Handbook & Rules Changes

  • Handbook
  • 2021-22
  • 2020-21
  • 2019-20
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Middle Level Handbook

Handbook updated Feb. 25, 2021 with instructions for L2 registration. 2021-22 handbook will be posted in early November.

Complete details will be posted here in mid- to late-September, following determinations made by the Board of Control.

  1. Please see complete COVID-19/Public Health Protocols, in force for all WHSFA contest series events.
  2. All schools are required to register online, using SpeechWire, to enter official WHSFA Level 1 and 2 contests. The State Office will dispatch entries to the contests selected by the registering coach. Coaches may request virtual for any of their students, as long as they provide a ratio of adjudicators to students entering each contest independent of the other (e.g., if a school has 2 entries participating at an in-person festival and 2 entries participating virtually, it must provide an adjudicator for each). SpeechWire will be provided free of charge for all Level 1 and 2 festivals; the State Office will communicate to hosts on how to access their contests.
  3. We are returning to requiring two adjudicators' recommendations to advance to the next contest level.
  4. Each of the five evaluation criteria on evaluation sheets will have standards-based ratings of: minimal, emerging, developing, proficient, and mastery.
  5. Evaluation sheets will change from the arbitrary As and Bs to an overall rating of excellence and merit. These will not be tied to the evaluation standards, but will be an overall recommendation by the adjudicator and will determine which award a student earns.
  6. For Level 1 festivals, certificates will be replaced by yellow and white ribbons, which will correspond with the overall rating of excellence (yellow) and merit (green). Level 2 will continue using blue and red, respectively.
  7. All Level 1 contestants will advance to Level 2, irrespective of ratings.
  1. Special dispensations for the 2020 virtual season:
    1. Level 1 and 2 will be statewide contests (not regional), with prerecorded video submissions to be asynchronously adjudicated during windows of dates.
    2. For virtual participation, coaches should avoid identifying their school in submitted videos/video channels.
    3. Group entries may be recordings of videoconference (such as Zoom) or recorded in-person with students socially distanced, not touching, and wearing masks. Limiting groups to 2-3 students is encouraged.
    4. Only one adjudicator qualifying score (instead of two) is required to move from Level 1 to 2. Two A-level scores will still be required to earn a blue ribbon at Level 2. All Level 1 participants will receive a sticker.
    5. There will be no overall team entry limits.
    6. A synchronous Debate Festival will be offered as a separate contest for any interested schools; students may enter this as well as their normal Speech category.
    7. At a later date (early December), WHSFA will announce additional, specific guidelines for video submission, as well as penalties for violations of rules as provided for this virtual season.

Full rules can be found in the Middle Level Handbook.

No rules changes were made for this season. Please review changes for the past two school years, just to refresh your memory! laughing Full rules can be found in the Middle Level Handbook.

2018-19 Changes

  1. matching outfitsSpecified all WHSFA events are open to the public. Interscholastic contests are open to spectators; central to the educational objective of fostering public speaking involves audiences.
  2. A general meeting with adjudicators is required before all Level 1 and 2 festivals.
  3. Clarified that note cards or paper notes may be used, but are subject to evaluation.
  4. Changed Four-Minute Speech to Informative Speech and Eight-Minute to Persuasive Speech.
  5. Added allowance for visual supporting materials in Informative and Persuasive Speech, and added evaluation question for all speeches allowing visual aids that the speaker actively used them well to illustrate.
  6. Play Acting and Readers Theatre changed to a 10-minute time limit.
  7. Specify rule with costuming for Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting: “merely dressing alike or coordinated outfits is not considered costuming” (see photo, above and to the right)
  8. Substitution rules (p. 5, #3) clarified (allows for any eligible student to substitute for an absent group member).

2017-18 Changes

Coach note: Middle level advisors who also coach high school should use the same email address in SpeechWire when registering for contests. Include middle and high school students on the Team roster, in Your account (denote middle level students with high school graduation years).

Festival hosts/managers:

  • SpeechWire is free for taking online registration, scheduling rounds, and for tabulating results for WHSFA Level 1 and Level 2 contests; apply through the state office.
  • All schools participating in Level 1 or 2 contests must be current in WHSFA dues before the office will reimburse contest expenses. We will provide hosts/managers with a list of membership status.
  • The post-festival participation/reimbursement form must be completed online, <-- click link, or within SpeechWire.

Any given student participating in WHSFA middle level contests may participate in one Level 1 contest and one Level 2 contest, plus any number of invitational contests.

Coaches interested in hosting official WHSFA Level 1 or 2 contests should click the request button here (you must log in to this website first).

