Sample Benchmarks PDF Print E-mail

One way to ensure your students have a positive experience doing History Fair is to establish benchmarks at the very beginning for the entire process. Communicating clear expectations and fostering a culture that rewards questioning, digging, drafting, and improvement also is a vital feature.

The following benchmark models are contributed by veteran History Fair teachers:
You are free to adapt them.

Please note: we have left in the actual dates to help you gauge the length of time given between each deadline.



Junior High Teacher Model

Submitted by: Pat Duffy, Lincoln Elementary

  • All 6th, 7th & 8th graders will participate in the History Fair at some level.
  • All 6th, 7th & 8th graders may select their own category.
  • All 6th, 7th & 8th graders may select their own teammates.
  • All 6th, 7th & 8th graders may select their own level of competition.

All of the above are subject to some variation by each teacher as long as History Fair rules and regulations are not ignored.

The only 6th, 7th and 8th graders who may work alone are those who are writing a paper or those who are entered at the local level.

No matter what category or competition level you select the criteria remain the same:

  • Annotated bibliography no encyclopedia, electronic or otherwise, and no textbooks
  • evidence of historical research
  • product that demonstrates change over time


Research Paper
This is a paper of no less than 2,000 words and no more than 2,500 words. (0-12 pages standard font, margin and spacing) Highest level eligible for National History Day in Washington D.C.

This is a 10 minute power point, DVD, video or computer presentation. Highest level eligible for National History in Washington D.C.

This is the traditional three-part exhibit board presentation (similar to Science Fair). Size limits: 6ft high, 40 inch. wide, 30 inches deep and freestanding. Highest level Washington D.C.

Historical Voices
This is a ten minute live presentation. Highest level State Expo (only two in this group)

Level of Competition:

Local Lincoln
This category is for the student or group (up to 5) whose only interest is the fair itself and not any competition. And all 6th graders

This category is for the child or group whose wish is to compete as far as Springfield.

This category is for those who would like to be considered for the Washington competition. All entries must address the national theme. This year it is "________________________".

Topics & Time:

All entries must address Illinois or Chicago for 7 & 8th grade history only.


This is 2-5 students. For all categories except Papers and Historical Voices. The category of Historical Voices may have one or only two students. If only one then that student must enter is LOCAL LEVEL.

6th Graders:

Since you are not able to enter the City or State competition as you are studying world history then the time requirements do not apply to you. Your topics must address that which you are now, have been, or will study in social studies. All other rules do apply to your projects.

History Fair Time Line*

* The dates below applied to a particular year. We have left the dates in place for teachers who might want to use similar benchmarks between each phase.

January 29-February 5th
Topic, level, category, and partner selection
February 16
Research due
February 27
Paper draft and Board Mock-Up
February 28
Media, Live Performances
March 8
History Fair at School
April 4
History Fair City

A type draft of your paper including footnotes and annotated bibliography. I will correct all aspects of your paper. 10 points per footnote-15 pts per annotated entry. 200 pt maximum for paper's content.

Board Mock-Up
3 sheets of brown paper-30 inch wide and 40 inch high-The three panels should include: Title 5 pts, Subtitles 5 pts per, Introduction 10 pts, Conclusion 10 pts, dialogue cards (4x6) 10 pts. captions 5 pts, pictures, graphs charts 5 pts. In addition annotated bibliography 15 pts per entry.

Viewing and comments: Intro. 10 pts. Conclusion 10 pts, subtopics 10 pts, annotated bibliography 15 pts per entry.

Listening and comments same points as above

March 8th
School History Fair
Three copies of papers
Boards ready with two copies of summary statement and annotated bibliography

March 9th
History Fair Continued
All media and live performances
Summary statement and annotated bibliography

History Fair Information Sheet

The History Fair is a mandatory academic endeavor required of all upper grade students. Whatever you select, it does have to be of the highest quality and completed according to the published schedules.

Since you will be able to compete at the national level this year, if you want to do so I will be glad to enter into the fray, but the NHD research process has to begin as soon as possible.

Entering the National Competition means that you may not have a free weekend until the competition is over
June ______.

