Students impress judges at Oral Language Faire
Last updated 2/15/2007 at Noon
A fear of public speaking panics many adults. However, if they’d started honing the skill in third Grade, as students at Live Oak School do, presenting a compelling speech before a crowd could be effortless.
From the stirring “Give me liberty or give me death” words of Patrick Henry to a silly poem about snot, 175 students representing the third through sixth grades stood before judges on February 1 to compete in the school’s fourth annual Oral Language Faire. Sixty finalists were chosen to perform on February 8 at an assembly before their peers, and later before an audience of parents at 6 p.m.
“The program was originally suggested by Susan Korea, a longtime parent supporter,” said Tom Rhine, principal of Live Oak School. There are competitions in other California districts, but not in Fallbrook, Rhine says. For example, schools in the Kern County school district have competed since 2000.
Approximately 300 students stepped up to prepare for the first round of judging by their teachers – the largest group thus far to participate. Each classroom was allowed to submit eight contestants in either teams or performing solo.
Teachers, the school librarian and the children chose from a variety of poetry, famous speeches and comic monologues. According to teacher Janice Miura, students “were encouraged to choose appropriate speeches, songs or poetry… and to choose these selections to be worthy of their grade level.” “Not anything too short or easy,” she added.
Although the two categories are “drama” and “humor,” the variety of choices was endless. The final round included the aforementioned standouts and included song lyrics by John Lennon and Francis Scott Key; passages from speeches made famous by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the clever wordsmithing of poet Shel Silverstein; and a monologue written by Jerry Seinfeld. There were long poems delivered with animation that stunned the judges for the sheer memorization skill, short poems presented in tiny voices almost impossible to hear, well-known speeches that rattled the windows and some so rapidly spoken the words seemed to blur.
Students practiced for about two weeks at home and in class, and most teachers coached them and helped with expression and gestures, said Miura. For many students this was the first time they’d attempted such a feat. “I feel it gives them confidence and the satisfaction of performing in front of a live audience. Many of them have never had the opportunity to do this,” she said.
Miura was especially pleased that many of the second language learners won but said even those who didn’t place returned to their classrooms beaming. “One of my groups said, ‘We made the judges laugh!’”
“The long-term benefit to those who perform in the Oral Language Faire manifests itself in the confidence students gain as they continue their education and on into their careers. Many have gone on to perform in dramatic presentations in junior high and high school,” said Rhine.
Judges for the final round were Dr. Dennis Ginoza, Honorary Mayor Rhonda Reinke, San Diego County Librarian Teresa Sheehey, program coordinator and parent volunteer Jill Young and this writer.
Finalists in the Oral Language Faire