Middle Level FAQs

FAQs with asterisks (*) pertain to the 2020-21 online/virtual season.

WHSFA middle level Speech registration on SpeechWire encourages (but does not require) students to have an activated SpeechWire account to be able to watch other students' performances. This is done by coaches entering an email address for each student on the SpeechWire roster, which prompts SpeechWire to email the student a SpeechWire account activation message. A student account is not activated until the students opens the message, clicks the link, and completes the process.

However, student accounts will show as “Not activated” until they do this. Students may not be receiving the email activation described above. If that is the case, follow directions in the section below that applies to you:

Does your school allow you to communicate with students’ personal (non-school) email addresses?
Then, you may input those personal email addresses for students.
Does your school block incoming emails to students from non-school email addresses?
Then, ask your IT staff to unblock emails from SpeechWire, which are also used to notify students of access to rounds and such. They can unblock or “whitelist” dispatch@speechwiremail.com, support@speechwire.com, accounts@speechwire.com, and dispatch@speechwire.com.
Has your school IT staff refused to unblock SpeechWire emails?
Go to your roster and SpeechWire and click a student’s name, then click the button, “Manually set password for student” and enter a password. Some coaches copy/paste a uniform password, and then share that with all their students, who can then log in and change their passwords to something they would remember.

Here is a helpful video instructing coaches how to manage their roster with student emails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcGivaEKSuk

A coach also could ask their school IT staff to unblock emails from


Student SpeechWire accounts allow students to:
(1). view prerecorded performances of peers from other schools assigned to the same sections for asynchronous evaluation by the same adjudicator; and/or
(2). for students registered in optional live/synchronous Extemp, Impromptu, or Radio at the subdistrict or district level — or most categories at the State Festival -- to connect them to the secure videoconference platform via their SpeechWire account.
These reasons are why we require student email accounts prior to coaches being able to register them ahead of time.

  • School with middle level grades 6-8 may participate upon joining the WHSFA.
  • From Jan. 7-27, coaches register online, with an accurate roster of adjudicators and student names, certifying interscholastic eligibility (usually handled by an athletic/activities director or an administrator), and assigning students to specific category entries. During that window of dates, coaches may log back in and make changes to registration, up until they submit videos of student presentations (due Feb. 3). See SpeechWire registration instructions in the Middle Level Handbook.
  • The Level 1 festival will be asynchronously adjudicated, and over the course of three rounds each entry must earn at least one "A" score to move on to Level 2. This is done automatically through SpeechWire. All students who participate in a Level 1 festival will earn a sticker, distributed at the end of the Middle Level season.
  • After Level 1, coaches have a brief window to drop students who have advanced, but will not continue to participate, as well as to confirm or modify the adjudicators they plan to have evaluate the Level 2 festival.
  • At the Level 2 festival, over the course of three rounds each entry must earn at least two scores of A to earn a blue ribbon; otherwise, they earn a red ribbon. This is done automatically through SpeechWire.

Invitationals (including one run by WHSFA) will have separate registration, but also using SpeechWire.

The subdistrict and district festivals will be conducted asynchronously, which means coaches will submit pre-recorded videos, which will be adjudicated during a window of dates. The State Festival will have entry options for both live/synchronous presentation, as well as pre-recorded/asynchronous videos, so whatever a school's or student's circumstances with bandwidth and/or scheduling, that will not be a barrier to participation.

No, unfortunately. Almost every student who participated last year had an opportunity present their speech/material for both the Level 1 and 2 festivals. This determination ensures an equitable opportunity, encourages students to address more current issues, pertinent to this school year, and keeps with our educational objectives.

WHSFA continues its partnership with SpeechWire, which has been modified for adjudicators to complete online evaluation, linking to videos submitted by coaches for each entry for asynchronous evaluation. Both platforms are being thoroughly utilized and improved upon throughout the fall semester, when other states have Speech seasons.

  1. In the top right corner, click Share.
  2. Click "Get shareable link" in the top right of the "Share with others" box.
  3. To choose whether a person can view, comment, or edit the file, click the Down arrow next to "Anyone with the link." .
  4. Note that the link may default to be viewable by individuals within your school/institution. To expand access to outside of your school/institution, click the Down arrow next to "Anyone at [name of institution]…” and select “More” and select Anyone with the link.
  5. Click the button, Copy link. Paste the link in an email or anywhere you want to share it.

As part of annual update of their student rosters in SpeechWire, coaches will be asked to provide an email address for each participating student. This could be a school-provided email address for students, or a special personal email address created by the student for purposes of participation. SpeechWire will create student accounts linked to those email addresses, which students will use to log in and view asynchronous, pre-recorded video entries of peers assigned to the same "rooms" each round, just as they would see those performances at an in-person festival.

