Categories & Topics

High School Speech

Handbook & Recent Rules Changes

  1. The qualifying score from district to State is now 21 (previously 20).
  2. Schools are allowed up to 30 entries per school. Specific category limits are unchanged. The 25 highest performing entries at the State Festival will count toward the Excellence in Speech Awards, and a new Distinction in Speech Award is added for schools in the top 6-10% of performing schools.
  3. Clarified rule for works cited in Informative Speech, Moments in History Speech, Oratory Speech, and Public Address Speech: The contestant must hand a printed list of works cited in MLA or APA format to the adjudicator prior to speaking; adjudicators will return the list to the contestants by the end of the round. When no list is provided by the contestant, the adjudicator will deduct two points; the list should support what the student orally cites in the speech, but adjudicators should only evaluate actual spoken citations.
  4. Clarified in Group Interpretive Reading, Poetry Reading, and Prose Reading that intellectual experience means “what is happening,” and emotional experience means “how it feels.”

Please see the 2018-19 and 2017-18 tabs for other recent rules changes, as the past couple of years have had a number of functional changes to the rules.

2018-19 Changes

  1. Change Four-Minute to Informative Speech with a 6-minute time limit and allow for visual aids.
  2. Require a printed works cited list to be handed to each adjudicator by contestants in Informative, Moments in History, Oratory, and Public Address. For students who do not provide such a list, adjudicators must deduct two points. Students must still cite sources contextually during their speech.
  3. matching outfitsSpecify rule with costuming for Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting: “merely dressing alike or coordinated outfits is not considered costuming.” (see image to right)
  4. Revise rules for Impromptu to better reflect procedure of the round, and that students should remain in the contest room each round for the entire round.
  5. Clarify role of Referee Committee at the State Festival.
  6. Refine rules for substitution (Handbook, #3.c./d. – p. 5) and changing material during the season (#12.a.iv. p. 7).
  7. Add rule 7.c. regarding remediation for ineffective adjudicators (Handbook, p. 6).
  8. Explain for festival hosts/managers Extemporaneous draw procedures, as well as Impromptu protocols: “Before the Festival,” Handbook, #5.a./b./c., p.18-19.
  9. Essays in the back of the handbook were replaced with new versions for Demonstration Speech, Extemporaneous Speech, Group Interpretive Reading, Radio News Announcing, and Storytelling.

2017-18 Changes

Rules changes for the 2017-18 season (2018-19 changes will be posted by October 1):

  1. Farrago allows (optionally) for transitionless programs of interwoven material.
  2. Group Interpretive Reading rules clarify the prohibition of dramatic literature: play for theatre, screen, or radio.
  3. Impromptu Speech has been added as a permanent category, with hypothetical questions added as a type of prompt.
  4. Moments in History Speech allows for choosing one of two topics, or speaking on both.
  5. Play Acting rules require material from one work of drama (play for theatre, screen, or radio).
  6. Radio Speaking has been renamed to Radio News Reporting to more accurately reflect the category and reference News Reporting at the middle level; added a table to show point deductions for time.
  7. Storytelling rules clarify that contestants should use language and imagery appropriate to the story and intended audience – as named in the introduction.
  8. Students in the following speaking categories – Four Minute, Moments in History, Oratory, and Public Address – are encouraged to provide a list of works cited to furnish to adjudicators or a contest referee committee when requested. See p. 7, rule 11.a.iii.
  9. For interpretive and acting categories, rules were clarified to require coaches to have a copy of source material, and not (just) contestants [this allows a referee committee to more thoroughly investigate possible rules violations and potential disqualifications. This rule extends to Poetry Reading and Prose Reading. See p. 7, rule 11.a.ii.
  10. Standards for the Excellence in Speech Award have been included in this handbook. Also clarified prohibition against other awards at subdistrict/district festivals. See p. 7, rule 10.

2019-20 High School Speech Topics

Moments in History

Choose one or both time periods:

  • 1900-1909
  • 2000-2009

Examples of areas students might consider:  politics, military action, historic sites, monuments, natural disasters, ethnology, legends, folklore, science, inventions, medicine, arts,  entertainment, geography, transportation, sports, religion, heroes, villains, personalities, significant speeches, fashion, and fads.

Public Address

Choose one topic question:

  • What, if anything, can governments do to ensure integrity and security of elections in the United States?
  • What, if anything, should schools do to ensure comparable funding for arts and athletics?
  • To what extent, if any, should the U.S. federal government legislate controls over freshwater resources, especially the Great Lakes?
  • To what extent, if any, should schools require a dress code for all students?
  • To what extent, if any, should communities support the locavore movement to promote
    nutrition and sustainability?

Special Occasion

Choose one occasion:

  • Opening argument for a trial
  • A speech to decline an award
  • End of year banquet speech
  • Press conference to announce a product recall
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Storytelling

Prepare a story for each topic area:

  • A story from or about Pacific Island cultures
  • A story about travel
  • A story about being dirty and/or clean
  • A story about family
These brief descriptions are not a substitution for full rules. Please download the WHSFA Speech Handbook above.

Public Speaking

Students write original speeches, and may use one 4″ x 6″ note card, where students are encouraged to outline or include speaking points, rather than word-for-word manuscripts (so they can engage better with audiences). Key to symbols: = allowed | 🚫 = prohibited |☑️ = required | ⭕️ = not require

Performance of Literature

Contestants interpret literature to convey the human existence, exploring psychology of characters, to mine the artistry of language, and/or cultivate arguments surrounding themes/issues.  Key to symbols: = allowed | 🚫 = prohibited | ☑️ = required | ⭕️ = not required | 📖 = presented from manuscript | 🧠 = memorized | Orig = Original Material | Qual = Quality Material