Speech is a unique opportunity to learn skills that will serve your student in life no matter where it takes them, after all, communication skills are important in all fields of work and in all facets of life.
The purpose of the Speech Team is to improve students' communication skills through performative presentations. Skills include the ability to convey information and emotion when speaking, to gain confidence when speaking in front of an audience, to learn how to avoid poor speaking habits, and to be able to engage the audience in your presentation.
For those students who have a passion to belong to an extracurricular team that isn’t sports oriented, Speech Team provides a chance to compete in a Minnesota State High School League event with students from other schools around the state. Many Speech Team students form and maintain friendships they make on the team or with students from other schools well into adulthood.
We invite you to check out all our Speech Team has to offer – contact Laura Hanson today.
How speech works:
The first thing that students do in speech is choose one of the 13 categories. The categories fall into a few main groups. Interpretive categories (Prose, Poetry, Drama and Duo) involve picking a piece that someone else wrote--the source of the piece determines the category. The students will choose a piece or a cutting from a piece and perform that piece all season long. This is the most popular group of categories at Central right now. Our prose speaker, Chloe Knopik does a short story by Poe, our poetry speakers perform collections of poems about loss (Peyton Tietz) and suicide (Avery Lueck). We have 5 students who perform in Drama--Joe Docken, Kailey Twiest, Kira Weverka, Callie Buckentin and Payton Simon. Their pieces range from Kailey’s character of a young boy dealing with poverty to Kira who plays the mother of a son now in prison. All of these categories are serious in nature and it is amazing how carefully and deeply students are able to interpret topics that some adults would struggle with.
Duo is a slight exception to the serious rule. While it takes its source material from the same places as these other categories, it can be serious or humorous and involves 2 students performing together. Since it is the only category where the students perform with a partner, it is also popular. Central has 4 duo pairs with pieces ranging from the outrageous comedy performed by seniors Peyton Tietz and Bailey Vanderlinden, the goofiness of Callie Buckentin and Payton Simon playing ditzy highschoolers learning to drive to Kailey Twiest and Carson Mellingen depicting the internal struggles of an aspiring author or Joe Docken and Avery Lueck portrayal of parents trying to find what is best for their son.
Written categories are categories where the student writes the piece themselves. These include the categories of Informative, Original Oratory, Great Speeches and Creative Expression. The purpose of Informative speeches is simply to inform the audience and our Informative competitor, Becca Sandeen does a wonderful job of this in her piece on Epilepsy. Original Oratory is to present an argument and win the support of the audience. Our Original Oratory students Jackson VanHorn and Tenley Read have both chosen to speak on ways that the school system could better provide for its students. Great Speeches is a category where a student analyzes a speech from the past and through the analysis shows that this speech is a great speech worthy of remembering. Finally Creative Expression is a category where a student is free to write whatever they would like to. Creative expression is different because unlike the other Written categories it can be fictional or nonfictional. The added challenge of the Written categories is that the students are analyzed on their writing as well as their performance.
The next group is the Limited Prep categories. These include Extemporaneous Reading where a student will get a cutting from a book 30 minutes before they perform and use that 30 minutes deciding how they will interpret and read the selection aloud. Extemporaneous Speakers draw a question 30 minutes before they speak and then use prepared resources to create a 7 minute speech answering the question. Storytellers draw one of 15 folk stories 30 minutes before they speak and prepare to retell the story from memory with characters and engaging storytelling techniques. Every time our storyteller, Hailey Buckentin tells a story, I feel transported to elementary storytime on the rug.
Finally the last category, in a group of its own is Discussion. Students in Discussion are given a task at the beginning of each round and use prepared resources of the group and their own insight to solve the task together as part of a group. Our discussant, Gabi Schmidt is in her first year of speech but her fantastic insight and ideas on questions that the whole world is asking right now has served her very well in this engaging category.
You might have noticed that some student’s names were mentioned twice! This is because at invitational meets, students are allowed to double enter which means entering in two different categories. Central has a few students who double enter. It is especially useful with Duos because if your partner can’t make it to a meet, you still have a second piece to compete with. Sometimes it does make for some hard decisions come section time since each student is only allowed one entry at section meets.