One per Level 1 and Level 2 contest, and if absolutely necessary, a student may re-submit the same video for different levels, although we hope students take adjudicator feedback to improve their performance for subsequent levels.

Coaches should use these questions and arrange a time with each contestant (in-person, via videoconference, or via message) to share five questions, of which the contestant will select one. A video of that contestant’s presentation should be recorded and finalized with the coach within 45 minutes (to allow time for technical considerations). The coach should note the five questions shown to the student for Level 1 and ensure five different questions are shared with the student for Level 2.   

Individual students do not need to wear masks when recording videos, though their coach and other students should remain masked, and should not be within 6 feet (preferably, even further away) when recording is being done. Coaches always should check their school/school district protocols and confirm with administrators.

Smaller groups of 2-3 encouraged.

Video files uploaded for adjudication may be:

Recording of videoconference, with students in different locations, no post-production editing other than to piece together separate video files, or to correct audio/video sync or bandwidth issues. Synchronized speaking/choral reading does not work well in video conferences.

Captured in-person video capture, single-take, no post-production editing; all students must be socially distanced (except to move/cross past one another) and wear cloth masks/face coverings with a tight enough fitting to trap droplets and aerosols.

Coaches will be expected to review all videos before they are submitted and to work through tech issues with students. Adjudicators also will be told to explicitly NOT take sound/video quality into account in their evaluation, however, if they cannot hear nor see the student, it may be difficult for them to evaluate effectively; in those cases, for Subdistrict and District, coaches will be given an opportunity to resubmit a video; that courtesy will not be extended for the State Festival, because those issues should be figured out by that part of the season.

The WHSFA has traditionally not required a minimum time for presentations, although adjudicators are encouraged to evaluate development — or lack thereof — of each presentation. This should be evaluated in the criterion regarding development in speech categories, and in the criterion regarding understanding meaning in interpretive categories.

Material is allowable as long as it fits the literary genre prescribed in the rules for the particular category a contestant is participating in, and it meets content expectations of the contestant’s school/school district administration.  Please note that transcribed media, such as YouTube, are categorized by the genre of the source material being performed, and not by the mode of performance itself. This means if a YouTube performer is presenting a prose narrative, the material is categorized as prose, and NOT as drama. For more details on rules, please see the Middle Level Handbook.  Finally, we annotated the descriptions on the Categories & Topics page to include allowed genre(s) for each category.

Start by asking students books they’ve read (on their own and/or in classes) or movies/television shows they’ve viewed that resonated with them. Ask what current issues in society are important to them. Knowing students’ interests helps you find material they can be passionate about, which will come through in their performance. The school library is a great place to start. In fact, some librarians have a limited budget for acquiring new materials, so they may have a catalogue of plays and other materials. The public library is another place to look, and asking English and theatre teachers for ideas can be helpful. Be wary of vendors who publish literature for “contest” or “classroom” performance, since these often lack the depth of what can be found in other works of literature the student would need to cut to contest length. The process of cutting can be a tremendous learning experience for students, as they determine what themes and character qualities they wish to cultivate in their performances.

No. A transcription not provided by the originator of the material is a violation of copyright law.

In Solo Acting Humorous/Serious, "material shall be a cutting from serious or humorous drama or other literature adapted to the dramatic format with brief narrative transitions…” Stand-up comedy is often not published in print form, and students should not transcribe directly from a performance.

In Farrago and Solo Acting Humorous/Serious, quality material is required, which “gives insight into human values, motivations, relationships, problems and understandings and is not characterized by sentimentality, violence for its own sake, unmotivated endings or stereotyped characterizations.” It is recommended that such material be sought for all performance of literature categories, even if there is no specific evaluation item related to selection of material.

Drama is literature with line attributions to particular characters and with stage directions, such as a play. Dramatic literature is not allowed in Group Interpretive Reading, and is required in Play Acting.

No. Adapting other genres of literature (such as novels or poetry) abuses copyright/intellectual property rights of the material’s original author. We have been asked if an adaptation of another’s work fits the definition of “original,” and the answer is no. Those concepts and ideas are still the intellectual property of the original author. Fortunately, we have a Readers Theatre category, where works of literature that are not drama are perfectly suitable for performance.

Song lyrics are poetry, unless the song comes from a stage or film musical (e.g., Hamilton, or The Greatest Showman) -- then they're considered drama (dramatic literature). The exception would be a song that existed prior to its incorporation in a musical (e.g., "Dancing Queen" in Mamma Mia! or "Rhythm of the Night" in Moulin Rouge).