Master Plan Doc for History Fair

With a large portion of our research, organization, and argument planning done, we need to turn this into a project. All of those will continue as projects develop (as you see in the examples, we’re not there yet), and I have some instruction to do with analysis and synthesis. Regardless, we’re ready for our Master Plan doc, which will

  • synthesize all research, organization, analysis, and arguments into one plan
  • receive feedback and ask questions
  • review peer comments
  • organize titles, visuals, and text into a comprehensive doc
  • have access to annotated bibliography for quick access and updating
  • house thesis which students will continually revise as they research

The Master Plan doc is divided into three parts. One is simple organization with thesis, title, and annotated bib.


Second is the outline. This is key. It should also mimic the Mind Maps students completed earlier (these are two different projects, but you can see how students initially organized their work above, and how they structure an argument in this document below).


Last is the most important piece. Labels. The outline sections above directly correlate to the finished project. For example, Background A becomes Label 1. Background B becomes Label 2. As each label is a portion of their project, students are taking their arguments and extending them through this plan. Then, the plan becomes the project. Labels become components of websites, scenes of a documentary, or sections of a board. See Emma and Abby’s example from last year. the above photo has the Master Plan version of the text, with the bottom picture showing the finished product.


Follow along? Getting sooooo close to putting all this work into a product. Not quite there yet – but now the vision starts to come together!


Finding Photos for History Fair Exhibits, Documentaries, & Websites

The first and best place to find photos is within the sources you’ve already used. Those photos are likely relevant to building background, come from the event themselves, and may demonstrate the significance of the stand you’re illustrating.

Also, don’t just limit this to pictures. Photos could be of documents, newspapers, artifacts, or anything useful to tell the story of your stand.

Exhibits and Websites could use anywhere between 10-16 high-quality photos. How they’re used will be discussed later. It’s always better to have more, so shoot for 20-25 really good photos. Documentaries…  just start collecting. You need more than any of us can count.

Also, select high-quality photos without watermarks, that are large enough, are not pixelated, and aren’t distorted. Make sure you retain citation information and CITE the photo you’ll use. Save them in a document with the URL and citation info so you can access it later.

Here are a few examples of great sources you can use to find photos:


Project Mock-ups to Plan for Success

44 days until our History Fair, so planning is crucial to use our time effectively. We call these “mock-ups” for our most popular project, exhibits. Here’s a great example from Bella, Katie, and Anna:


This is only an iteration. In fact, it’s their second. There are flaws both in the title and the proportions. But the students are clearly thinking through the process of design and are on their way to a successful exhibit. Google Draw is a nice tool to use, but 11 x 17 paper is fine, too.

Documentary and  Performance projects should design an outline or a script. Documentaries might want to include a sidebar for photos/visuals/video clips to pair with text. This is Emily’s example from a few years ago:


Research Papers can follow a simple outline before they start rolling out 2,000 words! Here’s an example from Denys a few years ago.


Websites are more flexible. We’re going to try something new this year with drawing out the pages.

Selecting Products to Demonstrate Research

This is a brief overview of the guidelines for each project. Please visit the HF website @ for more specific information and guidelines. Students are accountable for following all rules! Visit the NHD website to see some specific examples of how these projects could look! 


  • Best for projects with high-quality images, videos, etc.
  • Should be “museum-like,” meaning, small chunks of text accompanying visuals or artifacts.
  • Size limitations: 6 feet high X 40 inches wide X 30 inches deep. Exhibits must be free standing.
  • Be creative! Do something different, not just the standard Michael’s tri-fold (though that’s okay, too!).
  • Use between 750-1,000 words (headings not included).


  • Best for projects with high-quality images, videos, etc. Should be interactive, not an electronic exhibit.
  • Must use the NHD Weebly website editor at
  • Must contain no more than 1,200 words. (does not count quotes, references, & sources)
  • All media must be pre-created… in other words, students cannot produce their own photo, film, or other media to put on their project.
  • Project may not exceed 100 MB total.


  • Performance may not exceed ten minutes.
  • Dramatic performances and props/scenery must be created and performed entirely by the students registered. Costumes and a “set” are strongly recommended.
  • Students are given five minutes to set up, five minutes to take down any sets.
  • Script and lines must be memorized.


