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Teacher Advisory Board
"New Teachers' Kit"


Introduction: Welcome to the Chicago Metro History Fair! Our Teacher Advisory Board has put together the following materials to help you get started. Participation in the History Fair is a rewarding and detailed activity. With careful planning and experience it becomes more rewarding and easier for participating teachers. For more advice you may contact a representative of the Teacher Advisory Committee or the History Fair staff at 312-255-3661.

"NEW!" Each One, Teach One: Teachers do you have a tip to share with other teachers about doing the History Fair? Send your suggestion to CMHEC and we will post it on our website.

We are pleased to provide a suggestion for you and your students, courtesy of Donna Brown, Clinton Elementary School. She gives every student a copy of the Summary Statement Form at the beginning of the History Fair process so that they can keep notes as they do their research. When the students write their final version of the Summary Statement Form, they will have all the information at their fingertips! Additionally, Ms. Brown created a template of the SSF for her classroom's Word Processing program.

Integrating the History Fair into the Curriculum: There are many variations on the ways that teachers integrate the History Fair activity into their teaching plans. This document lays out some of the planning decisions that will need to be made and their expected results.

The History Fair, Step by Step: Many new teachers want to know "What do I do First?" In this document we lay out the step by step process from introducing the idea to your students to bringing finished projects to an exposition. Use it as a guide, and of course the dates change slightly every year, are also only a guide.

The Summary Statement Form: As opposed to research papers, performances (live and media) and exhibits often involve a more implicit explanation of the thesis and outline. The Summary Statement Form allows students to explicitly state their purpose, process and conclusions. It is a necessary complement to the project, not an afterthought. It is most often the first thing the judges look at, as it orients them toward the student's efforts.

How to do a History Fair Project and Survive: This document deals with some of the nuts and bolts involved in making participation in the History Fair easy and rewarding. It is the product of many hours of experience!!

Integrating the History Fair into the Curriculum

The decision as to how to integrate the History Fair into classroom activity is an extremely important one. It can determine the ease or difficulty, success or failure of the project. In addition to carefully deciding how many students one can effectively work with, the teacher, sometimes in conjunction with the department, must decide whether participation will be:

  1. Voluntary in addition to the regular course work
  2. Or a course requirement.

I. Voluntary
A. Advantages

  1. Student willingly does research
  2. Minimal teacher involvement
  3. Small number of participating students

B. Disadvantages

  1. Varying amount of research done
  2. Minimal support outside of classroom
  3. Limited participation in competition

II. Required Project
A. Advantages

  1. Equal opportunity for student recognition
  2. Research skills integrated into curriculum
  3. Simplifies teacher's role
  4. Maximum participation/maximum winners
  5. A large number of high quality projects are produced
  6. Foundation for a school exposition/opportunity for community involvement
  7. Increases student enthusiasm
  8. Paper, exhibit and performance categories allow for student strengths to be put to use.

B. Disadvantages

  1. Difficult primary source investigation required
  2. Highly competitive
  3. Extensive teacher involvement
  4. Development of theme, notecards, bibliography, summary statement form, thesis statement, etc...
  5. Student workshops by CMHF staff
  6. Student entry form
  7. Project deadlines, first draft completed
  8. Organize school fair, judging
  9. Select those projects going to regional

The History Fair Step By Step

Gearing Up for the History Fair

  1. Preparation of students
  2. Field trips to build interest
  3. Placing effort in context of other classroom work
  4. Recruiting participation of administration, other teachers, etc...

Classroom Preparation

  1. Distribution and explanation of rules and guidelines
  2. Handout on topic selection
  3. Classroom presentation of CMHF video
  4. Timeline handout of assignments and deadlines for topic, notecards, theme, bibliography, finished project

Getting Started

  1. Assist with and approve topic choices
  2. Discussion of sources primary, secondary, institutions
  3. Discuss bibliography, theme, conclusions

Monitoring Student Progress

  1. Assist with topic changes
  2. Development of theme, notecards, bibliography, summary statement form, thesis statement, etc...
  3. Student workshops by CMHF staff
  4. Student entry form
  5. Project deadlines, first draft completed
  6. Organize school fair, judging
  7. Select those projects going to regional

After School Fair

  1. Recognition of winners at school
  2. Possible revisions of projects attending regionals
  3. Prepare students to attend regionals
  4. The regional fair
  5. Revise and update advancing projects for finals
  6. Revise and update projects for state and national competitions
  7. Prepare students to attend the state competition, finals/award ceremony and national competition
  8. Evaluate program and prepare for next year
  9. Teacher Recognition Banquet

How to do a History Fair Project and Survive

Some Organizational Suggestions:

1. Use time-lines to organize a chronology of your topic. Create time lines for your topic, the period of Chicago history your topic covers, and if appropriate, the period of U.S. and/or world history in which your topic falls. Time lines can be chronological, or by major periods, or by any other method you select.

2. Use documentary and graphic aids to make your project more interesting. Photographs, charts, tables, maps, documents and graphs always help your reader or viewer to understand your topic.

3. Be very careful about the use of sources. Paraphrasing, direct quotations and ideas obtained from other people should be footnoted. Otherwise, this is considered plagiarism. Your school's English department probably has issued a handbook on style, usage and how to give credit to sources used.

4. Research methods: Always start with a list of sources on your topic and a few sources on Chicago history. This list can be created by checking the card catalog at your school library, or better yet, a public library near you. Frank Jewell's bibliography on Chicago history is one of the best sources that can be used in generating sources. This list should be used to get a general idea of both Chicago history and your topic. This is important even if your topic is based mainly on interviews, documents, or other primary sources.

5. Take notes at every stage of research. Make sure that your notes start out with the source from which you are taking information.

6. Do a preliminary outline and then a detailed outline near the final stage of collecting information. Your outline will go through many modifications, but the final one should reflect the information contained in your presentation.

7. Make sure that your thesis is clear and concise. Make sure that your presentation really accomplishes what you have set out to accomplish in your thesis statement.

Some Tips on Analyzing Your Topic

The "analysis" stage is the most difficult one. This is the backbone of your paper, exhibit or performance. Analysis means that you are "explaining" your topic. There is a difference between explaining and chronicling. You should have chronicled your topic at the organizing stage. A chronicle simply lists major events and their sequence. Explaining events means that you interpret events in a reasonable or logical way. This is YOU explaining to others who are probably completely ignorant of your topic. Assume this even if it may not always be the case.

Use some of the techniques listed below. These techniques appear in many of the excellent English texbooks being used in high schools. Among them are: COMPARISON-CONTRAST, DESCRIPTION, ARGUMENTATION, CAUSE-EFFECT.

1. Comparison-Contrast is a method that is underused in History Fair projects. Consider comparing events, people, issues.

2. Description is necessary when you think that it makes your topic easier to understand.

For example, if your topic deals with early transportation in Chicago, you may want to describe what you may want describe what it was like to walk through or ride through unpaved streets. But, your entire presentation should not be devoted to simply describing situations or events.

3. Argumentation is necessary when you need to make judgments about events or situations that are not agreed on by experts. You then have to present convincing evidence to support your view or interpretation. This is especially important for topics on politics, social movements, or controversial issues.

4. Cause-Effect shows the relationship between two things. One event can cause another, one individual can have an effect on events, people, etc... We think in cause-effect terms all the time.

Some Precautionary Warnings About Exhibits

1. Most topics can be presented using the exhibit format. BUT, suppose you do not find enough visual materials to display on your exhibit boards. This can happen very easily.

If you do not have visual information (photographs, documents, maps, artifacts, graphs/charts/tables, etc...) then you do not have an exhibit. An exhibit summarizes information in a visual (not a written) form. An exhibit presents visual rather than textual information. If your exhibit contains nothing but text, then it is not an exhibit.

2. Give your exhibit the stress test. If it stands after you bump the table, then it is freestanding. Avoid embarrassment by making sure that your exhibit is lightweight, portable and freestanding. This will save you lots of stress!

3. Attractive exhibits are great, but the content must be there also. The same rule applies to research papers and performances.