Attention All History Day Teachers–We’re Talking to You!
Having students compete in History Day continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a social studies teacher. This competition is an outstanding opportunity for students to conduct original research, present and defend their research in a format that best meets their individual talents, and compete in an academic setting with students from around the state of Maryland.
Here are some suggestions I have for getting started with Maryland History Day:
- Start early
- Familiarize yourself with the competition using the National History Day website www.nhd.org/. Watch the video clip that explains the competition through testimonials from parents and students (open the “about” page and click on introductory video about half way down the page). I can honestly say that the level of enthusiasm that you hear from these top performing kids is the same that you will witness among students at every level of the competition.
- Read about Maryland History Day on the Maryland Humanities Council website www.mdhc.org/programs/maryland-history-day/. Under “Resources” there is a description of the theme, suggested topics, research links and resources, and a sample process paper and bibliography. Under “Media” you can find a History Channel introduction to History Day, interviews with students at the 2008 and 2009 Maryland History Day state contests, and sample documentary projects.
- Be sure to include an introduction to the competition during your Back to School Night presentation to parents. Getting them on board early will pay off for you throughout the year.
- Start small
- Start with a small number of students, and build your program over the years to include as many students as you find possible for your schedule. I have run History Day as an after school club, pitched the idea to a few students and worked with them once a week, or assigned a research project similar to that of the competition to each of my classes and then allowed students to decide if they wanted to move forward to prepare for the competition. I have also integrated the project into the curriculum, directly using it as the required research project for the Oral History project in the 8th grade GT curriculum. However you choose to work with your students, I would strongly recommend that you make the competition voluntary and fun.
- Most importantly, get the students excited about their research. Be sure that they love their topic, they are having rewarding research experiences, and that their narrowed topic reflects the annual theme for the competition.
- Be Prepared
- Make sure that your students have access to the equipment and materials that they need before they choose their presentation format. Help them gain access to resources, and then sit back and learn from your students as they create presentations that are genuinely their own.
- Be Responsible and Accountable
- Keep important people informed about what you are doing, since you are going to need their support. These people include your department chair, your principal, students and their parents, and don’t forget your family and friends.
- In mid-February it is a great idea to have an open house in which parents and community members can come and see the projects before the students take them to competition. This way students can practice presenting their research and get valuable feedback from someone other than you. Don’t forget to invite your department chair and principal to this event as well.
Your first year competing will require a great deal of trust in a competition that you may not have yet witnessed yourself. As both a teacher and judge for the competition for close to ten years now, I have never seen a student who was not eager to be at the competition. The pride of knowing that they have created their own original research around the topic of their choice, and presented it in a way that best enhances their natural talents makes these kids (and their parents and teacher) beam on the day of competition.
By Leah Renzi, Social Studies Teacher, Parkville Middle School, and Veteran History Day Teacher and Judge
Tags: History Day