TeachersFirst's National History Day Resources

Other TeachersFirst Special Topics Collections

Whether your students actually compete in National History Day or not, the annual themes and the challenge of hands-on, primary research wrapped into the History Day project format is an engaging way for students to participate in their own learning and produce rigorous, meaningful projects they will never forget. This collection of TeachersFirst resources pulls from our offerings on primary sources -- a requirement in the national history day competition.  Check the official National History Day site at the start of each school year for the specific theme of the year. Then search TeachersFirst for more resources related to that year's theme. Explore and share these offerings as you plan a "history day" type event for your school or to assist students participating in National History Day.

 

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Drums Along the Mowhawk

Grades
6 to 12
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The title has nothing to do with the book by the same name, but this page offers lots of detail about people and places involved in the American revolution in ...more
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The title has nothing to do with the book by the same name, but this page offers lots of detail about people and places involved in the American revolution in New York state. Developed as a labor of love by a TV producer and web designer, there's a lot of primary source content and surprisingly detailed graphics. Well worth a visit.

tag(s): american revolution (86), evolution (100)

In the Classroom

Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting, but should have the same general topic) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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War of 1812 - Fort Erie Home Page

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9 to 12
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Information and links about the War of 1812. ...more
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Information and links about the War of 1812.

tag(s): war of 1812 (14)

In the Classroom

Use the letters from soldiers about Fort Erie to teach the content in a less direct way. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one! Once students are done, they are not only left with a method of critiquing sources, but the content seen in all 6 letters. A great way to indirectly teach two lessons at once in a social studies classroom!

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The Making of America - Cornell University

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6 to 12
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Cornell University created this site based on a collection of magazines and other printed materials covering the period from roughly 1840 - 1890. The listings show images of the actual...more
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Cornell University created this site based on a collection of magazines and other printed materials covering the period from roughly 1840 - 1890. The listings show images of the actual pages from the journals, so students can see images and text as they originally appeared. This makes the site a great way for students to understand just what people of the period were seeing and reading.

tag(s): journals (21)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a resource to find primary sources, whether it be for in class activities or for students working on research projects & papers. If using for classroom activities, consider having the pictures serve as prompts, introductory activities, wrap-ups or even as an analytical activity. Students can analyze whats in the picture or primary source for a variety of purposes. If using as a resource for research projects, make sure to include the site on any handouts as well as post on your class wiki or web page.

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Lawmaking for a New Nation - Library of Congress

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9 to 12
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Early Congressional Journals - From the Library of Congress. This site offers access to journals of the first U.S. Congresses. These journals were the precursor to today's Congressional...more
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Early Congressional Journals - From the Library of Congress. This site offers access to journals of the first U.S. Congresses. These journals were the precursor to today's Congressional Record. Primary source material for study of the Federalist period.

tag(s): congress (33), constitution (79)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a resource for finding primary sources that can be used in your classroom. One great way way to do so is through visual discovery, introducing the topic of the Continental Congress. Select 3-5 images from this site, choosing the most powerful and moving images. Placing the images on individual slides, allow students 1-2 minutes to observe each image. During that time period, students should be taking notes based on what they observe, predict and infer about each image. The more powerful and detailed the image is, the more information students can take out. After the class has observed all the chosen images, have a class discussion based on the notes students took. This is a great way to introduce content in a way that gets students thinking, as well as avoiding the typical lecture format.

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California As I Saw It - Library of Congress

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6 to 12
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The Library of Congress has collected original writings by settlers and explorers in California during the period 1850-1900. Indexed by author, subject, and title, this site offers...more
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The Library of Congress has collected original writings by settlers and explorers in California during the period 1850-1900. Indexed by author, subject, and title, this site offers lots of starting points for talented students interested in using primary source materials for research in history or social studies.

tag(s): california (27), explorers (61), gold rush (19)

In the Classroom

This would be a very useful site for covering the Gold Rush in a US history classroom. Select several documents and images that could be used for a document-centered activity in your classroom. Assign students to groups, with each receiving a different document and/or image. Have students fill out graphic organizers about each document, with the intentions of rotating all until students have received every one. At the end of the activity, have a class discussion of what students found and what their answers indicate. A refreshing way to teach Gold Rush history without another lecture.

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Fur Traders & Mountain Men

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5 to 12
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A look at fur trading in the Rocky Mountain west. ...more
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A look at fur trading in the Rocky Mountain west.

tag(s): westward expansion (29)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a resource to find primary source material about the fur traders, as well as what life was like for the first American settlers on the west. This site would be useful during a unit on Westward Expansion, and primary sources can be used a variety of ways. Try finding a shorter letter or piece and projecting it on the board as students are first walking into your classroom. Have immediate directions posted on the board, instructing students to sit down and respond to a specific aspect of the piece in some sort of journal entry. This process not only sets the tone for the material to be covered in class, but it also gives you and students the time needed to settle down and get focused and ready to learn. Great resource for an American history teacher.

