The students on GPA’s forensics team were thrilled to bring home a trophy from the December regional competition in St. Clair Shores at St. Joan of Arc. Comprised of students in grades 5-8, the forensics team won fourth place overall trophy in a contest featuring middle school public speakers and debaters from Michigan.
Academy students, including eighth grader Alex Rollins, also took home two first place awards as well as first place overall. The GPA team’s fifth and sixth graders also took a first place award. In addition, GPA forensics team members participated in several challenging public speaking categories in which the team had not previously competed. These all are signs of how strong the GPA forensics team has become.
The Forensics Team is led by Bridgette Murray and Angeline Baratta. The team practices Monday through Thursday, October through December.
What, exactly, is Forensics?
The formal study and practice of public speaking and debate, forensics is built upon the principles of rhetoric or persuasive speech. The Latin root of the word is shared with “forum,” the ancient open-air public space for debate.
Through forensics, students develop the abilities needed to make and present rational arguments, as well as to inform and entertain others. Those who practice forensics develop research skills, logical and critical thinking, dramatic talents and performance abilities, and other communication skills in order to bring new understanding to members of an audience and persuade them to hold a new or different position or belief.
Forensic speech has a long and storied history at GPA. Students participate in team-based and individual events, such as delivering a dramatic reading from a poem, historic monologue or theatrical scene.
There are many categories in which students compete. One popular competition is “Declamation,” where competitors “perform” or recite a piece written and delivered by others. Other contests include “impromptu” speech, where competitors are given three salient topics, they choose the one they would like to deliver their speech on, and then get two minutes in which to do research.
“The impromptu competition really tests students on their ability to brainstorm ideas quickly and organize their thoughts into a logical argument,” Bridgette Murray, GPA Team Coordinator, said. “They really have to be able to think on their feet. Of course, this is in addition to the regular speaking and presentation skills they are developing.”
Benefits of Forensics
Public speaking and debate are challenging activities that build skill sets many children at this age have yet to acquire and develop, Mrs. Murray said.
From strengthening reading, writing and memorization skills, to building the self-confidence needed in effective public speaking, there are many benefits for those who study forensics. In addition to developing individual communication abilities, students learn how to work as part of an organized group.
Unlike some team sports, where most the squad are asked to play supporting roles so the one or two most skilled players can dominate the game and run up the score, each participant on the forensics team matters. Each player’s performance is judged, the score going toward the team total. The fact was underscored this year when the fourth place trophy was won by just one point.
“On this team, each member makes a difference,” Mrs. Murray said. “Our team members learn quickly that others are counting on them.”
“The public speaking can be intimidating at first and the preparation for the competitions is hard work. But the ability to build memorization skills is invaluable for future study.”
However, it is the increase in self-confidence that Bridgette Murray sees affect other areas of a student’s school life.
“When students are asked to craft and deliver a speech on the spot, or when they’re competing in a category in which they’ve had weeks to practice and prepare, they start drawing on their critical faculties and personal talents in ways they never thought possible. That is why forensic speech is so wonderful – it helps them grow in so very many great ways.”
Family Team Work
Success in public speaking is not a solo accomplishment. Parents and siblings play big roles on the GPA forensics team. Family members help students with memorization throughout the season and prior to the competitions.
It is fun to see and hear them perform whether in the family kitchen, at the practice sessions or at the events. Parents report seeing – and hearing – their child in a new light. Sometimes, a speech offers a glimpse of the wonderful grown-up person they are becoming.