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CMHD Resource Archive

Older versions of CMHF resources can be found here. Please note that these are no longer maintained and may contain outdated information about contest theme or rules.

For current materials, visit our Teaching History Day page.

Pacing Guide for Teachers, Model Benchmarks

How does a teacher integrate History Fair into the classroom? This History Day Pacing Guide, developed by two veteran high school History Fair teachers, presents from a teacher’s vantage point.


Students Become Historians – A Step-by-Step Overview of the History Fair Inquiry Approach

Students can do high-level historical inquiry with your support. Our “Students Become Historians” PowerPoint gives a detailed explanation of what is involved in participating in History Fair and provides helpful advice for each of the five major steps.

• Step One: Asking Questions and Finding a Topic
• Step Two: The Research Journey
• Step Three: Analyzing sources
• Step Four: Developing an Argument
• Step Five: Telling a Story

Feel free to edit and present this information according to your classroom needs.

Hooking the Student, Pre-assessment, and Field Trips

Student buy-in is an important part of the inquiry process. Use this Graffiti Activity to grab student attention and engage them in the process.

This pre-assessment, created in consultation with History Fair teachers, allows you to assess students’ historical thinking skills before the program gets underway.

field trip to the Chicago History Museum can spark students’ curiosity and allow them to see history displayed in a tangible way. Take inspiration from the following field trip guides:

Topic Selection

Guiding students through topic selection is a foundational job for the History Fair teacher. Topics come from a student’s curiosity, interest, or passion—they cannot be imposed.  There are many tactics teachers can use to help students find topics they are passionate about.

  • Our “History Day and You” handout can help students find a topic that matches their interests.
  • Direct them to the History Day Topics list on the current theme to look for ideas.
  • Use our “History Day Interest Survey” Google Form to help students learn which areas of history interest them (you will need to be signed into a Google account and “Make a Copy” of the survey for yourself before administering it to students).
  • Suggest they identify current issues and help them work backwards to find a similar topic from the past.
  • Encourage students to talk to their elders, or flip through history books and popular history magazines, newsmagazines, or documentaries.
  • Visit or museum or scan online digital collections. Scrolling through the Encyclopedia of Chicago can also spark interest.

Worksheets will help students to define and assess their topic to make sure it is doable.

Developing Questions

Developing historical curiosity through questioning gives students tools to handle any inquiry project they may face. Review this guide to developing questions and implementing questioning activities for History Fair… and beyond.

Notetaking and Citations

Give students a preferred notetaking system to avoid plagiarism and encourage them to maintain their annotated bibliography as they conduct their research.

We highly recommend that schools take advantage of the free one-year trial version of NOODLE TOOLS, available through NHD. See significant improvement in student note-taking, citation and bibliography-making, tasking–and, for the teacher, feedback and management of student work.

These two notetaking guides can also be helpful:

Research and Sources

Visit the research pathway for great tips on how to find and the purpose of sources. The Research Journey PowerPoint reviews the research process for use in your classroom.

Use this activity to discuss the differences between primary and secondary sources.

The SEARCH graphic organizer can guide students’ research and help formulate ideas. (Note that this resource was specifically designed for the 2020 “Breaking Barriers in History” season)


When students analyze their sources, they build critical thinking skills and produce stronger projects. Encourage students to use primary sources as evidence—not illustration. Use the models below, or your favorite analysis worksheet, or the worksheets offered by the National Archives or Library of Congress.

After collecting and analyzing their sources, students will connect them to form claims for their argument.

The Connect-It graphic organizer encourages students to make connections among the sources for each segment of their project.

An additional way to prompt students to synthesize their research  is to have them do a “free-write” about everything they have found out.  A Free-write can then lead to more organized ways of developing an argument and is an effective formative assessment too.

The “DocsTeach” website by the National Archives also has great interactive tools to help students process and weigh evidence.


The thesis statement is a one or two sentence stance on a historical issue. It may explain why or how something happened, express an interpretation related to the NHD theme, and/or suggest the larger significance of historical events or actions. The thesis is the answer to their historical question. Students often struggle to define and refine their thesis statements.

Use the How to Write a Thesis and History Fair Thesis: What’s it all About activities, and the Thesis PowerPoint, to direct students through this challenging process. The Thesis Development Worksheet provides a format for using the theme.

Teachers may find the Thesis Rubric a useful tool for evaluating students’ theses. Further reading about thesis statements can be found in this online writing guide by Patrick Rael of Bowdoin College.

Claims and Evidence

This Organize Your Argument worksheet helps organize the students’ work into arguments and sections they can use to build their final projects. Another option is this Argumentation Plan.

Project Category Guides

History Fair students present their research findings in one of five formats, known as “categories:” exhibits, documentaries, performances, websites, or historical papers. Each History Fair category has its own strengths and weaknesses and might be right for different students in your classes.

Visit the NHD Project Categories page to learn about the specific rules, learn tips from experts, and see previous NHD winners in each project category.


Use the You Be the Judge classroom activity to provide students with an authentic experience in evaluation and to prompt them to think critically about their own projects. We suggest you introduce this activity mid-way in the students’ own projects.

No matter the category, History Fair projects are judged based on their historical quality (knowledge and analysis), relation to the national theme, and clarity of presentation.

See the NHD evaluation forms for each category here: (please note that as of the 2021 season, these evaluations are no longer used at any level of History Fair/History Day competition)

Stay tuned for exciting rule changes for the 2022 season!

All students must have a summary statement form (PDF fileWord document, or Google Doc) and annotated bibliography.


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