When going through old souvenirs, I came across my certificates from Royal Canadian Legion speaking competitions. While it seemed like a big deal at the time, I think I only ever made it as far as one step past our local Legion, which is a far cry from the provincial championships my niece and nephew have both earned in the past few years!
What were my award-winning topics, you may (not) be wondering?
Grade 4: Penpals
Grade 5: Gum
Grade 6: Glasses
Grade 7: Soap Operas
Grade 8: Anorexia
And yes, you do see the name “Katie” on there, which is what I was called until high school, when I shortened it. My real name is Kathleen, and my parents called me Katie as a child, thinking I could switch to Kathleen when I was older, but it was too hard a transition. One year, mom registered me for soccer with my full name, and teammates kept yelling “Kathleen! Your ball!” as I looked around the field wondering who was supposed to be going for it. At least that’s my story.
At the school where I teach (and my daughters attend), it has been a longstanding tradition for students to present speeches (called “storytelling” in the primary grades) as early as Grade 1. Parents help kids to prepare and practise their material at home, which they deliver to the class for an Oral Communication mark. Winners proceed to a school level-competition, and those champs move on to the local Legion.
Last year, in Grade 1, Frannie’s first ever speech was all about her teeth adventures (beginning at 19 months of age when she fell and knocked the two front ones out!) She earned a silver medal at school (competing against three of her cousins in the same division), and third place at the Legion competition.
Sharing Teeth Adventures, 2013
This year, she chose to speak about rules (her opening was “Rule Number One For Kids: Your parents are always right. Rule Number Two: if your parents are wrong, go back to Rule Number One!”) She was selected to go to the gym, where she placed third, moving on to the Legion where she brought home another bronze medal.
Frannie is lucky, because she loves to perform in public (she’s been singing and dancing on stage since she was three), and she is a strong reader who can memorize easily. This year, we also noticed a huge difference in her ability to take feedback and make improvements to her presentation, which was great to see (yes, she has a bit of her mother in her. Okay, a lot.) She may be lacking a little in competitive drive, but I’m not going to consider that a fault. From what we see (and I’ll gladly admit that parents don’t always see it all) she seems to be a good sport, congratulating winners and being happy for the speaking accomplishments of her family and friends.
The ability to speak in front of a crowd is a wonderful skill to have, though for some students giving a speech, even just in front of their peers, can be both scary and stressful. As teachers, we’re still trying to decide whether making classroom speeches optional might be a route to take in the future.
Best of luck to two of my nephews and one niece who are moving on to the next step in 2014 competitions!