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Teacher Workshops Available for all Experience Levels

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Teacher workshop season officially begins next week. Whether you are a new or veteran History Day teacher, we have workshops that will guide you along the path to History Day success.

The Theme Workshop: Debate and Diplomacy in History. Tues., Sept. 28 and Tues., Nov. 16. Explore this year’s theme, get ideas for presenting Debate and Diplomacy to students, and walk away with many topic ideas.

Ultimate Introductory Teacher Workshop. Tues., Nov. 9 and Wed., Dec. 1. Get everything you need to know to get your History Day program up and running. History Day staff will present teaching strategies, and History Day students will present their projects.

Advanced Classroom Management Workshop. Thurs., Dec. 2. For our more veteran teachers, this is an opportunity to learn from your peers and get new ideas for improving or expanding your program. Recommended for teachers who have participating for a few years.

Hands-on History Day Technology: Documentaries and Websites. Thurs., Dec. 9. The technology categories, documentaries and websites, can be complicated to teach and can present students with presentation challenges. This hands-on workshop will allow teachers to play the student and learn how to teach the best ways to use the technology categories.

If you have questions about workshops, call 651-259-3440 or e-mail Mary Ecker.

Welcome to the 2010-2011 school year!

Monday, August 30th, 2010

As summer ends and school begins, the History Day season is officially on! 2010 was a great year for Minnesota History Day, culminating with a fantastic showing by the Minnesota delegation at the national competition in June. In all, Minnesota captured seven medals, including a first-place win in the senior group performance category. For complete national results, visit our website.

The History Day program is off and running as soon as September begins. Here are a few items to get you started in the 2010-2011 season:

  • The 2011 theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.” More information on the theme is available online. Two theme workshops are available for teachers: Tues., Sept. 28 and Tues., Nov. 16. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the theme with staff and receive many topic ideas! Call 651-259-3440 to register. Keep checking our website for more History Day workshops throughout the fall.
  • Minnesota History Day is now on Facebook! Keep up-to-date on all things History Day and join in our conversations on our Facebook page.
  • All teachers who participated in 2010 will be automatically enrolled for 2011. If you are a new teacher, please enroll online to make sure you receive all of our mailings throughout the year.
  • Update your 2011 calendars now! State History Day is Sunday, May 1, 2011.

Stay tuned to the blog for further updates, topic ideas, research suggestions and more, throughout the 2011 season!

Thesis Statements

Monday, January 11th, 2010

So, you’ve narrowed your topic, done some preliminary research, and decided to present via exhibit board. What’s next? One of the most important aspects of your History Day project is the thesis statement. Why? Because the thesis statement holds the entire project together. If judges were to only read your thesis statement, would it make the central argument of your project? What exactly is a thesis statement? Thesis = Topic + Theme + Impact. The thesis statement is not for introducing your project, but creating an argument that expresses your topic’s significance and demonstrates how the theme, “Innovation in History: Impact and Change” plays the central part of your project.

When is the best time to write your thesis statement? Thesis statements are always a work- in-progress among students. You may think you have your thesis statement together but then gather information that turns your project in a different direction. You may have many different thesis statements and that is okay, however, by the time you present your project, you should have your thesis concrete and supported with evidence. Let’s take a look at a “Don’t” and “Do” example:

Don’t: Television helped John F. Kennedy win the 1960 election.

The problem with this thesis is that it is lacking specific information and there is no concrete evidence to support the claim.

Do: Television was a new communication tool widely available during the 1960 presidential campaign. Senator John F. Kennedy’s innovative use of this mass medium, particularly in the televised presidential debates, helped secure him the presidency over Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy’s victory marked a new era of political campaigning and change the way Americans understand and receive their political candidates.

Also make sure to work the theme words into your thesis statement, judges love that… :)

Tips for Narrowing Topics

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Think you’re settled on your History Day topic?  Before getting too far into your research, you should be sure that your topic isn’t too broad or general, making your research seem like a mountain you can’t climb.  Think of narrowing your topic down by using a funnel.  When you begin, at the top, wide part of the funnel, you have a topic that could go in too many different directions or has too much information to sift through.

