Categories & Topics

High School Speech

Handbook & Recent Rules Changes

Speech Handbook

A new Speech Handbook will be posted in early October, with an update by November 1 for online participation considerations.

  1. Add language to rules/evaluation sheets to clarify for adjudicators regarding works cited lists in Informative, Moments in History, Oratory, and Public Address: "points will not be deducted for incorrect format of citations."
  2. In Demonstration Speech, add rule: "Contestants may arrange volunteers from the audience in their room before the round starts, but should be prepared to present without a volunteer."
  3. For Poetry and Prose, adapt rules from Farrago to allow for transitionless programs.
  4. Specific adjustments for online participation will be released by November 1.

Please see other tabs for other recent rules changes, as the past couple of years have had a number of 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

  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.

Online Winter-Spring Season

WHSFA has consulted the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, as well as DPI, WIAA, WSMA, NFHS, and similar organizations. All 2020-21 contests will be online. While this should not impact contestants in solo/individual categories, for group categories, coaches are encouraged to select versatile material for group categories, which allows for recording of videoconference performance or that may allow for physical distancing in-person with students wearing masks. By early November WHSFA will release more detailed guidance.

2020-21 High School Speech Topics

Since a number of students had an opportunity to present on 2019-20 topics, we have opted to require adherence to the new topics, which also allow students to explore pertinent and timely topics.

Moments in History

Choose one or both time periods:

  • 1920s
  • 1600s

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:

  • To what degree, if any, should internet access be universal?
  • To what extent, if any, is civil disobedience justified?
  • To what extent, if any, is the World Health Organization worth funding?
  • To what extent, if any, should vaccines be mandatory?
  • To what extent, if any, should the U.S. federal government provide natural disaster relief?

Special Occasion

Choose one occasion:

  • New product launch announcement
  • Rally speech focused on cause/issue
  • Speech arguing against school program budget cuts
  • Eulogy for a political figure
!

Storytelling

Prepare a story for each topic area:

  • Fable
  • Finally being heard
  • Ghosts/vampires/zombies/other undead
  • Science and/or exploration

Speech Contest Categories

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).

Max. Time
Demonstration Speech
10 min.
Extemporaneous Speech
7 min.
Impromptu Speech
5 min.
Informative Speech
6 min.
Moments in History
6 min.
Oratory Speech
10 min.
Public Address Speech
8 min.
Special Occasion
6 min.
Visuals
Demonstration Speech
Extemporaneous Speech
Impromptu Speech
Informative Speech
Moments in History
Oratory Speech
Public Address Speech
Special Occasion
Works Cited
Demonstration Speech
Extemporaneous Speech
Impromptu Speech
Informative Speech
Moments in History
Oratory Speech
Public Address Speech
Special Occasion
Description
Demonstration Speech
1-2 speakers demonstrate how to do something or how something works.
Extemporaneous Speech
30 minutes prior to speaking, the contestant will select a question from which to phrase a direct and clear answer and support it with evidence and reasoning.
Impromptu Speech
Provide a direct response to the prompt drawn with an original, well-organized and imaginative interpretation, supported by personal examples.
Informative Speech
Present a speech with a narrow enough topic to be developed adequately in the time provided to share knowledge, educate and/or raise awareness.
Moments in History
Explore an historical topic within prescribed topics, using such sources as archival records, diaries, personal interviews, letters, newspapers, etc.
Oratory Speech
Persuade with compelling language by offering a solution to a problem; to take action in response to a situation; or potentially reinforce and strengthen attitudes.
Public Address Speech
Selecting from prescribed topics, contribute to public dialog on a contemporary issue by presenting a well-informed speech directly responding to a question about that issue.
Special Occasion
Responding to a prescribed topic area, deliver a speech appropriate to a specific occasion and its probable audience by entertaining, persuading, or informing.

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: = performed from manuscript; = memorized.

Max. Time
Farrago
10 min.
Group Interpretive Reading
12 min.
Play Acting
12 min.
Poetry Reading
8 min.
Prose Reading
8 min.
Radio News Reporting
5 min.
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
10 min.
Storytelling
8 min.
Mode
Farrago
Group Interpretive Reading
Play Acting
Poetry Reading
Prose Reading
Radio News Reporting
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
Storytelling
Original Material
Farrago
Group Interpretive Reading
Play Acting
Poetry Reading
Prose Reading
Radio News Reporting
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
Storytelling
Quality Material
Farrago
Group Interpretive Reading
Play Acting
Poetry Reading
Prose Reading
Radio News Reporting
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
Storytelling
Genres
Farrago
Variety (poetry, short stories, speeches, essays, drama, songs, novels)
Group Interpretive Reading
Any except drama
Play Acting
Single play (dramatic literature)
Poetry Reading
Poetry, verse, song lyrics
Prose Reading
Short stories, cuttings from novels, drama, essays, nonfiction
Radio News Reporting
Provided script
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
Any genre
Storytelling
Any genre; most often, narrative prose
Description
Farrago
Material from a variety of literary genres address a central theme.
Group Interpretive Reading
2-5 readers compile and present a script with symbolic interpretation such that the audience imagines action being described rather than witnessing it being performed.
Play Acting
2-5 performers act a scene or cutting from a single play with emphasis on character development, ensemble, and appropriate physical movement.
Poetry Reading
One or more poems center on a theme or emotion; delivery mines the artistry of language.
Prose Reading
One or more works of prose -- including short stories, cutting from novels, drama, essays, or other non-fiction work -- center on a specific theme or emotion.
Radio News Reporting
30 minutes prior to reading, the contestant organizes from a variety of types of news as well as a commercial, a precise newscast cut and edited to 5 minutes.
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious
The contestant convincingly acts characterization(s) to transport the audience to the world of the material peformed.
Storytelling
Chronicle and perform events in a coherent, unified, clear, and interesting manner, while seated and conveying a sense of audience for one of the prescribed topic areas.