Time Schedule

Topic Selection January 4-8 25 pts.
Reporting Period One January 15 15 pts./per
Reporting Period two January 29 15 pts./per
Mock-Up Boards February 15 5 pts./per
Papers 1st Draft February 15 250 pts.
Summary Statement 1st February 26 150 pts.
Papers 2nd Draft February 26th 250 pts.
Summary Statements 2nd March 5 150 pts.
Papers Final March 5 5 pts./per
Preview Performances March 12 250 pts.
Performance Comp. March 19 5 pts./per

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Junior High Teacher Model: Letter/Contract to Parents

Submitted by: Jason Merel, Jahn World Language Academy


The History Fair of the 20__ school year is just around the corner and the teachers at Jahn School would like to make this year's one of the best. Here at Jahn we are working very hard to make sure our students can achieve all that they are capable of. We can provide them with a portion of the information and resources they need to complete a successful project, though we cannot give them everything. Therefore, we ask for your assistance. We need you, at home, to help with a variety of tasks, all to enable your child to do the best he or she can. This may include taking your child to the local, regional or downtown library as needed (you may have to a few times so that your child can find all the information for the project), visit museums or other fine cultural institutions in the city, or even travel to a specific business or organization so your child may interview someone. In any case, we are hoping that you will do all you can to help your child with his or her project. Your child and the staff at Jahn thank you for your support.

If you would like to contribute even more than this, you may contact Jahn School any time you please at 773-534-5500. The coordinating teachers are Ms. Tracey Pinter of the 6th grade and Mr. Merel of the 7th and 8th grades. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

student signature

parent/guardian signature


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High School Teacher Model # 1

Submitted by: Aggie Nowak, Roosevelt High School.

History Fair Deadlines 200_

December 3, 20___ Summary of final project topic. Minimum of two paragraphs
December 10, 20__ Bibliography with THREE sources related to your project in proper bibliographic format with annotations (one-sentence explanations of how each source is helpful in studying your topic).
December 17, 20__ At least 10 pictures or visuals related to your topic. Bibliography with at least ten sources in proper format with annotations. Two page summary of what you have learned about your topic up to this point.
January 14, 20__ At least 20 pictures or visuals related to the topic with typed captions Typed bibliography with at least ten sources in proper format with annotations Typed five page summary of what you have learned about your topic up to this point (for exhibit); or typed rough draft of paper, or typed script for performance. Sample project titles.
January 22, 20__ Typed draft of summary statement form (for exhibit or performance); or typed thesis and outline (for paper) Mock layout with all visuals, revised typed captions, planned colors and graphics(for exhibit); or typed second draft of paper with parenthetical citations and visuals for appendix; or typed second draft of performance script with staging directions and lists of costume items, props to be used, etc. Final title for project.
January 28, 20__ Resubmit all materials listed for the January 22 deadline after making necessary revisions as indicated by your teacher.
Week of Feb. 4,20__ Some class time will be devoted to putting the finishing touches on projects.
February 7, 20__ SCHOOL HISTORY FAIR!

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High School Teacher Model # 2

Submitted by: Maryhelen Matijevic, Mt. Carmel H.S.

History Fair Process Point Sheet

Name_______________________________ Teacher_____________________________ Period______________________________

Timeline/Assignments Points/Percentage Earned/Comments

November, 20___

I. Introduction
II. Ideas for Topic

December 3-21, 20__

III. Submit your topic to your teacher
IV. Some preliminary research

January 7-11, 20__

V. Written proposal
VI. Proposal returned
VII. First two sources

January 14-18, 20__

VIII Project Update #2
IX Update returned

January 28-February 20__

X Annotated Bibliography, 1st draft

February 4-8, 20__

X1. Project Update #3

February 9-11, 20__

XII Final Project
XIII. Oral Presentation in class

February 20, 20__

XIV. School Fair

History Fair A Process

(Worth 500 points-over 2nd & 3rd Quarters)


I. Introduction to History Fair; distribution of handbook for 2003-2004

II. Brainstorm ideas for your topic
What are your interest, what special places in your community have caused you to ask, what do you want to know about, what sparks your imagination, what experiences have you had, what stories have you been told. etc.?
**See History Fair Handbook, pp. 2-8 for some ideas.

December 3-7 25 points

III. Meet with your teacher
Discuss topic ideas with your teacher
Decide on a topic that seems right for you
Focus that topic-narrow your ideas to a manageable size and doable idea;
Realistically narrow your topic to a reasonable, manageable focus, questions(s) or thesis;

(What theme/thesis do you want to use to narrow your topic?
What questions will you investigate through your research?)

