Greater Denver Metro NHD



By now, students should have completed a fair amount of research. It is now time to switch into project mode. Students must decide what format they want to create at this point. Many students will already have an idea about what they want to do. Some will have no idea which format is best. This lesson will help them evaluate and decide on their format. Then, they can begin to create!


This lesson is quite flexible. You can choose to do it as a whole-class presentation, a series of small group presentations, or you can assign students to work through the material individually or in groups.


Before you begin, however, you should have a discussion with your class about working as groups or individuals. (Please visit this document for more information about group vs. individual choices) If your students have not already made this decision, they should do so now.  Discuss with your class the pros and cons of choosing group work or individual work.


Groups or Individuals? 


Working as an Individual



·         Independence

·         Sole decision making

·         Control of schedule

·         No tension regarding work ethic or differences of opinion

·         Ideal in developing writing skills

·         No collaboration

·         No cost sharing in project creation

·         No one to help brainstorm and motivate during “down times.”

Working as a Group



·         Fun

·         Collaborative

·         Sharing of project costs

·         Draw on one another’s strengths and talents

·         The workload can be shared:  many hands make light work!

·         Scheduling difficulties

·         Differences of opinion

·         Differences in work ethics

·         Increased communication demands

·         Student workloads can vary and cause problems


Students should understand that they are making a commitment to their partners to work fairly and see the project through to its end. It is highly recommended that students sign a contract. Copies of a contract for both individuals and groups are available here.  Be sure your students know that you hold ultimate veto power. Also, give students the opportunity to ask for your help if they need to. Sometimes a student might know that a classmate who has asked to be their partner will not be a good fit. They need to be able to come to you and express that. Students who wish to work alone but don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings might also need your help.


Now, on to the project formats…


The purpose of today’s lesson is to introduce each of the project formats to your students. There are helpful resources available on this website. Under the "Student Help" tab, many resources are available to help your students create their projects. You might wish to present this information to your class as a whole, in groups according to format interest, or ask students to investigate it on their own. However you choose to present the formats, this website will be helpful to your students as they create their projects, so they should become familiar with it.



Today, your students will look at the rules for each category and a “how to” guide for each category. They should also look at examples of the categories that interest them. This checklist can be used by your students to indicate what categories they have explored. Once they have picked a format, they should return to the website to look at the supplemental material for that format more deeply. They only need to explore formats that are of interest to them. At the bottom of the checklist there is a place for them to indicate what they have chosen to do before returning the checklist to you.

 Once they have settled on a format, students should spend some time looking at the resources available on the website.

Documentary Page

Exhibit Page

Paper Page

Performance Page

Website Page

Here is a short description of each format:


Papers: There is only an individual category for papers…no groups! The student will write a 1500-2500 word traditional research paper. Students must include an annotated bibliography, but they are exempt from writing the process paper. The student who will be successful here is someone who likes to write and who writes well. Topics that need lots of explanation, or topics that are not very visual work well for papers.


Documentaries: Documentaries can be done as individuals or as groups. Most students create History Channel-esque documentaries for this category. There is a 10 minute limit on the length of the documentary. Students who are good on the computer might find this category interesting. Topics that have lots of pictures and/or video are well suited to the documentary format.


Exhibits: Similar to a museum exhibit, this category can be done as individuals or groups. Students create a display that presents their research in a visually appealing way. Many students present their findings on a traditional tri-fold board, but as long as the size (not to exceed 6’ high x 40” wide x 30” deep) and word (500 student-produced words*) limits are kept, there is no limit to the creativity possible in the exhibit category.


Performances: In this format, students create either an individual or group historical performance about their topic. The performance cannot exceed 10 minutes in length. This format works well for less visual topics, especially ones that are dramatic or emotional. At its essence, this category is story-telling. The script must be written by the students, and all members of the group must participate on stage.


Websites: This is the most popular category, making it one of the most competitive. There are categories for both individual and groups. Students who enjoy computer work will enjoy this category. Creating a website is great for visual topics, as students can add lots of pictures and video (within limits). There is a limit of 1200 student-produced words* allowed. Websites must be created using



Students should complete the checklist and return it to you. This will give you an opportunity to discuss their format choice with them.


*Student-produced words. This means words the student composed. Quotes and other primary source documents are not included in this word count. Words used in a timeline are counted as part of the word limit. Each date is considered one word (June 6th, 1945=1 word). Names, however, are counted individually. (Martha Custis Washington=3 words).


Other documents:

NHD Rules Book (please note: the rules were revised for the 2015 contest year)

Summary of rules changes

Individual or Group?

Individual Contract

Group Contract



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