Scared to Speak in Public? Not These Kids
by Dan Mullins
Each school and centre in the LBPSB have their “things” — the things that give them their unique character and that set them apart, and that they do particularly well.
At St. John Fisher Sr. Campus, one of those things is a competition that has now been held nine times.
“Some participants have been some of the shyer students at St. John Fisher Sr.,” says Grade 5 teacher Victor Guerriero, which is notable since the end-of-April competition is in public speaking.
This is, however, entirely consistent with the school’s vision statement: “Making each child a success story.”
The competition got its start a decade ago, when Grade 6 students from the school went to Pointe Claire City Hall to see what civil service was like by playing the role of a city councillor. The need for public speaking practice was identified!
“The first year of the competition was good,” recalls Guerriero, “but the second year was better.” These days, it is a well-practiced event.
Last year, the entire competition school was forced to cancel the competition. That was the only time since the inaugural year that they have been unable to hold it.
The triumphant return of the beloved competition this year made it even more special.
The competition started with a presentation by each student in their classroom. Cycle2 told stories either in English (Grade 3) or French (Grade 4). Cycle three presented bilingual speeches on a variety of pre-chosen topics. Teachers then determine two finalists from each class using a rubric that is consistent throughout the stages of the competition. The 28 finalists then presented over two days, with 14 speakers competing per day. The first day’s assembly featured Cycle 3 students, with the Cycle 2 students having their opportunity on the second day’s gathering.
This year was the only time the entire school was not in physical attendance for the competition. with each group presenting live to their own cycle via Zoom. Parents of the presenters also had the opportunity to watch.
For the past few years, the emcees for the events are also students, and this year was no exception. “The student emcees were eloquent and well prepared,” said Deborah Shizgal, the school’s principal.
Students in attendance are very engaged and generally quiet and attentive throughout the competition.
Having been in the speakers’ shoes at the classroom stage, one assumes, they are aware of how it must feel to speak in front of the entire school — while also a testament to the skills of the speakers.
Judges are community members who are invited to participate. In the past, judges have included commissioners, former librarians, and Regional Directors. They judge performances and use the same rubric that was used in the classroom, which is different for the Cycle 2 competitors and those from Cycle 3.
The younger group’s criteria include preparation, use of voice and gestures, creativity and theatrics, use of language, audience appreciation and involvement, and overall impression.
The older group’s criteria are divided into two equally weighted categories: Content and Style. Content consists of knowledge, originality, organization, utilization of time and public interest, while Style is judged on voice, fluency, body language, eloquence and overall impression.
“Our finalists on both days were fabulous and everyone who participated was a winner. However first, second, third and honorable mention certificates and awards were given. The judges had a tough job choosing from such worthy participants,” said Shizgal, “Special thanks to the SJFS Literacy Committee for organizing such a fun event.”