IV. Do some preliminary research
Be sure that the topic you have chosen is realistic, one upon which there are materials and information available

December 10-14 50 points

V. Present a written proposal-a narrative of your topic
Three paragraphs, typed should be adequate

A. What is this project going to be about, what is the focus, what is your thesis?
(Define your topic, give details about what you intend to research, pursue)
(What questions are you setting out to answer about this topic?)
****See History Fair Handbook pp. 3 & 4

B. Tell how you intend to do your research
(Where you will find information? What possible sources of information, possible institutions, other resources (electronic, printed, interviews with people important to the topic, etc.)
**See History Fair Handbook, pp. 17-28

C. Define the medium you will use to present your ideas, your research
(will you create an exhibit? Is a live performance a better vehicle to tell the story? Is a computer project appropriate? Would a research paper be the best route to take to tell the story you want to tell?)
***See History Fair Handbook, pp. 10-12

Describe your initial ideas about that medium: (Will the exhibit have three panels? Will the video be documentary in style? Does the live performance need more than two or three actors? Is the Historical Voices category a possibility? Will the paper have an appendix of documents, visuals, etc.?)

December 17-21 25 points

VI. Your teacher will return your written proposal, with suggestions, so that you can begin to work.

VII. Locate, read, take notes on at least two important sources of information that will help you to answer your research questions.
(Continue locating sources, reading and taking notes, after these first two sources are uncovered and read.)
Be prepared to show your sources, your notes to your Teachers.

January 7 - 11 50 points

VIII. Project update (again three paragraphs, typed should serve you well)

A. Re-examine your written proposal (taking into consideration the sources you already read.)
(What answers have you found to the questions with which you started? What conclusions have begun to develop?
What is the status of your thesis? Is your research clarifying your initial thesis or is that thesis undergoing changes?)

B. Status of your research
(What have you found? What evidence have you located? Where have you found good sources, answers to your questions? Have new sources of information emerged during this process?
Have key pieces of evidence been located? What are those key pieces?
What institutions have you visited, contacted, found useful?
What new sources must you pursue to continue your research?)

C. Status of your Medium/Presentation
(Have your initial ideas about format for your project begun to take shape?
Have you purchased or constructed your exhibit board(s)?
Have you drawn up design plans for your exhibit - a schematic of the layout you think you might use?
Have you begun to write the script for your video, your live performance, your computer project, your Historical Voices project?
Have you identified actors, partners with whom you will work?
Has your work been proceeding efficiently - all members having a clear and substantial role, all members doing their part of the research, the writing, the performing, etc.?)

January 14 - 18

IX. Your Teachers will return your Project Update with comments, suggestions.

January 21 - 25 50 points

X. Annotated Bibliography - first draft
** See History Fair Handbook, pp. 29 - 39

A. In proper form, list the sources, the institutions, the interview, etc., that have provided the basis for your research thus far.

B. This is NOT the final bibliography, but it should include the wealth of information that you have uncovered in answering your research questions and pursuing your topic.

C. See annotation style;
**History Fair Handbook, pp. 40 - 43

January 28 - February 1 50 points

XI. Final Project Update
(Again, three paragraphs should serve you well)

A. Conclusions
(What are the conclusions you have reached, now that your project is near completion?
Do these conclusions support your thesis answer your initial questions?
In what ways has your work shown the significance of this topic? The reason(s) why it is an important topic to research?
Does your project go beyond collection of fact and show evidence of analysis and/or interpretation?)

B. Research
('What key pieces of evidence support your conclusions?
Have you used a variety of sources to address the question/problems posed by your thesis?
Did you consult sources in more than one institution?
Are the sources listed in your bibliography reflected in your project?
In what ways has the reattach on your topic demonstrated change over time?
What sources(s) were the most effective in establishing these conclusions?
What new question (s) has emerged at this point in your research process?
Have you linked your local, family, community history topic with the larger historical themes of Illinois, the United States or maybe even World History?)

C. The Project
(Describe the layout of your exhibit - design, color scheme, pizzazz factors, focal point, etc. Outline the script that you have written for your performance.
What backdrops, props, individuals ate involved in this performance?
Outline the paper you have written.
Does the project reflect the work of all who were supposed to be involved? Does the project reflect an equal investment of time and energy and input and creativity and construction time/script writing/performing time?
Does the project look like you have spent time on your research and in assembling the project, proofreading, paying attention to detail?
**Does the project stand on its own - telling a story, telling why it is important, describing and explaining your topic?)

