Friday, January 28, 2011

And They're Off

Hello from the 2011 State Festival Speech Meet!

I'm in the ballot room at the moment. Today my job is to stuff ballots, i.e. sort the completed judging sheets into the folders for each school.

On one hand, it's a dull job as there's not much to do until the ballots come in. Even then there won't be much to do, since they've got three of us in here.

On the other hand, it puts me in a prime place to see how my kids are doing each round. So that's something.

I have 25 kids here today. Not bad, considering. It was a bit of a rush getting out of school. Ruth had always left after 2nd period and let the kids get lunch down here. I opted this year to wait until after the kids finished lunch at school to come down. Two reasons:
1) The kids who are on free lunch would actualy get to eat withouut worrying about paying for food out and
2) I would only have to get a teacher to cover one class of mine instead of 2.

Still, it was a rush to get down here in time. I'll have to reconsider that plan next year.

In any case, we're here until about 9pm tomorrow night. And while I'm here, I'm going to tell you a little more about Speech.

There are actually several different types of events students can compete in. Each state tends to pick its own, so there is some variation. In Colorado, there's even further division according to school size - we're under 1440 (we're actually at about 450 this year), so that means we compete in the Festival group of schools. Here's a break-down of the Festival Speech Events:

Interpretation of Literature (Drama, Humor, or Poetry)
In this event, students "interpret" a piece of literature orally. They must read from a script (although most have it memorized by now), the piece must come from a published source, it must ber 10 minutes long (most are around 8-9), and they are restricted to "minimal movement."

This year my students are competing with selections from The Green Mile, The Hobbit, Love Bites, Life Among the Savages, The Hunger Games, some creepy murderer book I don't recall the title of, and some kinda-funny book about a girl stalking a boy she met in math class. The poems are from Rives, Taylor Mali, Roald Dahl, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

They've done decently in those categories, but Poetry's the strongest this year. My Rives girl and my Mali girl have been trading 1sts back and forth since the start of the season. Yay slam poetry!

Impromptu Speaking
In this event, students draw three topics; a word, a phrase, and a sentence. One of those must be a current event. For example:

No internet in Egypt
You get what you pay for.

And they get 5 minutes to prepare a 3-5 minute speech on that topic. They are allowed 1 3x5 notecard to use for prep and while speaking.

It's a popular event for beginning speechers, since they think that it's less work than an interp round. Impromptu-ers are also the worst about showing up for practice, since they "don't have anything to practice." Au contraire! And it shows - the ones who work with me on how to plan out a speech quickly, how to organize your thoughts and arguments, how to reach the 3-mminute mark, how to deliver your speech, how to move appropriately, how to hook your judge and create a call-too-arms, and so on inevitablly do better at meet. Funny how that is.

Impromptu is very similar to the other "draw" event...

Creative Storytelling
CST attracts the same kind of students as Impromptu. In this one, the students get 15 minutes to prepare and act out a story based on one of three prompts that consist of a character, a setting, and a situation. For example:

Character: A hotdog vendor
Setting: On a street corner in New York City at lunchtime
Situation: At the peak of the lunch rush you discover that your wedding ring has fallen into the vat of hotdogs.

You have 3-5 minutes to tell/act out that story. And it is more about acting than speechifying. Most of the events are, actually.

Original Oratory
OO is probably what you imagine when you think about competing in speech. The students research and write a 7-10 minute speech on a topic of their choice, then deliver it from memory. This year's topics from my team are The Coffee Trade, White Slavery, Ducktales, and Youtube addicts. My Coffee girl had won a lot of awards this year, but then she's been competing in OO all of her high school career and she usually wins. The others are all strong speakers, too, so we've got a good chance in this category.

Solo Acting
... is a 7-10 minute monologue performance. it's a tricky one to find material for, since it's rare in theater to have a character give such a long monologue. One of the rules is that you "must retain the original persona" - in other words, you can't play more than one character. As a result, a lot of competitors pick schitzophrenic pieces so they can be flashier for the judges. I think it's a stupid rule myself. I have two kids in this category who have held their own all year, including some firsts - a girl doing a piece from Wintergirls and a boy doing Paul's monologue from A Chorus Line.

Duet Acting ( Dramatic or Humorous)
These events are scenes, basically. My kids are doing the Alcyoone and Ceyx myth from Zimmerman's Metamorphoses (and they've taken first almost all year with it), a scene from Miller's Playing for Time, a reduced version of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Hollywood, and a shortened version of Alan Ackburn's The Boy Who Fell Into a Book. These are probably our strongest categories this year, actually.

And, finally, there's debate. At Festival we have two kinds:

Public Forum Debate
...which none of my kids are doing. It's in teams of two and they debate a topic that's released monthly. The idea is that they should debate it without debate jargon - it should be for the "public." That doesn't really happen, though. The other type...

One-on-One Value Debate
... is where two competitors go head-to-head to debate a topic that they are given 1/2 hour before the debate. They don't get any resources to prep with, so the arguments are based on their prior knowledge and are written for them to argue a value rather than a policy. Something like "After-school activities detract from high school students' academic achievements."

I have two students doing it 1:1, both of whom are sorta new at it. One's a sophomore, though, and once he gets some more history classes under his belt, he'll be great.

And there you have it. That's what my students are doing right now and what I've been spending my after-school hours and weekends doing since August. I think we'll do well today, but theree's really no way to tell since the judging is pretty completely subjective anyway.

Still, fingers crossed!

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