Now, on to speech contests. Speech contests for middle school students are held in the first weeks of November. They’re actually recitation contests- there is a set text that the students have to memorize and present in front of a panel of judges. One second-year and one third-year student from each middle school gets/has to participate. My third-year is a “gets to” student, while my second-year seems less than thrilled to be participating.
My two pupils and I have been practicing daily, both before and after school, for over a month. For them, that’s an extra hour an a half of pronunciation drills and intonation training every day, in addition to their regularly
scheduled English classes. They are quite the troopers, especially considering my less-than-orthodox approach to teaching. Besides the obvious linguistic element of our preparation, we also perform what I like to call “Not Being Embarrassed Practice.”
“Not Being Embarrassed Practice” involves engaging in various humiliating activities in order to build up a resistance to feelings of nervousness and awkwardness. It’s like a vaccine for social discomfort. Not Being Embarrassed Practice almost always involves looking stupid in front of other people. Sometimes we recite tongue twisters and other problematic English phonemes in the middle of crowded hallways. Once, my students stood on the bleachers and belted out their speeches to the entire soccer team. While I will concede that this teaching method is slightly ridiculous, I do firmly believe that it’s efficacious. If a middle school boy can flawlessly proclaim his speech to giggling middle school girls, a few judges sitting behind a folding table aren’t going to phase him.