February 4 - 8 200 points

XII. The Final Project

A. Your exhibit, your paper, your performance
Put the finishing touches on your work.
Turn in your work.

B. Complete your Summary Statement (see attached)
(for Exhibits and Performances only - see pp. 10 -12, History Fair Handbook)

C. Compile your Final Annotated Bibliography (see pp. 29 - 43, History Fair Handbook).
Add the most recent research you have acquired, reflecting updates you have made to your project and the first draft of your annotated bibliography. Reconsider the annotations you developed for this earlier draft, to be sure they give the reader the true value of each of your sources.

February 11 - 15 50 points

XIII. Presentation of your project to your Teacher, to your class for evaluation.

February 18 - 22

XIV. School History Fair

February 25 - March 1

XV. Announcement of Regional participants.

March 4 - 15

XVI. Regional participants revise their projects.

March 16

XVII. Regional competition

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High School Teacher Model # 3

Submitted by: Janet Kelsey, Niles West High School

History Fair Schedule


  • Introduce history fair. Show tape from CMHEC. Discuss format options and requirements for project.
  • Take students to school library to browse for history fair topics.
  • Have students pick partners (if they wish). Students submit proposals for several topics. After individual discussions between students and teacher, a final topic is chosen.


  • Train students to make note cards and bibliography cards (using MLA format). Teach them to annotate on back of bibliography cards. Also have them set up a folder for visuals.
  • Students turn in 10-20 note cards each week. Emphasize use of secondary sources in the first 2-3 weeks.
  • Discuss primary sources. Require note cards from primary sources beginning around the 3rd-4th week of research.
  • Take students on field trip to Harold Washington Library for research by the end of October.


  • Continue collecting note cards each week. Emphasize importance of visuals.
  • By early November, have students submit a preliminary thesis. Discuss and the purpose and format of a thesis statement in class.
  • Require two field experiences. These may be visits to research libraries, museums, or best of all interviews.


  • Students turn in detailed outline and revised thesis statements. These are carefully edited and returned to students for revision.
  • Begin one on one conferences between students and teacher.
  • Begin design plans for display boards and storyboards for documentaries. Collect and edit rough drafts of papers. Also require rough drafts of summary statement forms and annotated bibliography.
  • Provide Saturday sessions and/or days over winter break for assistance on design and layout of projects.


  • All projects due the week before finals. All projects judged by 2-3 teachers. A public showing is arranged for parents/student body/other teachers and staff/administrators.
  • Announce those advancing to regionals. Begin revisions based on judging feedback.


High School Teacher Model # 4

Submitted by:  Linda Becker, Westinghouse High School

Sample of the 2014 schedule. Ms. Becker notes: “I think that doing it as a unit enables students that are new to independent research to really focus.  I would also stress that it is VERY important to schedule reading workshop days, where the students have to read their research - or they play in the lab too much.”


All Westinghouse US History students participate in History Fair.  This project gives students the opportunity to practice their research skills and explore a topic of their choice related to the theme: Rights and Responsibilities in Chicago/US History. This project contains a number of important assignments that will be due over the next 4.5 weeks, culminating with the Westinghouse History Fair on Feb. 14.  Winners of the Westinghouse Fair will proceed to the Regional Fair March 8, and hopefully continue on in the competition to city, state, and nationals.  You will have an opportunity to choose to create a website (1-3), a documentary (1-3), or a research paper (individuals only) as your final project.  Want more information?  Check out

Assignment #1: Topic Exploration (due Wed. 1/8)

Assignment #2: Project Commitment (due Friday (1/10)

Assignment #3: Contextual Information Essay

Explore the background of your topic.  Events do not just happen all by themselves — there are always other factors that link to the causes and effects. Don’t just think about how you understand the topic but also how people at the time thought about what was happening. It is important to examine the historical context of your topic so that you see your topic more clearly, understanding the “big picture.” All historical people and topics have multiple layers and are viewed from multiple perspectives. Part of being a thorough researcher is looking at a topic from all angles to see the whole story. Discovering the historical background of your topic will allow you to dig deeper and really understand a person, event, or time period.

Your paper should read like a report or an encyclopedia entry: It’s not an argument YET.  Find the information in secondary sources –BUT DO NOT PLAGIARIZE!!  Your background essay must have parenthetical citations and you may only use AWE in quotations 2 times. If you do not use citations and submit a bibliography, you will receive a zero. Be thorough!!!!!!!

