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The First Ever Grade 9 Speech Tournament

Ayden Kuo ’26
The final IB Language and Literature unit for the Grade 9s was focused on Speech and Poetry.
To start off, students had to review rhetorical devices and start planning for the first summative assessment which involved performing a speech under one of these categories: Impromptu, Interpretation of Prose or Poetry, Persuasive and Original Spoken Word. 

For the Impromptu format, students were given a cue card with two possible topics for their speech on the day of their presentation and then had only seven minutes in class to prepare a three to four-minute speech. Interpretation of Prose or Poetry and Original Spoken Word required students to express and convey the emotions and feelings of their selected poem. They could either choose a poem that was written by another poet or write one of their own. Many students chose to perform pre-written poems. The Persuasive Speech was perhaps the one most were familiar with. It is a speech that attempts to convince the audience of a specific stance on a topic, utilizing rhetorical devices and the three rhetorical appeals: ethos, logos and pathos. 

After performing the speeches in class, 24 students out of 80 were chosen to participate in the first-ever GNS Grade 9 Speech Tournament held on June 8 in Lower Gudewill. Each type of speech had its own room and students had to present to judges, their opponents and timekeepers. The judges consisted of older Senior School students, teachers, staff and parents. 

When students heard that Mr. Ewen and Ms. Thijs, Grade 9 Language and Literature teachers and the founders of the speech tournament, had reached out to parents asking for possible volunteer judges, they all erupted into terrified protests. Why would we be happy at the prospect of being judged by our parents when we were already under their scrutiny every day? 

Luckily, Mr. Ewen and Ms. Thijs made sure that any parent judges could not be in the same room as their own child. 

Mr. Ewen and Ms. Thijs explained that they chose the students based on a rubric as well as the impact that they had on the audience. 

“It's not about being perfect, it's about feeling what you're reading,” said Mr. Ewen and Ms. Thijs. “Minor mistakes can be taken care of with practice, so we were looking for passion and connection to what students were presenting.” 

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase what students learned during our recent Speech and Rhetoric unit. When the students responded with enthusiasm to this idea, we decided to move forward with it,” explained the teachers. “There is a lot that students can learn and gain from this. First, confidence. There were several students that initially were hesitant to participate, but had great speeches. We were incredibly happy to have those students reconsider and participate. Second, there are also students who are not confident with written assignments but enjoy presenting, so we felt this would be a great chance to let them shine. Third, in hearing your classmates' speeches, you will gain a better understanding of diverse points of view and might challenge your own assumptions. You will also gain a better understanding of how writers or poets use literary and rhetorical devices for dramatic effect. And fourth, empathy. We will recognize the incredible courage of each of us to take part in this tournament, and realize that although we might have different views, we ultimately can share them in a safe environment.” 

They are hoping that the event this year will be so successful that next year they can expand it to both Grades 9 and 10. 

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