Each student practices with a coach 30 to 45 minutes once a week. The skills that we focus on really vary with the individual and the category. In one afternoon, we may work on blocking and timing with a duo, cleaning up transitions between poems with a poet, adjust wording clarity with an informative student and end with a research and discussion session on economic events with a discussion student. One of the best parts of coaching is getting to help students grow in all of these areas.
The Speech Season starts in December with students choosing or writing their speech and then working to polish the speech and their performance of it through January. February and March are the competition months. Speech Meets are generally held on Saturdays and are an all day event. Students arrive at the high school between 6:30 and 7:30 to get on a bus to travel to the school we are competing at that day. When we get to the meet, we do warm ups as a team before each student scatters to prepare themselves and find the rooms they will be competing in that day. First round starts at 9:00 AM sharp. In a round of speech, each student is assigned a room with 6-8 other students in their category. A judge arrives and all the students in that room will take turns performing their piece for that judge. The judge writes a critique sheet which tells the students what things they did well and includes ideas for improvement. Once all of the speakers have taken their turn, the judge will score them based on how they did that round. So the best speaker in that room gets a score of 1, the next gets a 2 and so on. The students also get a percentage score which shows them how close to perfection their piece is. So a 100 would mean that the student shouldn’t change anything and this piece should go to state, and an 87 means there’s lots of room for improvement. Each meet has 3 rounds like this. At the end of the first 3 rounds, scores are tallied and the top 6-8 students are chosen to compete in a final round. This round is similar to the first three rounds except that there will be 3 judges in the room. When finals are over, the team waits until results are ready. The waiting time often involves socializing with teammates or friends from other teams, dance parties and competitions, joke contests or just a nap if you had to get up early.
Once the final results are ready, there is an awards ceremony. This could be very long since there are 13 categories and 6-8 finalists plus any honorable mentions that might be given. So the Speech Community long ago took care of that. For each finalist, everyone in the room claps once, all at the same time. We just call it the speech clap. Each category is called to the stage one at a time. The true torture is waiting for your category to be called--will it go alphabetical? (the Storytellers hate when it goes alphabetical), will it be random? (The drama students don’t like this much.) For each category the students winning 2-8th place get a speech clap and collect their award and then everyone stands and gives a full round of applause to the winner of the category. Whenever one of our students goes on stage, they bring one of our two good luck charms, Chubs or Bubs the stuffed corgis on stage. Over the last 10 years or so, it has become tradition for teams to have a good luck mascot of sorts with them on stage. For us it’s Chubs, who was given to us about 5 years ago. This winter, a former team mate, Wyatt Borst, gave Bubs and the babies to us as a Christmas present so now we have enough for everyone to hold. Finally, team awards are given out. There are often small and large school awards and Central has brought home 3 trophies as a team this year including 2 first place teams!
This year the team has gone to 8 meets, with only sections left on April 7th. Our first competition this year was at Annandale High School. This was a warm up meet that is unique because at Annandale, students sign up for rooms to compete in instead of being assigned rooms. That means that someone might be in the room with students in other categories which is not normal. It is really fun though because students can get a taste for what some of the other categories look like. Joe Docken, Kailey Twiest and Carson Mellingen (duo), Gabi Schmidt and Kailey Twiest (drama) all brought home red ribbons and Tenley Read, Callie Buckentin and Payton Simon (duo) and Callie Buckentin (drama) brough home yellow ribbons.
Our second meet was at Jordan High School. This was the first meet with some real competition and our team did really well. Joe Docken (drama), Peyton Tietz and Bailey Vanderlinden (duo), Tenley Read, Peyton Tietz (Poetry) all got honorable mentions and Becca Sandeen took 6th place in informative, Jackson VanHorn took 6th place in Original Oratory and Avery Lueck got 4th place in Poetry.