Use the questions below to tell a complete story:

  • Explain how your topic relates to the theme rights and responsibilities.
  • What is the time frame of your topic? (dates) What significant events were happening in the US/world at the same time as your topic?  What effects did these events have on your topic?  (WWI had an impact on women’s suffrage) (2-3 paragraphs at least)
  • Where did it take place?  Was it only in one location – why was that location significant?  Was it in multiple locations? – How does the topic change in different locations?  How does topic relate to Chicago History?
  • Who are the important people involved in your topic?  Why are they important? What was their role? What was their motivation?  How did they change over time?
  • How has your topic been interpreted over time?  Identify multiple perspectives, controversies, and/or questions tied to your topic.
  • Why does this history matter to us today?


30-27 Every question is answered thoroughly.  Demonstrates a complete understanding of the topic

26-21 Most questions are answered somewhat specifically. Demonstrates a partial understanding of the topic

20-0 Some of the questions are answered not very thoroughly.  Does not demonstrate a complete understanding of topic


5 No historical mistakes; follows instructions 100%

4-3 A few minor historical mistakes; uses AWE 3+ times

2-0 Gross historical inaccuracies and overuse of AWE.

Parenthetical documentation

5 Thorough and accurate


4-3 Missed 1-2 citations


2-0 Missed more than 2 citations


CRS English Standards

5No grammar mistakes are present; no personal pronouns;

4-3Few mistakes are present; uses 1 personal pronouns

2-0 Many mistakes; more than 1 personal pronoun

Annotated Bibliography

10-9 All cited sources are on accurate bibliography with thorough annotations; minimum 3; 5; 8 sources

8-7 All cited sources are on a mostly accurate bibliography with annotations; minimum 3 sources

6-0 Merely listed websites; Less than 3 sources

Annotated Bibliography: Use to create your annotated bibliography.  Make sure you create an account so that you can continuously build your bibliography.  Once you have created your citation, click ADD ANNOTATION to explain how this resource informed your research.

Assignment #4: Document Analysis

Add primary sources to your annotated bibliography and fill out the graphic organizer (copies available from your teacher)


Specific evidence; AWE is OK

LINK: Explain HOW the evidence proves thesis


Assignment #5: Layout/Outline

Websites & documentaries: Outline your argument with evidence PLUS

  • websites will submit their navigation layout
  • documentaries will submit a story board

Research Paper: Outline your argument with evidence

Assignment #6: Project Check In, see calendar

History Fair Calendar

Due Date


Fri. Jan. 17, Submitted in Turnitin by 3:30

Contextual Information Essay (CIE) that answers the above questions for your particular topic. Typed, 2-3 ind.; 3-4 pair; 4-5 group). 50 points PLUS Accurate Annotated Bibliography (minimum of 3I; 5P; 8G sources)

Wed. Jan 29

Document analysis on primary sources (Working alone = 8; 2 =12; 3 = 18)   80 points + Annotated Bibliography  20 points

Friday, Jan 31

#5Research phase is completed; moving toward constructing knowledge into a provable argument. Layout and outline are due at the beginning of class. 40 points. This is the day we will create weebly accounts for websites

Feb. 3-Feb 14

HF Workshop:  You will use this time to construct websites as well as fill in any gaps in your research. There will be classwork assignments throughout this period; for uploading primary sources and text; embedding video and embedding audio.  Class time to work on projects ends Feb. 14!!!!

Friday, Feb. 7

#6 Project Check-in – Based on your layout (#5); you must have content on 50% of your pages complete; 5 minutes of documentary needs to be complete; Research paper rough draft is due 50 points

Mon., Feb 17 8:00 am

Final Project is due.  Hard Copy of Research Paper; Actual DVD of documentary

200 points

Late projects = 50% and are not eligible for Westinghouse History Fair 

Tues., Feb. 18

Westinghouse History Fair Nominated projects from each USH class will compete for 10 documentary spots; 10 paper spots and 8 website spots to move onto the Chicago Metro History Fair Regional competition.  EC on project.

Friendly Reminders aka Warnings

  1. Wasting time is unacceptable – Come to class prepared with your resources every day!  There will be reading workshop days and you must have sources printed or books to read.
  2. Communication with Ms. Becker is key.  If you are lost or frustrated. I have HW hours on Monday or you can set up and appointment. I can be reached via email:
  3. All of the assignments build on each other so do not fall behind.  All assignments have major point values.  This is a great way to improve or kill your grade.
  4. Follow instructions and do not jump ahead without consulting me – could create problems.
  5. Set goal to create something amazing – something you are really proud of!



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