You may
also consider asking your local Rotary or other similar organizations
Once judges have confirmed their attendance and you have assigned
them to a judging category, mail them a confirmation letter.
Judges also find it helpful to get the theme sheet for that
year, the History Day Judging Process handout, sample questions
to ask students, as well as their specific category judging
Block out the schedule.
Judges will need 15-20 minutes to judge each project and interview
the student(s). Make sure to schedule time for judges to participate
in a training session and to rank entries and write comments
after interviews. The more time judges have, the more thorough
they can make their comments.
Paper and web
site judges should get projects in advance.
Judges will have a difficult time reading papers or viewing
web sites if they first get them at the event. Judges in these
categories should receive the entries at least a few days in
Think about community resources.
Many teachers approach their parent-teacher organizations, local
grocery stores, or restaurants to donate refreshments or lunch
for volunteers. Your local newspaper might also be interested
in doing a feature story on your students’ work. Local
clubs or societies may also be interested in sponsoring special
awards, which can also be handed out at the event.
Planning and Logistics
Based upon our regional
and state “to-do” lists, we have created a checklist
of some things you might want to keep in mind as you prepare
for your school event.
Day of the Event
Holding a judge training session helps your event run smoothly,
gives your judges a chance to ask questions, and ensures a positive
experience for your students. You should allot at least 30 minutes
for a judge training and questions from judges. At this point,
you should also distribute your judge packets to each judge
or judge team. Each packet should contain enough evaluation
forms, a final ranking form, a schedule of entries for the day,
judging instructions, and sample question sheet.
It often works best to have another teacher or adult direct
project set up while your judge orientation is taking place.
- Exhibit students should set up projects in assigned locations.
- Performance students should arrange space to form a stage
area and get props ready.
- Documentary and website students should make sure technology
is working properly.
Judging and Interviews
The History Day Judging Process Handouts provide a good overview
of the logistics of project evaluation. In general, judges will
view projects and interview students first. Judges may only
have a few minutes to jot down notes about each entry while
they are viewing them. After they have seen all the work, they
will take time to discuss the entries in private. Judges will
then rank entries and write comment sheets.
It’s especially important to remind judges that they will
be interviewing students, not conducting oral feedback sessions.
Judges should be asking questions, not providing oral critiques
of the projects. All feedback should be saved for the written
and Comment Sheets
After judges are done viewing entries, they will need some place
private to discuss projects and rankings. The judges’
first priority will be to decide on rankings and turn their
ranking form in to you. Designate a person or a place, usually
in the judges’ room, for judges to turn in this form.
Judges will next work together to complete their comment sheets.
Especially at the school level, remind your judges that their
written comments are very valuable in helping students to improve
their projects for the next level of competition. Judges should
turn in their comment sheets before they leave.
Parents, other teachers, and community members will likely want
to the opportunity to see your students’ projects. This
is a great opportunity to show off the work of all your students!
Consider arranging for a public viewing time of the exhibits
while judging is not taking place. Papers and websites can also
be on display in the same area. You can also schedule encore
presentations of documentaries or performances.
The Awards Ceremony
Awards ceremonies at school events can take on a variety of
shapes and sizes, depending on the schedule and timeframe of
your event. Sometimes, especially for events that take place
during the day, awards ceremonies are at at the end of the day
either in a gym, auditorium, or even over the PA system. For
events that take place after school, students may need to leave
right after their interview. If they awards ceremony would take
place too late at night, sometimes awards are announced at school
the following day.
Do I need to hold a final round?
If you have more than one panel judging any one category (e.g.
there are two panels both judging junior individual exhibits)
you should hold a final round in order to determine who will
move on to the regional competition. At most large school events,
final rounds may only be necessary in the exhibit category.
At small school events, you may not have final rounds at all.
Who should judge the final round?
Ideally, final round judges are your most experienced judges.
However, any of your judges can judge the final round except
for judges who already have seen entries in that category and
group size. Keep in mind that final round judges will have more
comment sheets to write so it is best to ask them in advance
if they will have time.
How does a final round work?
The biggest difference between a preliminary round and a final
round is that there are no interviews in the final round. For
exhibits, papers, and websites, students do not need to be present
for final rounds. Judges should view the projects and then work
together to make their final decisions. For documentaries and
performances, final round students should be notified and present
their entry again, without interviews.
Should the final round judges write comment sheets?
Final round judges should also write comment sheets. At the
state level, final round judges only write one comment sheet
per entry and use a final round comment sheet, which doesn’t
have checkboxes. Since the students will also be getting feedback
from their first round judges, final round comment sheets do
not have to be exhaustive. Rather, they should offer an explanation
of why certain entries progressed and improvements that could
Distribute information to regional finalists about the event,
including registration forms. Discuss deadlines and required
materials. Let students know if they should submit the materials
to the regional coordinator themselves or return them to you
to turn in as a school.
Thank You Letters
Send thank you letters to judges, volunteers, sponsors, administrators,
and other people who helped make the event possible.
If a local papers or news organizations were not able to be
present at the event, contacting them with event results can
be another way to get attention for your school and your students.
The sample press release should give you a few ideas on what
you might want to include.
Plan for Next
Enthusiasm for the History Day program is high right after the
event. Plan a date for the following year’s competition
and consider including this in your judge thank you note. Be
sure to keep the email and mailing addresses of your judges
for the future!
- Contest Rulebook
- Event Planning
- History Day Judging
- Judge Training Script
- Sample Judge
- Sample Press Release
- Sample Judge
- Sample Project
Ranking Form (PDF,
- Sample Questions
for Judges (PDF,
- Sample Schedules
- Theme Narrative
Final Round Evaluation
Sheets (A simpler version of the evaluation sheet for use
in final rounds)