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American Indians of the Pacific Northwest - University of Washington

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6 to 12
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The University of Washington has created this site to document cultural and historic materials dealing with northwest Native peoples. Segmented by tribal groups, the collection includes...more
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The University of Washington has created this site to document cultural and historic materials dealing with northwest Native peoples. Segmented by tribal groups, the collection includes images and text, as well as search capabilities.

tag(s): native americans (78)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a reference point to search for primary source material concerning Native American tribes of the Northwest. These materials could easily supplement a unit on Native Americans, Westward Expansion, tensions between the US government and the various tribes, etc.

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Remembering the Great War - BBC

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6 to 12
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This site from the BBC presents a distinctly European remembrance of World War I. There are links to first-hand accounts, as well as to some of the literature written during ...more
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This site from the BBC presents a distinctly European remembrance of World War I. There are links to first-hand accounts, as well as to some of the literature written during the war. It's an appropriate way to show how deeply Europe suffered from the events of that war.

tag(s): primary sources (86), world war 1 (54)

In the Classroom

The most powerful elements of this site are the "images and newsreel" and "archive radio interviews" section. Open the site on the Interactive whiteboard or projector and play the segments for the class. The sound clips and images help exhibit the tremendous strain the Great War put on Europe, and pushes students to understand the events beyond the textbook.

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Internet Modern European History Sourcebook

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6 to 12
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Fordham University has created this outline of European history since about 1500, complete with links to quotable (no copyright) primary documents from various periods. It's an easy...more
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Fordham University has created this outline of European history since about 1500, complete with links to quotable (no copyright) primary documents from various periods. It's an easy to use research resource for term papers or other assignments, and also a simple way to bring historical documents into the classroom.

tag(s): primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Use this site to obtain primary sources that can supplement classroom lectures. This site runs the gammit for World History II courses, so save it as a favorite on your classroom computer to reference it for new materials. One way to combine learning the content with learning how to interpret primary sources is to pair students in groups, with each assigned a different primary source. Have students analyze the source with the intentions of presenting it to the class. Once every group has presented their source, the class will vote "survivor style" which source is the most reliable. You would be surprised how much students get into it!

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Whole Cloth - Smithsonian Institution

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6 to 12
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This site was developed by the Smithsonian as part of this year's History Day competition, which deals with the role of invention in American history. The site traces the way ...more
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This site was developed by the Smithsonian as part of this year's History Day competition, which deals with the role of invention in American history. The site traces the way in which advances in the manufacturing of textiles created wholesale changes in American industry and social structures. Among the results: Once women were freed from the need to make clothing by hand, other opportunities became available. Good site for students interested in history day projects, or for use in a history or social studies curriculum.

tag(s): industrialization (15), inventors and inventions (101), women (101)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free lesson plans on topics from early industrialization to the 20th century! The late 19th century is a difficult time period for students seeing as it is so technological and very little social history, so these units provide some interest and intrigue where there may not have been before.

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Trails to Utah and the Pacific

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1 to 12
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Located in the Library of Congress collection is a variety of primary source accounts of pioneers who travelled across the Wild West. ...more
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Located in the Library of Congress collection is a variety of primary source accounts of pioneers who travelled across the Wild West.

tag(s): primary sources (86), westward expansion (29)

In the Classroom

Search this site, or have students search this site, to find primary sources that accurately display what the experience of traveling west was like.

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The Berlin Airlift - Project Whistlestop

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4 to 12
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This site chronicles the airlift that kept West Berlin alive during the period immediately after World War II. Though written from an American perspective, there is coverage of the...more
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This site chronicles the airlift that kept West Berlin alive during the period immediately after World War II. Though written from an American perspective, there is coverage of the broader European involvement in one of the first cold war crises.

tag(s): cold war (29)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a resource to find primary sources about the Cold War and the end of WWII. Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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What do YOU see?

Grades
5 to 12
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Students learn to analyze photographs for key information in the course of this unit. From selected Civil War photographs, students must answer questions about what they see, and come...more
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Students learn to analyze photographs for key information in the course of this unit. From selected Civil War photographs, students must answer questions about what they see, and come up with some of their own. More detailed captions are then provided, and students are expected to re-evaluate their original conclusions. Once they have learned to analyze the given pictures, they must find their own, draw conclusions, and present their findings to the class. After studying the pictures and captions in this manner, students will recognize links between the Civil War and American industrialization.

tag(s): civil war (145), primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of this free lesson plan about pictures and interpreting history. This activity could be done on the interactive whiteboard or projector as a class, but could also work having students separated into cooperative learning groups.