Wisconsin Forensic Speech Category Differences

Summary of rules differences between the WHSFA, Wisconsin Forensic Coaches' Association, National Speech & Debate Association, and National Catholic Forensic League.

WHSFA*
Demonstration
One 4"x 6" note card allowed; Second person may have shared role in speaking, or may assist.
Duo Interpretation
Not offered; may adapt from Group Interp. or Play Acting.
Extemporaneous
One 4"x 6" note card/speaker stand allowed.
Farrago (Wis.), Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)
Reading stand optional. Speaker may walk only for introduction/transitions. Contestants presenting a transitionless program must announce as such.
Informative
Time limit: 6 minutes; one 4"x 6" note card and/or speaker stand allowed. Printed list of works cited required.
Group Interpretive Reading
Time limit: 12 minutes; chairs/stools/ reading stands allowed.
Impromptu
Time limit: 5 minutes. One 4"x 6" note card allowed.
Moments in History
Speaker stand allowed. See Informative: works cited.
Oral Interp. of Literature
Not offered.
Oratorical Declamation
Non-Original Oratory for middle level contests only.
Oratory
One 4"x 6" note card/speaker stand allowed. See Informative: works cited.
Play Acting
Time limit: 12 minutes; must be from a single work of drama.
Poetry Interp/Reading, Prose Interp/Reading
Reading stand optional. Speaker may walk only for introduction/transitions.
Public Address
See Informative: works cited.
Radio
Multiple character voices may be used.
Solo Acting Hum./Ser. (Wis.), Dram./Hum. Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)
Single, stationary chair allowed.
Special Occasion
Speaker stand allowed.
Storytelling
Adjudicator each round selects story for each contestant.
Demonstration
Notes allowed. Second person may assist, but may not speak.
Duo Interpretation
May come from any published source, including online.
Extemporaneous
Internet access allowed during prep. One 4"x 6" note card allowed.
Farrago (Wis.), Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)
Adaptations should be for continuity, for gender changes, or to avoid potentially offensive language; lines attributed to one character may not be attributed to another. Platform movement should be minimal and non-intrusive to performance. Manuscript may be memorized and/or used as a prop.
Informative
Time limit: 6 minutes; one 4"x 6" note card allowed.
Group Interpretive Reading
Time limit: 10 minutes; see manuscript in Farrago.
Impromptu
Time limit: 5 minutes. One 4"x 6" note card allowed.
Moments in History
Oral Interp. of Literature
Manuscript may be used as a prop.
Oratorical Declamation
Not offered; some invitationals sometimes offer NCFL version.
Oratory
Must be memorized.
Play Acting
Time limit: 10 minutes; see adaptations in Farrago.
Poetry Interp/Reading, Prose Interp/Reading
See adaptations/platform movement/manuscript in Farrago.
Public Address
Not offered. May adapt to Oratory.
Radio
One professional newsreader voice must be used, except for commercial.
Solo Acting Hum./Ser. (Wis.), Dram./Hum. Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)
Different evaluation criteria for humorous/serious. See adaptations in Farrago.
Special Occasion
Storytelling
Limited to three (3) topics per year; each tournament determines assigned stories each round.
Demonstration
Not offered. A demonstration speech could be adapted to Informative.
Duo Interpretation
Restrictive guidelines for source material.
Extemporaneous
Internet access allowed when piloted. Split into International and United States divisions. No notes allowed.
Farrago (Wis.), Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)
Restrictive guidelines for source material.
Informative
Time limit: 10 minutes. Must be memorized.
Group Interpretive Reading
Not offered. Two-person performance may adapt to Duo if memorized.
Impromptu
Offered as 7-min. consolation at National Tournament. No notes.
Moments in History
Not offered.
Oral Interp. of Literature
Not offered.
Oratorical Declamation
Not offered.
Oratory
Must be memorized.
Play Acting
Not offered. Two-person play may adapt to Duo.
Poetry Interp/Reading, Prose Interp/Reading
Each offered as 5-min. supplemental event at National Tournament.
Public Address
Not offered.
Radio
Not offered.
Solo Acting Hum./Ser. (Wis.), Dram./Hum. Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)
Restrictive guidelines for source material.
Special Occasion
Not offered.
Storytelling
Offered as 5-min. consolation at National Tournament.
Demonstration
Not offered.
Duo Interpretation
Restrictive guidelines for source material.
Extemporaneous
No notes allowed.
Farrago (Wis.), Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)
Not offered.
Informative
Not offered.
Group Interpretive Reading
Not offered.
Impromptu
Not offered.
Moments in History
Not offered.
Oral Interp. of Literature
Specific rules govern movement.
Oratorical Declamation
For 9th and 10th grade students only.
Oratory
Must be memorized.
Play Acting
Not offered. Two-person play may be adapted to Duo.
Poetry Interp/Reading, Prose Interp/Reading
Not offered; see Oral Interp. of Literature.
Public Address
Not offered.
Radio
Not offered.
Solo Acting Hum./Ser. (Wis.), Dram./Hum. Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)
Single category - mixed humorous/serious contestants.
Special Occasion
Not offered.
Storytelling
Not offered.

* In WHSFA all manuscripts in interpretive categories and note cards in speech categories must be paper (and not digital devices).