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An inquiry approach to learning history puts asking questions, doing research, and using primary sources at the forefront of students' educational experience. One way to support students is introducing History Fair with history-based activities that encourage questioning, brainstorming, reflective thinking, and team work.
Teacher also may want to explore HISTORY HELPERS for rubrics and other tools to help students develop their topics andresearch plans and analyze primary sources.
Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources One of the primary goals of the History Fair is to break students away from "research" based strictly on encyclopedias and other secondary sources. It is intended to help them redefine "sources of information" more broadly and to encourage them to experience the excitement of the search for a wider variety of sources. This exercise tries to broaden that definition.
Introducing History Fair by using GRAFFITI
Maryhelen Matijevic, a veteran History Fair teacher, shares her method for introducing History Fair to her high school students.
The objectives of GRAFFITI as described by Silver, Hanson, and Strong (1995) are to encourage critical and creative thinking and team-building. The exercise also addresses students' varied learning styles/intelligences. We have adapted GRAFFITI to serve as an introductory exercise for our high school students.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS/STEMS FOR HISTORY FAIR GRAFFITI
(In the activity, each question should appear on a separate sheet of paper.)
1. Give an example of a secondary source.
2. Give an example of a primary source.
3. What is research?
4. Give an example of a topic you might research that relates "responsibilities" part of the National History Day theme.
5. List a topic you might research on local history.
6. List a topic you might research on family history.
7. List a topic you might research on community history.
8. List a source of information that you might consult to do your research.
9. How do you determine that your research has been well done?
10. Name one way you could gather data from a source of information.
11. How could a personal interview be as valuable a source of information as a document or a textbook?
12. Why do a History Fair project? / What can we learn from a History Fair project?
13. Why is a photograph an important historical document?
14. Why is a bibliography an important part of research?
15. Why do people think history is boring?
16. What clues could you use to identify that your parents were born and grew up in a different era?
17. What three words come to mind when you think about research?
18. Have you ever kept a diary or journal? How can this be an historical document?
19. What is your favorite family story? Give a one-sentence summary of this story. How did you learn about it?
20. Name a hero/famous person in your family's history.
21. Describe your favorite project that you created. Why were you successful? What did you like about it?
22. Give an example of a topic you might relate to the "rights" part of the National History Day theme ("Rights & Responsibilities in Chicago History").
23. Give a word that describes how you felt about taking history this year.
24. What is your favorite place in your neighborhood or community? Why?
25. From what country did your family originate? Why did they come to this country? Is this story like other families' stories?
26. Name one way you could tell a story besides writing it down.
27. Draw a picture or symbol that represents your idea of an historian.
28. How is research like a can-opener?
29. How is doing a History Fair project like a ferris wheel?
30. How is a student doing a History Fair project like the famous detective Sherlock Holmes?
31. In what ways can a building tell a story?
32. How are newspapers and encyclopedias alike? How are they different?
33. What jobs involve doing research?
34. Name a famous researcher.
35. How many sources of information would be used for a History Fair project that earned an "A", or superior rating?
36. What makes one source of information better than another?
Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources
The following exercise is designed to help students distinguish between primary and secondary sources. A primary source involves actual material remains connected to the historical event. Documents, eyewitness accounts, written reports, photographs, drawings, video and audio tapes all may generally be considered primary sources. Secondary sources are materials which are not directly connected to the actual event.
Textbooks, movies, experts, history teachers would all generally be secondary sources.
Some items may be either secondary or primary materials, depending on how they are used. For an example, a text which is generally considered a secondary source becomes a primary source if it is being viewed as a document reflecting the values of the time period in which it was written. Using a 1945 U.S. History text as source of information on how American students of the 40's were taught about WWI would be an example.
Suggestions for Using the Worksheet
All of the items on the list could be either a primary or secondary source depending on how and for what purpose it is used. Some are most often, however, one or the other. The exercise is valuable in getting students to see the variety of sources for information that are available and the different ways in which various sources can be useful.
* Having students break into small groups and place the items in categories.
* Discuss in large groups.
* Have students complete assignments as homework and discuss as a class.
* Have students break into groups and see if they can create a primary and secondary example of each of the listed items. Discuss in large groups.