Initiating National History Day in Your Classroom
National History Day (NHD) provides a wonderful framework for
students to conduct and present historical research. This
lesson plan will help you assist students in finding a project
topic that excites them and is related to the annual NHD theme.
- Students will identify appropriate and feasible topics
Students will find a topic of personal interest that connects to the annual NHD theme.
- Begin by writing the the annual theme on a blackboard or
overhead. You can find out this year's theme at the National
History Day in Wisconsin web site. Encourage students
to share ideas or events that correspond to the theme.
This may include revisiting topics or lessons covered earlier
in the year. List these ideas under the appropriate
word in the theme.
- After students have brainstormed associations with these
words, share your own associations with this theme.
This may be a personal experience or something more generic.
Photographs, yearbooks, or even older newspaper stories may
serve as a vehicle to talk about topics connected to the annual
theme that you have experienced, such as the 1960s or the
Civil Rights movement or the revolution in women's professional
- Share and discuss topic ideas that historians and educators
and the Wisconsin Historical Society have discovered.
These can be found at the "Teacher's
Resources" section of the National History Day in
Wisconsin web site and at the National
History Day web site.
- Ask each student to conduct an initial appraisal of resources
available for one of the topics or ideas mentioned during
the previous class discussion. Students should investigate
the school and public library, and various web sites including
the Wisconsin Historical
Society Archives online catalog (ARCAT).
After each student has completed this initial assessment, review their results, and lead a class discussion on the gaps identified. Asking the question, "What is 'too many' and 'too few resources'?" may lead into a discussion on narrowing a research topic or having enough evidence to adequately support a thesis. Encourage students to share their frustrations or joys with the "searching" process. Have them brainstorm different strategies and share alternative places to conduct research.
The National History Day curriculum booklet provides strategies
and resources that can be used to initiate or enhance existing
lessons and units in history and social studies related to the
annual theme. The materials can be adapted or modified
to suit your needs as a teacher. The lessons and articles
are designed to encourage students to think critically and to
conduct research, interpret primary sources, and explore the
larger historical significance of topics that interest them.
The curriculum booklet can be found in .pdf format on the National
History Day Web site, or to request a hard copy of the booklet
please contact us
and leave your name, mailing address, and classes you teach.