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Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

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6 to 12
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This site from the Library of Congress traces the role of religion in the founding of both individual colonies and the American federal government using primary sources and documents....more
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This site from the Library of Congress traces the role of religion in the founding of both individual colonies and the American federal government using primary sources and documents. It would be useful for introducing students to primary research, or for any exploration of the different purposes for which Europeans came to America.

tag(s): colonial america (107), primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Use the images on this site to create a "picture walk" in your classroom, introducing the topic of religion in US politics and government. Select 10-15 of the more powerful and diverse images, hanging them up in different locations around your classroom. Have students rotate around the classroom every 30-45 seconds, jotting down what they observe and infer about each image until the entire class has completed the circuit. After the class is back in their seats, have a class discussion based on what they observed and what this says about the people's desire for an establishment clause. A great way to get students thinking about the content in a way that's more personal and lecture-less!

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Democracy in America - C-SPAN

Grades
9 to 12
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This site is devoted to the work of Alexis DeToqueville, whose extensive accounts of American life and character in the 1840's remains a staple for the study of American history. ...more
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This site is devoted to the work of Alexis DeToqueville, whose extensive accounts of American life and character in the 1840's remains a staple for the study of American history. This site offers text, images, background, and additional references. An accompanying set of lesson modules, developed by C-Span, can be found in the TeachersFirst American History lessons.

tag(s): primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Use the journal entries portion of this site to help students not only learn the content, but to learn to retrieve information from primary sources. Divide students into groups, and assign them each one of the states Tocqueville wrote about. Have students analyze and interpret what was written, with the intentions of presenting their findings to the class. To connect it to the content being studied at the time, have a discussion with students about whether Congress was also concerned or if we see some of the issues he talked about still prevalent today.

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The Papers of George Washington - University of Virginia

Grades
8 to 12
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This site includes letters written both to and from George Washington. Important papers and letters are singled out, as well as an entire section of selected Revolutionary War documents....more
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This site includes letters written both to and from George Washington. Important papers and letters are singled out, as well as an entire section of selected Revolutionary War documents. This site would be of value to students serious about completing in depth research on the man or his major historical events in his life.

tag(s): presidents (130), primary sources (86), washington (36)

In the Classroom

In a discussion of the Revolutionary War or the Founding Fathers, use the pictures and images to supplement your lecture. Very rarely do students get to see time-period appropriate maps, and those provided on the site can be used to show and diagram major battles. The site also provides some excellent primary sources that complement such a unit. An excellent one to look at is his famed "Farewell Address," which can be used for both a revolutionary unit and any on American Diplomacy. Have students read the address as a class, following it with a discussion on how this speech impacted American foreign relations for the next 200 years. A great site for any resources on Washington!

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U. S. Historical Documents

Grades
7 to 12
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A more extensive collection, helpfully organized. From the University of Oklahoma. ...more
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A more extensive collection, helpfully organized. From the University of Oklahoma.

tag(s): primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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Colonial Charters - Yale University

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6 to 12
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This collection from the Avalon Project at Yale University offers a collection of primary documents dealing with all the American colonies except Virginia and Vermont. The page includes...more
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This collection from the Avalon Project at Yale University offers a collection of primary documents dealing with all the American colonies except Virginia and Vermont. The page includes a search engine as well as links to specific documents. Good resource for exploring the various motives in colonizing the new world.

tag(s): colonial america (107)

In the Classroom

Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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The Avalon Project - Yale University

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6 to 12
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Developed by the Law School at Yale University, the Avalon Project is a compilation of primary source documents of American History from the 15th century onward. The resources are available...more
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Developed by the Law School at Yale University, the Avalon Project is a compilation of primary source documents of American History from the 15th century onward. The resources are available by time period, and there is also a search feature. Users searching for a more linear presentation may want to use the Project's American History Timeline. The collection is a great research for research projects or any study of American history.

tag(s): primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Save this site as a favorite and reference it for primary sources for history units. The timespan covered spans virtually all that would be covered in any US history course, and also offers many documents that would also apply to World or European history courses. Teachers can also refer students to this site for research projects or papers.

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History Day Resources! - National Archives

Grades
1 to 12
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American History teachers everywhere will appreciate this site with its great coverage of all topics about American history. Although it's designed to be used with history day projects,...more
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American History teachers everywhere will appreciate this site with its great coverage of all topics about American history. Although it's designed to be used with history day projects, it's a great general resource.

tag(s): history day (23)

In the Classroom

Save this site as a favorite and use it to generate ideas for lesson plans and classroom activities. The lessons can expand to your everyday, it doesn't have to be exclusive to a History day! American History teachers everywhere will appreciate this one.

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