Consistently, topic ideas are one of the most-requested resources. It only makes sense, because each year, teachers are presented with a broad theme and have anywhere between 30 to 150 students to guide along in their topic selection. For some students, choosing a topic is a no-brainer. For others, it can be among the most difficult pieces of the History Day process.
To make student searches and teacher guidance a bit easier, here are some tips and links to smooth the path of topic selection.
When students are choosing topics, gauge their interest. Some students will choose topics solely because they fit the theme, and not because the topic interests them. On the other side of that, some students will choose topics of interest that have no connection to the theme whatsoever. Try to find a happy medium.
Also, ask questions about resources. Students interested in ancient history topics can get frustrated at the lack of available primary sources, and students wanting to do documentaries can feel the same frustration if they choose a topic with few available images. Steer them toward thinking about where they might get resources, the kinds of sources they might use, and some avenues they might not have considered, such as university professors.
And finally, have them do a preliminary explanation of how their topic relates to the theme. If they explain that their topic is, in fact, called the American REVOLUTION, and therefore relates, have them go a little more in-depth so you can see that they know what a revolution entails.
Some links to get students thinking about a variety of topics:
- This Day in History, HISTORY. Each day includes a list of several topics, broken down further by subjects such as wars, arts, disasters and sports. For fun, have students check their birthdays to see if they can find anything that relates to Revolution, Reaction, Reform.
- American Experience, PBS. These PBS documentaries showcase various aspects of American life, and many of them focus on people, places and events in American history. Students can watch the documentaries, and search them by subject or time period.
- Minnesota History Topics, Minnesota Historical Society. This list of topics, provided by the library at the Minnesota Historical Society, is broken down by subject and offers suggestions for primary and secondary sources in the MHS collections.