Our third meet this year was our home meet. This is always a meet that the team looks forward to. It is so wonderful to see the other schools come to our own school for a meet. We got a little creative with rooms since 37 rooms were needed for the meet. We had about 200 students competing at our meet and 12 different schools represented. The students always tell me that it is great not having to search for their rooms, and they like having other teams see our school. I can’t wait to show off the remodeled school in a few years. We had a lot of success at home as well with Peyton and Bailey, and Jackson receiving honorable mention ribbons, Hailey placing 6th in storytelling, Gabi placing 4th in discussion, and Joe (drama), Joe and Avery (duo), and Avery (poetry) all coming in 3rd. We decided to crown our winners at our meet so students who got 1st or 2nd place had their choice of crowns.
Our 4th meet this year was at Maple Lake. This meet is always one of our favorites and this year was no exception. Central came home with Gabi receiving 7th in discussion, Hailey got 6th in storytelling and Avery getting 1st in poetry! These and the individual scores of our students that day made us the highest scoring small team and we got to take home a plaque to prove it.
St. Anthony Falls’s You Lucky Dog tournament begins the portion of the season where we go to bigger and more difficult meets. Even with that challenge, Avery Lueck got 3rd place in poetry and was able to bring home one of the coveted stuffed huskies (their school mascot is a husky) that they give out instead of ribbons. Everyone got to see some great performances at this meet and take home ideas to refresh and polish their speech.
Our 6th meet of the year was our Conference meet. It was a smaller tournament and a nice break from St. Anthony the week before. Joe and Avery, Becca, Tenley, Avery and Hailey were all named to the All Conference team for winning their categories. Avery was the conference Most Valuable Player and Kailey was named the team’s Honorable Mention. With all this success the team won the conference and came home Conference Champs.
Dassel Cokato is a great meet that again challenged our students with a large number of competitors. There were 26 different schools there! It was big enough that some categories had next in finals. Next in finals are the next 6 students who didn’t make finals by 1 or 2 points. They get an extra chance to receive feedback from a judge, even though they missed finals. Joe took home 4th place in Drama. At this meet, our first year speakers--Callie, Payton, Carson, Kira, Chloe, Gabi, Tenley and Chloe were recognized. There were over 100 first year speakers recognized at this meet. Peyton Tietz and Bailey Vanderlinden were also recognized as our team’s seniors.
Peyton has been in speech for 5 years. Peyton excels in both serious and humorous categories; she started in Duo and has branched out to duo and poetry though duo remains her first love. She has been our team captain and was one of the dedicated few that stuck it out for the 2021 virtual season. Peyton always has so much energy and is so encouraging to the younger crew.
Bailey has been on the team for 2 years. She wasn’t able to join us last year but has really enjoyed being able to come back this year. Bailey has stuck exclusively to duo, first partnering with Hailey and then this year with Peyton. She feels most at home doing light hearted humorous duos.
Hailey Buckentin is our other senior though she wasn’t at this meet to be recognized. Hailey has been involved in speech for 4 years. She has performed in Storytelling and duo. She also uses her speaking skills to compete in the oratory events of FFA, which she is really involved in. Hailey is really good at creating entertaining characters for the stories she tells. We will miss all of our seniors.
Our final invitational of the year was at Cambridge Isanti. Not only did the students give up a Saturday during spring break, but they got to school at 6:30 to do it, since this was our longest bus ride of the year. There were teams from as far away as Duluth and Hibbing at this meet. The drive was worth it though, as Joe (drama) and Hailey made it to finals and Gabi, Joe and Avery (duo) and Avery (poetry) made it into next in finals. Avery received 2nd, Joe and Avery received 2nd and Gabi received 3rd in next in finals. Hailey received 7th place in storytelling and Joe received 6th in drama. Overall the team was able to take home the 2nd place small team award which Avery and Hailey happily accepted.
While we are done with invitationals for the year, we look forward to showing off our pieces to family and friends at the Family and Friends Showcase this weekend. This is always a great event as the students don’t often get to see their teammates perform. Friends and family like watching all of the hard work the students have put into their piece come together at the end of the season.
Our final meet will be Sections at Maple Lake on April 7th. A lot of work goes into this meet on the student and coaches sides of things because the section meet determines who goes to state. At sections, the students who place in the top 3 will go on to compete at the State Tournament at Eastview High School on April 23. We have a few possible contenders this year so good luck to the whole team as we wrap up our season!
*Submitted by Laura Hanson - Speech Coach