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Speech Preparation

Posted in Academic Decathlon

Although it is only one part of the Academic Decathlon competition, the Speech portion can sometimes be the most intimidating - as well as the most fun.  We will be slowly creating our speeches over the first two months of class in a series of activities designed to help students first brainstorm, then refine ideas for speeches.  The next step involves drafting the speeches and refining the written versions.  Finally we will begin to memorize the three and a half minute speeches, using techniques of presentation in order to get them ready for the competition.

Task #1 - Three-Speech A to Z
 
Step 1 - Brainstorm some topics you'd like to speak about and select three main ones you would like to give a try.  Try to think of things that will have interest to a broad audience.  It should be something to interest not only your peers and family and friends, but also your other target audience: 55-year-old, white, Republican males.  Though personal topics often work best, feel free to choose controversial (or uncontroversial) topics.  Here are some of the topics students did in the 2003 and 2007 competitions (just for an idea):

The Music of the Spheres - An Astronomy Summer Camp
 My Ascent of Mount Whitney (A Metaphor for Life)
 Why Loud, Booming Car Stereos Make Me Cheer!
The Thing on My Head: Why I Wear a Hijab
 What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?
 "A Panda Walks Into A Bar...":  Grammar Made Visible


Step 2 - List the letters A - Z (26 letters) for each of the three topics you choose.  Then come up with a word or phrase or idea or quote beginning with each letter listed.  Do this for all three topics. 
These MUST be typed.
 
Step 3 - type them up, if they're not typed already, bring them to class.  (Turn-in date, TBA, 30 points)  Once in class, we will form groups and pass around / read around the topics, rating them with Smiley  or   Cheesy  or  Grin   or   Huh  or    Undecided  or Angry  or  Cry .   Students will then rate their own topics on the basis of what they feel will be the most productive.  
In consultation with the teacher, each student will choose what they feel is their strongest topic.
 

Task #2 - Expanding Your Topic

The next step in preparing the speeches, for your topic, come up with: 
 
 1. A snazzy title (1 pt.) 
 2. An opening hook.  You are not going to have to stick with this, but I am curious how you envision starting your speech.  It can be a quote, an anecdote, a gesture, or an image (spoken - no props allowed)  (1 pt.)        3.A statement of the purpose / theme of your speech; this is also a summary sentence which explains the intent, the point of your speech. (1 pt.)            4. A profile of the person LEAST likely to be naturally interested in your topic; this will be just a couple of sentences or a short paragraph (1 pt.) 
A statement of how your speech will involve that person (1 pt.) 
 5.  2 pertinent quotes; these should be from published sources - not just something your mom said one day.  Be sure to cite the source. (2 pts.)
 6.  A 5-point/sentence outline of the shape of your speech (5 pts.)

As you can see, there are 12 points  possible but this task is only graded on the basis of 10 points! 
These MUST be typed.

 

Task #3 - Choosing and Expanding Your Strongest Topic

  Once this has been done, you will need to create a 5-point ( paragraph by paragraph) outline of what they want to say.  In this outline, show where you will include quotes, and where you choose to use dramatic effects (pauses, bursts, expressions, or gestures).  Of course you will include a bullet-list of your important sub-points as part of this.  There is no clear length required for this outline, but it is worth 15 points.  These MUST be typed.

 

Task #4 - Speech Draft Writing

Write (and type up) a rough draft of your speech.  Be sure to spell and grammar check it.  I will not accept hand-written drafts.  Points will be deducted for spelling errors.  30 points possible.  You will need to bring three copies of your rough draft in for full credit.  One will be for the teacher, the other two will be for your reading partners.  We will do a read-around in which we comment on the following:   (1) is there a good "hook" or opening?  (2) is there a solid conclusion/ending?  (3) does the body support your basic thesis and lead to the conclusion?  (4) what are the weaknesses of this?  (5) what are the strengths of this?  We will write comments on these as read-arounds.  These MUST be typed.

 

Task #5 - Spicing Up Your Vocabulary

With a colored marker, on a copy of your speech rough draft, you will find all the variants of the verb "to be": am, are, is, were, will be, etc.   You will then hunt down all the variants of the verb "to go": go, goes, went, gone, etc.  You will then seek out all variants of the verb "to have": have, has, had.  Next to go?  All the variants of "to say" and "to make".  If it is not being used as an auxiliary verb, it must be purged.  You will then work to remove every single one and replace it with more succinct (or colorful) verbiage. 

