How to Impress Your History Teacher

Three Methods:Impressing Your History TeacherWriting a Great History EssayPreparing for Class

You don't have to be the smartest kid in class to impress your teachers. Most teachers have favorite students, and those tend to be the ones who are obviously trying to learn the material. It may sound obvious, but your History teacher became a History teacher because they really love the subject. If you want to impress them, try to see beyond just the "names and dates," and understand how important people and major events had an impact on things that came after them.

Method 1
Impressing Your History Teacher

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    Memorize important historical names and dates. History teachers are especially impressed if you know specific details like these, and they will help you keep facts straight in class. If you can't remember all the specific dates covered in class, at least be sure to know the order in which important events followed each other.
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    Learn your geography. Get to know countries and capitals, as well as ancient countries and capitals. This will definitely put you at the top of the class, because most students today know very little about geography. Knowing the basics will also help you avoid making silly mistakes in class discussions, or asking a question about something you should already know.
    • Six months after Hurricane Katrina, 33 percent of US high school students couldn't point to Louisiana on a map, and fewer than half could find Ohio or New York.[1]
    • Despite US involvement in the Middle East, 63 percent of college students could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map, and 88 percent could not identify Afghanistan.[2]
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    Search Netflix for historical documentaries. Some of these are quite entertaining, and you may find you have more of a passion for the subject than you thought you did. Try to find an event or time period you are genuinely interested in. Stop by your teacher's desk about after class to ask their opinion about what you watched – it will definitely impress them.[3]
    • Try to find something that relates to the specific time period you are studying at the moment. You'll probably pick up some unusual facts to add to the discussion, that aren't covered in the textbook.
    • If you can't find anything related to your current class topic that interests you, watch a biography about a historical person, or something about a different period in history.
    • The trick is to find something that genuinely interests you – your teacher will be able to pick up on this.
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    Participate in class. Channel your inner Hermione, and raise your hand in class. If you ask a lot of questions, your teacher won't call on you as often. You'll come off sounding smart for being inquisitive, and you won't have to deal with too many questions that you don't know how to answer. You will also be guiding the conversation into interesting directions, making class discussions more interesting for everyone, including you. [4]
    • Your teacher may even give you extra credit points for helping to keep the class discussions moving along.
    • At the minimum, you will at least get 100 percent on the class participation grade.
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    Sit at the front. If you can choose your own seats in a class, always try to sit in the front of the room. History classes tend to be more lecture-heavy than other courses, and sitting at the front may help you stay awake if your professor is having a dull morning.[5]
    • It's a lot easier to read the board and take notes from the front
    • Sitting in a front desk gives the impression that you are one of the serious students.
    • Students who sit in the front or in the middle of the classroom tend to score higher on exams.[6]
    • Bonus: teachers often like to call on students in the back of the room, to make sure they are paying attention. In a front desk, you won't have to deal with as many surprise questions.

Method 2
Writing a Great History Essay

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    Make sure you understand the context. Evaluate each part of the problem, and be sure you know what all the terms mean. History teachers place a lot of importance on context: the time period in which something happened, what was going on at that time, and the nationalities and personalities of the people who were involved. Be sure you always describe events in their correct chronological order – getting this wrong is a big faux pas in a history paper!
    • Why is this event, or time period, so important?
    • What are the most crucial elements of the situation?
    • Which people contributed to the situation being discussed?
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    Choose an obscure topic when writing history papers. If your teacher allows you to pick the subject of a paper or an essay question on a test, the last thing you want to do is write the same thing everyone else will be writing. Your teacher will appreciate the novelty of reading something different for a change, and it will probably translate into a higher grade.[7]
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    Come up with a strong thesis. Historical essay writing is based on a central argument, or thesis statement. This is your own, particular take on the subject matter, which you will then support in the rest of your paper.[8]
    • Don't simply restate the professor's assignment in your thesis – try to come up with something original on your own. If you really can't think of anything new, at least go with one of the less common interpretations.
    • To come up with a thesis, think about the instructor's question and ask yourself why it's important. Why do you think your teacher wanted you to research this topic?
    • A thesis isn't simply your opinion – it's more like the interpretation that you think is most likely true, after you do a bit of research. It's your spin on things, but one that you can back up with concrete evidence.
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    Support everything you say with specific facts. Once you have your thesis nailed down, research your topic looking for those particular dates, quotes, and lists that are most relevant to your point of view. Then present this evidence in a way that clearly supports your argument.[9]
    • Always properly quote your source material, and create an accurate list of citations. If your history teacher sees one of their favorite books in your list, this will definitely impress them.
    • If you really want to impress your teacher, learn how to incorporate footnotes into your paper. A footnote is a way to back up your thesis by challenging the reader – in this case, your teacher – to check your source material to see how it supports your ideas. If your teacher isn't sure where you are going with part of your argument, this will help them understand your thinking.
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    Seek out more obscure source material. When writing a history paper, make an effort to seek out more unusual sources. Most of your classmates will confine their research to the first few Google results that come up, so everyone's answers will end up sounding very much the same. Dig a little deeper when doing internet research, or ask your teacher or librarian if they have any suggestions.[10]
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    Add photographs, charts, and illustrations. Adding visual interest to your homework or research paper will go a long way in making it stand out from the crowd – too often, student history papers can come across as sounding a bit dry. Not only does it show that you put some effort into your work, it will make reading your work more interesting for the teacher.[11]
    • Be sure to make a note of where you found any photographs or charts that you include.
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    Go digital. If you are assigned a research paper, ask your history teacher if you can prepare a digital presentation instead. Create an eye-catching presentation with an online platform like, which is free to use for students. You can add interactive elements that will make your project fun to explore, and your teacher will be impressed that you made the extra effort.

Method 3
Preparing for Class

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    Prepare a few questions tailored to your particular teacher. History teachers often have specific time periods or historical figures they are especially fond of, or types of situations they are drawn to. You can tell what these are by noticing what they most focus on in their lectures. Have a question or two ready to ask, in case there is a dead space in the class discussion. Your teacher will see that you've done the reading and put some thought into the material.
    • Your teachers will be grateful for your help in keeping the conversation going – those dead spaces are as boring for them as they are for the rest of the class.
    • Your teachers will either think you're interested in the same things they are (win), or they will give you props for paying close enough attention to figure out what they like most...either way, it's a win for you.
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    Work ahead. To properly study history, it's vitally important to stay caught up on the reading – you need to understand each important historical event before you can understand why the next incident occurred. If there is anything you're confused about, or want to learn more about, you can ask your teacher if he or she has any suggestions for further reading. Your teacher will be impressed that you are looking ahead to the next lesson. [12]
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    Listen to a few podcasts. There are tons of informational podcasts out there that put an entertaining spin on history, like “Stuff You Missed in History Class” or the BBC's “Rex Factor.” Search for episodes about specific historical periods or events that you will be covering in class, and pick up some obscure fun facts to drop into the class discussion.[13]

Article Info

Categories: History | Dealing with Teachers