Subject: Wisconsin Speech Season

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Dear ~[[first_name]]~:

I hope this message finds you and yours well and staying healthy. To say this is one of the most extraordinary years in our lifetime and our careers in education is an understatement, but one thing I've been grateful for is technology being able to keep us connected despite the distancing we must practice to protect one another.  

Online Contests

WHSFA made the determination to exclusively offer all our interscholastic contests online. Several factors drove that decision; those are outlined on our COVID-19/Virtual Contests page. This is complemented by advocacy information to share with administrators; several other state activity/forensic associations across the country have pivoted to online contests, including the National Speech & Debate Association, which successfully ran their massive national tournament online in June. We are halfway through our autumn One-Act Play/Theatre season, and several schools have done innovative, important work in providing a creative outlet for students eager to have something extra/co-curricular to do.  Much in the same way, our forensic Speech and Debate students wish to express themselves and explore important issues through developing compelling speeches, cutting and performing vivid literature, spontaneously responding to various prompts, and refuting opposing arguments. Online contests are a safe, accessible, and equitable way of making that happen.

Kam-Lin RoswallWords of Inspiration

WHSFA Board Chair Kam-Lin Roswall of Holmen HS said, "Coaching this season is more than just focusing on contests. We are also fostering a positive environment for students and ourselves this year. It is a platform for not only those seniors on your team who have worked hard over the past four years, but also the rest of the team will build and continue to foster relationships and build excitement for future seasons." Want more sage wisdom from Kam-Lin on running virtual practices? Watch the video linked/embedded below!

Since we are one of the few interscholastic activities that has a fully accessible, online program, your students will have access to something regardless of whether they're learning virtually, attending with a hybrid schedule, or fully in-person. For this reason, WHSFA also suspended all entry limits this season, so you can facilitate as many students from your school to participate as you are able. With kids likely having few choices of creative outlets outside of school, this is something we wanted to make available for as many young people as we could.

Virtual Speech Season Overview Video

To provide an overview of the virtual season, watch the informative video I posted this week to our Speech Contests page, where there is more detailed information, including this year's updated Speech Handbook, as well as several detailed FAQs specific to this upcoming virtual season. We still have some issues our Speech Advisory Committee is determining, including recommendations and rules specific to how to record videos (they are reviewing some lessons learned from our One-Act Play season). 

We highly suggest visiting the Speech Contests page,for further details and to download a copy of the Speech Handbook with updated category rules. We'll be sending a separate message in the coming weeks specific to the exciting Debate pilot we are doing during the Speech season this year, which will be open to any student, including those also planning to participate in a Speech category. However, if you have another teacher at your school who might be interested in coaching debaters, you can share that message with them!

Speech Adjudicator Training

To better adapt to the unique season ahead of us, we're updating our Speech Adjudicator Training courses online to reflect considerations we want adjudicators to be mindful of when evaluating online. We expect to open those courses fully by the end of November, as we also work on scheduling online (videoconference) workshops in December, January, and February for the Initial Training course. The renewal course will remain the same -- entirely online, with a required evaluation of a student video performance at the end. 

Free Professional Development

One of the silver linings of this pandemic is how it's made us all more comfortable with videoconference platforms online (such as Zoom), and how accessible that has made professional development opportunities. Therefore, to connect coaches to more resources as a benefit of membership, we will offer a number of evening and Saturday morning webinars in December, January, and early February with such topics as:

  • New coach
  • Considerations for coaching online
  • Recruiting strategies
  • Finding literary material for performance
  • Adjudicator best practices & Q&A
  • Category rules interpretations
  • Drop-in Q&A state office "open house"

We are working on finalizing co-facilitators and dates, and will send an email blast just about that opportunity once we schedule them. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this "current new normal" we are in, these webinars will be an opportunity for you to come together, share best practices, and most important, to know you are not alone.

Conference Meets

Does your athletic conference of schools hold a separate Speech meet? We can help with that by providing guidance on utilizing SpeechWire to facilitate virtual registration of videos and/or live videoconference rooms, as well as electronic evaluation by adjudicators, which automatically tallies results. I've been in regular contact with several other state activity/forensic organizations around the country, and have learned several best practices for online meets, including what has been tried and failed.  WHSFA also can provide Extemp questions, Impromptu prompts, and Radio News packets for conference meet organizers. Contact the state office for details. 


This may all seem overwhelming, but as the One-Act Play/Theatre season has shown us, educators and their students are resilient and can do amazing work in spite of the challenges that face us all. We must simply take it one step at a time, and be willing to ask for help when we need it. Wisconsin has a robust and supportive Speech community. You are not alone.


With warmth and support,

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This email was generated from the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association messaging system.
This is an official communication from Wisconsin High School Forensic Association.

Wisconsin High School Forensic Association
1501 Saint Andrew St, Suite C200
La Crosse, WI 54603-2817

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