Students at Walnut Elementary had the chance to make their voices heard at the school’s sixth annual Walnut Speech Faire. The faire offered 60 young students in grades kindergarten through sixth the opportunity to experience public speaking, gaining confidence that will be carried with them throughout school and into their adult lives.
“Public speaking is one of the greatest challenges for many individuals,” said Walnut Speech Faire Coordinator Sarah Flora. “With multiple positive experiences, our students acquire the necessary tools in overcoming this challenge and allowing more doors to open in their future.”
The Speech Faire began five years ago with a vision of helping students develop life skills through public speaking, helping them to speak with composure and self-assurance. As public speaking is a part of life in their schooling, personal lives and careers, setting a foundation early for students sets them up for future successes, said Flora. The school hopes to expand the competition beyond its doors in the future and make the event a district-wide contest.
For the Speech Faire, the students chose age-appropriate poems, monologues, excerpts from books or famous speeches. Three categories make up the competition: verse choir, humorous interpretation and dramatic interpretation. Those who participated in verse choir joined a group of two to 10 students and performed a humorous or dramatic piece. Those who performed solo prepared either a funny speech or one that is more serious in nature as well.
This year, performed pieces included “Extraterrestrial Alien” by Jack Prelutsky, “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Dramatic” by Severn Suzuki, “Sick” by Shel Silverstein and “My Teacher Sings the Beatles” by Kenn Nesbitt.
Preparation for the event begins early as students must have their speeches completely memorized. Speech coaches and parents often help participating students prepare their pieces for the faire, but students also receive feedback from their teachers and fellow classmates. In the time leading up to the competition, students practiced their speeches in the classroom to both ease nerves and receive constructive criticism. Teachers play a vital role in not only students’ preparation for the faire, but the scoring process as well, volunteering as judges for both the preliminary and final competition.
The preliminary competition was held before the final competition, with those who did not move on to the final round receiving participation ribbons. The finalists for each category went on to compete for first, second and third place, with trophies symbolizing their hard work and determination. At Wednesday’s competition, there were 44 finalists whose final places will be announced Friday during the school’s morning opening.