To avoid a topic that is too general, we will use the funnel to narrow the idea to a more manageable topic.  Let’s use the invention of the automobile as an example.  Too broad right?  Here are a few steps to get you to that focused topic.

- After you choose a preliminary invention, innovative idea, or method, narrow down to a specific time period, person involved or place.  In our example, we could take a look at Henry Ford and his impact on the automobile industry but this is still too broad of a topic.  Let’s keep narrowing.

Tip: Here is where you can choose one of the “W Questions” (who, what, where, when, why) to focus on. 

- From there, narrow further to an event in the time period, specific aspect of the innovation, or particular idea or method.  Relating this step to our topic, we could research Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line.  See how we’re narrowing the topic down?

- Finally, draw conclusions; demonstrate how the innovation may have made an impact or change in history.  Our final topic could be drawing conclusions about how the assemble line changed industries and its long term impact.

The funnel, it works!

Remember, projects using our example would not be about the history of the assembly line, but rather, drawing conclusions and demonstrating how the innovation changed industries.

Good luck and happy researching!

Helping Students with Topic Selection

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Our theme workshop on October 19 turned into a great discussion about the 2010 theme, “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” This is a theme with a lot of nuance, and the attending teachers and staff contributed some really interesting insights about the little quirks of “Innovation.” Here’s a list of some of key points to emerge from our workshop.

  • Students must consider an innovation’s time and place. If students wanted to study the innovation of peaceful protest, they would have to research back thousands of years to find the inception of that concept. Instead, they could study how a peaceful protester, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., used peaceful protest methods that were innovative for their particular time and place.
  • Invention and innovation are not interchangeable words. Many inventions go through several modifications before they achieve success, but the end result is not necessarily an innovation. Edison’s lightbulb was not an innovation; many others had created some form of that invention. Edison’s innovation, instead, was the system he helped create that made use of the lightbulb easier.
  • Not all innovations have a significant impact. Students must consider if an innovation significantly changed the way people lived or was a significant change to society. Women’s bloomers changed the way that women were able to function in society, but fashion innovations such as the mini-skirt or bellbottoms did not affect the same sort of significant change.
  • Non-invention innovations can often allow for greater depth of research. Instead of researching the invention of the camera, students could research the innovative ways that cameras were used in wartime. Governmental innovations, such as the Three-Fifths Compromise or the Homestead Act, are great examples, too.
  • Innovations do not have to have a “positive” impact. The Third Reich’s use of the Lebensborn program, which provided resources to women and families who had “Aryan” children, was very innovative, but had certain eugenics qualities about it.

When helping students choose topics, guide them through their interests and help them ask questions about time, place and significance. Students may settle on an invention, because they believe that is the only course, but you can help them choose more creative topics by exploring the world outside of the creation of a new piece of technology.

Bits and pieces as we launch History Day 2010

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

2009 was a great year for Minnesota History Day –  we had a number of new schools participating, the overall quality of the projects was improved, and seven groups of our students earned medals at nationals in June — and the staff has high hopes for 2010 as well.

Here are some bits and pieces as we start up another History Day season…

  • If you enrolled as a History Day educator last year, you will be receiving your introductory packet in the mail shortly. If you have not yet enrolled, please visit our website and click on the “Enrollment” tab to ensure that you receive our free mailings throughout the year. Please pay particular attention to the website category details in your packet; the rules have changed for 2010!
  • The theme for 2010 is “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” It will be a tricky theme, as students mull over the meaning of innovation and determine how their topic affected significant change. We will be discussing the theme at length and compiling topic ideas at our first-ever theme-specific workshop on Monday, October 19. You can register online and be part of the discussion!
  • History Day staff are shifting duties as we begin another school year. Check the website and be on the lookout for updates about your regional History Day representatives!

As always, feel free to contact us with questions at or (651) 259-3426.