This year, we have a great theme to work with, Taking a Stand in History! Students can research a wide range of topics, subject matter, people, and organizations, to create their entry. The topic choices are endless, spanning centuries of national and world history. To set students on the path to a successful NHD experience, there are a few steps teachers can take to assist them:
1. Selection of topic.
a. It is very important to assist students in choosing a topic that will hold their interest. They will be spending the next six months or more totally engrossed in the subject matter. If they are not interested, they will not achieve success. To assist with topic selections, have students make a list of all of the things they participate in, and their individual interests. Have them explore some possible topic ideas from their list. They should do some preliminary research to see what primary sources are available, secondary sources, and possible interviews.
b. I strongly encourage my students to explore family topics. Interview relatives to possibly uncover an interesting piece of family history. Make sure there is enough material out there to develop a well rounded project on whatever topic they settle on. This is the time of year to explore all possible options!Students should not settle on the first topic they come across, until they have researched other possibilities.
c. Encourage your students to attend the Kick Off event!
2. Keep them organized from the beginning!
a. Set your students up with NoodleTools!
Noodletools has an exclusive partnership with National History Day. All students who are creating an NHD project can use this program for free! As an enrolled teacher, all you have to do is sign your school up and create an account. Click on the link to register your school: http://www.noodletools.com/subscribenhd/
NoodleTools can help students track their sources, take notes, organize ideas, and create their annotated bibliographies! It is even up to date with the latest version of MLA -8! This program I have found to be extremely helpful for not only my students, but for myself as well. I can see the progress that is being made by individuals and groups at any time. Plus, I can offer direct electronic feedback! There are tutorials available right on the website to guide students through the program.
3. Consider Field Trips to research libraries in your area.
One of the best things I have done with my students, is take them on annual field trips! Field trips accomplish several goals throughout the NHD process:
a. Students are introduced to resources they cannot find in their school, or local libraries.
b. Students are given access to transportation they may not otherwise have available to them outside of school.
c. Field trips expand knowledge and create excitement, while teaching valuable research skills! Students feel like real historians!
d. It is a day for students to focus completely on their NHD research without the distraction of regular activities. Groups bond, and projects start to come together.
e. New research questions are asked, and the projects start to take on a life of their own.
f. Most of all, students become engaged in their work! As a teacher, you start to see confidence levels increase among your students.
To some, tackling a National History Day project seems like a daunting task, but if you break it down into steps and make it fun, it will become one of the most rewarding projects you will ever take on! National History Day opens doors to future successes, not only for students, but for teachers too! Check out the special programs offered just for educators at: https://nhd.org/teachers . I strongly encourage you to apply for the Normandy Institute! Applications are now being accepted for the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute: Sacrifice for Freedom 2017. I promise it will be a life changing experience for you!