National History Day

As we approach National History Day, we need to encourage students to explore the importance of history and to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice. Each year National History Day uses a theme to provide a lens through which students can examine history. Through exploration and research, students develop research, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills that will support them in managing and using information now and in the future.

We encourage you to use these teaching resources for students to create an understanding and appreciation of history while developing the necessary 21st-century tools, skills, and aptitudes for your diverse student population. Use this National History Day as a vehicle to transport your classrooms back in time and transform young minds forever.

 “History is filled with stories about people, groups, or nations either communicating or failing to communicate with each other. Before we can understand these stories, we must go beyond common definitions of communication and recognize the many ways people communicate. Only then can we begin to investigate the impact communication has had on social and political changes throughout history.” (National History Day)

To help teach students about National History Day, Britannica’s Curriculum Expert Team has put together a few activities and resources.

Modes of Communication

The theme for National History Day 2021 is: Communication in History: The Key to Understanding. This theme asks students to consider how people communicate, exchange information and interact with each other. Students have the opportunity to explore how the methods and modes of communication have changed over time, and how they have shaped the present. (National History Day 2021).  

Note: Merriam-Webster defines communication as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.”

Have students explore major inventions like the telephone or television, and answer some thought-provoking questions. Here are some to get you started:

  1. How has communication changed over time?
  2. Identify how communication affects us today and throughout history. 
  3. Identify how communication is about words, thoughts and ideas that are exchanged throughout history.  Provide evidence to support your response.
  4. Identify the effects that ineffective communication has had on you, your community and the world.  Provide evidence and examples.
  5. Explore the impact communication has had on social and political changes throughout history. For example, The intercept and publication of the Zimmermann telegram
  6. How has miscommunication or failure to communicate shaped history?
  7. What happens when we do not understand the intended message?
  8. What happens when miscommunication occurs during war?
  9. Describe the solution to maintaining effective communication now and throughout the years to come e.g. public policies are in place.


Lessons from History

Explore these articles in Britannica School that provide students with a glance at important events throughout history, including achievements, hardships, movements and change throughout history.


Integrating Media Literacy into National History Day

Use these questions to encourage students to use a critical lens when analyzing the media below:

  • What do you wonder?
  • What groups or people are being discussed in this article?
  • What problems or solutions are being communicated in this resource?

  • Did anything surprise you? Explain
  • What is being communicated in this newspaper/video/image? Provide evidence.
  • What is the motivation behind this resource?

  • Whose perspective is this from?
  • Do you think the language used in this resource could be used today? Why/why not?
  • Do you see any similarities or differences in how this form of communication has evolved over time? Explain.


National History Day Resource Packs

Take advantage of Britannica School with these curated resource packs, that are filled with articles about global issues.


National History Day Teacher and Student Resources

Encourage students to take on a historical research project and develop skills in how to conduct research, and participate in the National History Day contest which will be held on June 21. The theme for 2021 is: Communication in History: The Key to Understanding. NHD also offers teaching resources to help teachers integrate primary sources and critical thinking into the classroom. These resources are free and accessible to all teachers.


We hope you and your students enjoy these activities and resources, as you continue your journey of incorporating culture and history into your curriculum!  Contact us at [email protected]

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