Next on the chopping block? You must remove all monosyllabic adjectives (big, tall, fat, nice, good, etc.) as well as all their variants (better, worst, bigger, nicest, etc.) of and replace them with more concise terminology.  After all that we will work together to see what genuinely barbarous things have emerged and return the original forms back to their rightful place if need be.   We will also work to include quotes - IF applicable to your topic.  (You should NOT change the original quotes if they use any of the above words...) You will then re-type your speech with your new, improved vocabulary included therein, staple your old version to the back of it, and turn it in. (15 points for the new typed version)

 

Task #6 - Final Read-Arounds and Written Revisions

Swapping your speech with several partners, you will read each other's now revised speeches and give more written comments on them.  (This may be done with an appointment clock or can be done less formally). Take notes on their comments.  Make adjustments as needed for yet another revision.

 

Task #7 - Timing Yourself - Listening to Others'

Time yourself.  Your speech will ultimately have to land between three and a half and four minutes.  We will all be shooting for 3:45' time lengths.  In class you will read your speech to others in class and they will time you.  You will then need to shrink or stretch your speech to fit the time.  WARNING:  you will need to pace yourself - read clearly and calmly, it is normal in the heat of the moment to give a fully memorized speech a bit too fast!  Take your friends' comments on what parts of your speech were effective, and what parts dragged.  Modify accordingly.  At the end of all this, you will hand me yet another draft of your speech, with your estimated time printed at the top.  You will present your speech to me (read or memorized) and I will time you to see if you come out on target.  As you present to each other, be sure one of you keeps time while the other speaks, holding up signs for 3:30, 3:45, and 4:00. (You will get 30 points, minus 1 point for every second over 4 minutes or under 3 1/2 minutes.)

 

Task #8 - Working on Inflection (Presentation to the Teacher Team)

Take a double or triple-spaced version of your speech and go through it underlining all the words and phrases you want to particularly emphasize vocally. Practice your projection.  Be sure to indicate parts of your speech in which you slow down, speed up, or speak softly.  Mark these moments in your copies or use musical notation (accel., rit., cresc., dim., sfz, ppp, ff, etc.).   Read your speech to several other students who can point out areas in which you fail to enunciate or articulate your words clearly.   Mark these words and practice them singly as well as in the context of your speech.  Get a really big Jawbreaker candy, put it in your mouth and give your speech - see if your friends can understand you!  Don't forget your inflection.  Time yourself - be sure you are still on target, make changes as needed. Turn in a copy of this annotated version to me for 15 more points.

 

Task #9 - Choreography

The time has come to do your dance!  Think out movements which will enhance the meaning of your speech - both with hand/arm movements, facial gestures, and body movements.  Remember, you are not allowed to use any props... other than yourself.  Make use of yourself!  Careful though!  Don't become distracting, but pick and choreograph your speech with motion.  Type in these movements with a different font, possibly in the off-spaces of your double-spaced speech.  Time yourself - be sure you are still on target, make changes as needed. Turn it in with full choreography for 15 more points.

 

Task #10 - Memorizing the Words, the Emphases, and the Gestures

Now you are ready to memorize.  Use your gestures and inflections to help you structure your speech.  Do it all, not just word memorization, but work to memorize the totality (be sure your timing is still good).  Do it again, paragraph by paragraph.  Break it up - start in the middle - start with the last paragraph, go back one and carry on.  Practice it in noisy places.  Have people give you feedback.  Do it in front of a mirror.  Videotape it and watch.  Do it again.  Do it some more. Over and over.  Get comfortable with it.  Start dreaming about it.  Be able to pick it up in the middle of a conversation about something else.  In short:  Memorize it.  Points?  Priceless.

 

Task #11 - Speech Clocks

The teacher will set up a speech clock for the class.  (Draw a clock, indicating noon, 3, 6, and 9 - find different partners and sign up for appointments with them - you put their name on their clock and they put your name on theirs at the same times - then you will "meet" when that time comes.)  This will give you good one-on-one practice with your speech.  As you present to each other, be sure one of you keeps time while the other speaks, holding up signs for 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00.

 

Task #12 - Presenting and Becoming a Winner!  Yeah!

And the final task: formal presentation!  This may be to a teacher, a panel of graders, or even the full-on competition!