My student won at the county level and is advancing to the state contest – what do I do now?
The Maryland History Day staff is often asked this question. Review our five tips below about how to help your student improve his or her project before the state competition.
As a teacher or mentor for History Day, your involvement with your student doesn’t have to stop. Your student needs your guidance and assistance to improve their project at each stage in the competition.
Take advantage of electronic review. Let your students know that they can take advantage of the electronic review process offered by John Willard, Maryland History Day’s Outreach Coordinator, by sending an electronic copy of the project to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the process paper and bibliography. John and his team of UMBC students will review projects as quickly as possible and give extensive critical comments on a first-come, first-served basis. We cannot guarantee, however, that every submission will be reviewed.
Comments are there for a reason. You and your student should go over the judges’ comments from the district contest to find helpful feedback. Focus on those things that need improvement, but also expand on what worked well. You and your student should review the rule book carefully to make sure that the project complies with all the rules – word limit, time limit, and required materials such as annotated bibliography, process paper.
Resources reflect research. Help your student find more and better resources by going to institutions such as historical societies, archives, museums; talking with experts; contacting people who lived the history; or by finding more print resources. Take some of the good secondary resources and convert them to primary sources by hunting down original citations. Connect your student with a librarian who can help with conducting an academic database search that can reinforce and build a greater understanding of the student’s topic.
Questions make the answer. Make sure that your student’s project has sufficient narrative qualities (Who? What? Where? When?), but more importantly, make sure your student analyzes and interprets the history (How? Why? Significance? Impact? Relevance to today?). The student’s final product should include this analysis, and they should be able to demonstrate it when being interviewed by the judges. TIP: If your student is nervous about talking to the judges, have them hold a mock interview with another teacher in the school.
Be Prepared! Make sure your student is prepared on the day of the contest: bring extra copies of the process paper and bibliography; bring a laptop, if available, for the documentary and website categories; have extra copies of the DVD on hand for the documentary category; pack extension cords (for exhibits if they require power), etc.
Judges will use the following criteria in evaluating projects:
- Historical quality (60%). Project includes a good annotated bibliography, showing wide research; evidence of analysis and interpretation rather than just descriptive narrative; balanced presentation, showing both sides of an issue; understanding of historical context; historical accuracy.
- Relation to theme (20%). Project shows evidence of topic’s significance in history and clear relation to the “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History” theme (can be one or all three parts of the theme).
- Clarity of presentation (20%). Project is clear, grammatically correct, accurately spelled; well organized; original and creative.
Best wishes for a successful competition! If you are a teacher, student, or parent that would like to share your tips and suggestions for History Day, please share them here! We’d love to hear your comments.