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).

Plays written in dramatic verse (such as Shakespeare's or Sophocles') are dramatic literature, and as such, must be performed in categories where drama/plays are allowed. They are not considered poems, per se, even though they are written in meter/verse. Therefore, they should not be performed in high school Group Interpretive Reading, but may be used in Middle Level Readers Theatre, since that category allows for dramatic literature.

The rules are silent with regard to touching the floor or lying on the floor. It is a choice performers may make. Although students may not be disqualified for touching the floor, judges can take movement into consideration in the overall evaluation of a student’s performance.

In interpretive categories, if contestants wear clothing implied for a particular character or described in the script, that is a costume. In group categories, merely dressing alike does not constitute a costume, unless the script calls for it (such as characters who are twins). In speech categories, if a student is wearing the attire called for by a particular occasion or topic, that is a costume. However, in Demonstration Speaking, students should wear attire appropriate to what is being demonstrated.

In education circles, middle level is a universal term encompassing middle schools, junior high schools, intermediate schools/K-8 schools with grades 6-8 as the focal point for participation in forensic Speech contests. WHSFA has two progressive levels of contests we offer for middle level students:

  1. Level 1: The official festival a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to move on to Level 2 (receiving a commemorative certificate for that achievement. Otherwise, s/he earns a participation certificate.
  2. Level 2: The second and final official contest a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to receive a blue ribbon; otherwise, s/he earns a red ribbon.

Upon joining the WHSFA, any given student can only participate in one official Level 1 and one official Level 2 contest per school year. Schools also may participate in invitational, or "practice" contests, which are run independently of the WHSFA, but often use the WHSFA's contest categories, rules, and evaluation sheets. Those do not count as official, however, and there is no limit to how many a school may participate in. Schools are not required to attend a specific contest in their geographic region, and some contests are limited in how many schools/entries they can accept, because their facilities may not accommodate everyone interested in attending. In those cases, we recommend other schools step forward to host contests as well.

There are no per-category, nor overall entry limits for Middle Level Speech, although certain festivals may have limitations on capacity in their school buildings. We do encourage schools to distribute their entries across different categories to maximize the educational experiences students receive.

Generally speaking, contests ask for one adjudicator for every five entries, or fraction thereof. Some contests require fewer or more. This means that if a school has 7 entries, it should bring two adjudicators. Some contests will allow schools to pay a fee for uncovered adjudicators, not because they have extras they can hire for a school, but to incentivize schools to bring their own adjudicators. It is a burden on any host when schools do not provide all of the adjudicators they are expected to.

Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

If you're not affiliated with a particular school, or would like to offer your adjudicating services to additional schools and contests, please join our statewide email list. We do not have lists for specific regions of the state, because there's too much overlap between areas with contests schools attend.

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Handbook updated Feb. 25, 2021 with instructions for L2 registration.

Middle Level Handbook

Adjudicator Guidelines

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.

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