  • Best for partners and/or groups… requires a large number of photos, visuals, or videos to do well.
  • Must be 9-10 minutes long. Time begins when first image/sound appears and concludes after credits.
  • Documentaries must be researched, created, narrated, and produced by the students registered.
  • Documentaries conclude with a list of credits for major audio and visuals sources only. The simple credits do not replace an annotated bibliography.
  • Documentaries should be self-running and students must operate all equipment. No live narration is allowed. Powerpoint projects are not documentaries.

Research Paper:

  • Individuals only. No groups or partners. Best 4 will advance to the Chicago Metro Fair.
  • Papers may be 1500-2500 words in length (refers to the body of the text only–not the additional components).
  • The paper is preceded by a cover page (title and student name only), thesis statement, and outline. It concludes with an annotated bibliography which is divided by primary and secondary sources. These pages are not included in the word count.
  • Best for topics that have good information, but limited visuals. Great for students who love to write.


Parent’s Guide to Finishing History Fair Projects

As we near the due date – 45 days from today (March 9th) – students will begin building and creating their final product to show what they’ve learned. Here is a brief rundown of what students have done:

  • Researched their topic through internet and library research (RCFs, Annotated Bibliography)
  • Organized their research (Mind Maps).
  • Analyzed their research to determine why their topic represents change and has significance.
  • Created arguments supported with evidence to support their analysis. (Argumentation Form)
  • Created an annotated bibliography to demonstrate credibility of their research.
  • Developed an on-going system of accountability (Reflections and Stickers!)

Our next steps will be to:

  • Design a product (exhibit, website, documentary, paper) to demonstrate that thesis and argument (mock-up).
  • Refine our thesis and argument as we collect feedback and continue to research.

As we approach the deadline, some of the final work might place at home:

  • Follow-up research to find more information – usually short/long term effects and/or significance. This could include a trip to the library or museum. Find locations of special collections for your topic here.
  • Construction of their product.
  • Revising their bibliography as they do follow-up research.

How can I help my child be successful?

  • Ask to see (or have them print) a document titled “Argumentation Plan” and (later) “Master Plan.” Almost everything you would want to see is on these documents, including the “labels” or blocks of text that will become the majority of their product.
  • Read their “Ongoing Reflections” found in their Google Drives.
  • Seek out great sources. MANY students have conducted interviews, visited libraries or museums with sources, etc. Our next Research Road trip is 2/11.
  • Make sure they follow the rubric, rules/checklists & refer to examples when they’re shared.
  • Follow the Thesis-Claims-Evidence thought process as they write. The best projects won’t just do this well, but will get to a unique interpretation of their topic by doing so.
  • Convey ENTHUSIASM through their final product! Did they just get it done, or is this the work of a student historian?

Guest Post: Women’s March on Chicago

The following is a post from Ysabel, one of our seventh-grade students. Regardless of whether you agree with the protest, Ysabel is an enthusiastic young citizen and I applaud her for not only being active at a young age but am proud of her for wanting to share. Have an example of your own? Share it! 

On January 21st, 2017 in Chicago was a Women’s March. I participated in this march for women’s rights. Next to the Washington D.C. protest, the Chicago protest was the second largest with 150,000 to 250,000 people attending.  I talked to one of the people who helped organize the march. When asked why she choose to help organize this march, she replied that she “would actually try and do something positive and get people involved in a way that was meaningful for change.” People marched for many things including civil and individual rights. Some signs that we saw were for reproductive choice, LGBT rights, Women’s Rights, Black Lives Matter, and many more. The speakers at the rally also spoke out about many issues. Channyn Lynne Parker, a Transgender Activist and Translife Project Manager said, “As a child I loved Wonder Woman, but nothing could prepare me for standing in front of 150,000 of them.” Eman Hassaballa Aly, a Muslim community Activist said she didn’t want to be discriminated against for what she wore. Ari Afsar, Karen Olivo, and Samantha Marie ware, from the cast of Hamilton, spoke and sang at the march. Due to the size of the attendance, the marching part was cancelled so the people at the rally started their own march. Michigan Avenue was completely closed off. We marched together as one to stand up for our rights and to send the message that we won’t stop fighting. A representative from the ACLU read a poem by Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Women’s March 

Creating an (Organized) Historical Argument

After several weeks of research and tons of info, it’s time to start organizing an argument. This will be especially handy as we head to the Harold Washington Library this weekend for some expert coaching and hands-on primary source study.

This document is modeled after one designed by Lynne O’Hara at National History Day. You can hear more from her (and others!) about articulating an argument here: