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Transforming Your Classroom with National History Day

Want your students to love history? National History Day in Oklahoma helps connect students to the past by examining primary and secondary sources to develop their own interpretations. Once the research is complete, students can use their skills to create a project in a variety of formats for competition at the district, state, and national level. Along the way students will refine the skills necessary for success in school and in life.

How does National History Day fit into your curriculum?

In today's educational climate, with so much pressure from outside the classroom, many teachers are weary of fitting anything else into their curriculum. National History Day is a program that can be integrated into any social studies or history classroom, helping teachers expand and enrich their existing curriculum. NHD is an outstanding example of outcome-based or performance-based learning. Educators who teach research skills, engage students in higher-order thinking skills, and ask students to submit a project for assessment find NHD to be the perfect tool. NHD uses an annual theme to guide student research. This also gives a focus for teaching research and historical content in the classroom. Many teachers incorporate the theme into their everyday teaching, asking students to look for relationship to the theme in each classroom lesson.

National History Day motivates students to discover history by:

  • Cultivating interest: Students research a topic related to the theme. Students use their own creativity to present the material. Each year the theme is broad enough to allow any history course to participate.
  • Developing research skills: Students act as historians discovering how to uncover primary sources, build historical context, and form historical interpretations. Students develop the skills they need for college!
  • Becoming experts on their research topic: Presenting their research for teachers, students, and historians. Helps students develop 21st century skills and meets Common Core and Oklahoma Assessment Standards for the Social Studies.
  • Achieving success
    • The shy student gains confidence when speaking about a topic he/she has researched.
    • The apathetic student gains passion by choosing a topic of personal interest.
    • The high-achieving student increases his/her ability to articulate their learning through presentation.

All students are winners in the National History Day program!

NHD and Common Core

National History Day is an excellent way to meet Common Core Standards. Students working on NHD projects use primary and secondary source material to prepare and present their own conclusions to others.  Below you will find a correlation between Common Core and NHD.
Common Core Correlations (PDF)

History Day Works: National Program Evaluation

The first national evaluation of National History Day (NHD) finds that students who participate in the program perform better on high-stakes tests, are better writers, more confident and capable researchers, and have a more mature perspective on current events and civic engagement than their peers. Participants also show a greater ability to collaborate with peers, manage their time and persevere - all skills employers say are lacking in today's workforce.
"This research confirms what those of us who work with National History Day students have seen anecdotally for years. This program not only helps students improve academically, it can also change their lives. Students who are 'slipping through the cracks' of our education system find their way back and get on track to succeed in school while participating in NHD." - Cathy Gorn, NHD Executive Director
Some of the important findings include:

  • NHD students outperform their non-NHD peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies, but in reading, science and math as well.
  • NHD students are better writers, who write with a purpose and real voice, and marshal solid evidence to support their point of view.
  • NHD students are critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information.
  • NHD students learn 21st century skills. They learn how to collaborate with team members, talk to experts, manage their time and persevere.
  • NHD has a positive impact among students whose interests in academic subjects may wane in high school.

Read the Key Findings - PDF


Students who participate in National History Day have multiple choices for presenting their research in creative form. Students can compete as individuals or in groups. In addition, students are broken into the junior division (grades 6, 7, 8) and senior division (grades 9, 10, 11, 12) to help keep the contest competitive. Below are descriptions of each category.
You may enter one of nine categories:

  • paper (individual only)
  • individual exhibit
  • group exhibit
  • individual performance
  • group performance
  • individual documentary
  • group documentary
  • individual website
  • group website

Each category in each division is judged separately. Group entries may include 2 to 5 students. Group participants do not have to be in the same grade to compete together, but they must be in the same division. Group entries may compete at the state and national level without all group participants; however, all participants must register even if they will not attend the contest.


In order to ensure students across the country participate in a fair contest that judges students equally, National History Day set the rules and guidelines for all participating entries. All judges are familiar with the rules.

Read the rules...

Before you begin work on an entry for competition, you, your student, and their parents should carefully read the National History Day Contest Rule Book. Contact your district or state coordinator to learn if any rules have been revised since the publication of this rule book, and for more information on topics, sources, and deadlines.

More Information

If you would like more information or would like to speak to Oklahoma teachers currently using NHD in the classroom please contact the state coordinator Jason Harris at jharris@okhistory.org or at 405-522-0785.

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