This round is set up to determine how well the contestant can read with only 10 minutes of preparation.  Students may have help during those ten minutes from parents, teachers or friends.  All contestants will have the same selection, but they will have no opportunity to hear the preceding contestants read.  After the ten-minute practice period is over, students will return their selection to the room chairperson.  The chairperson will instruct contestants to wait outside the door until they are called to read, at which time the selection will be given back. When contestants are finished, they are to remain in the room until the entire round is completed.  (This rule of courtesy holds true for all rounds and for all those attending the tournament.)

Where to begin:

Skim the reading once to get the overall meaning.

  • Is the story a narrative? Is it serious, funny, tragic? Figure out the tone you will need to communicate the meaning.
  • Is there dialogue? If so, how many speakers are there? How are they different and how can you show their personalities or perspectives with your voice?

Read it aloud once, paying attention to any confusing parts, such as words you don’t know the meaning of or know how to pronounce.

As you read the second time aloud, pay attention to the cadence or rhythm of the piece. Does it have a musical quality when read orally? How does the language create an image in the mind of the audience? How can your tone help communicate that meaning?

As you practice, you can make notes on your copy, but remember, you won’t have that copy when you read. All students read from a clean copy on cardstock.

If possible, practice with a parent or other adult who can give you feedback on your delivery.

Scoring Criteria

Before you read the piece, take time to review the judge’s score sheet.  These are the qualities your judge will consider when listening to your delivery: 

  • Did you pronounce all the words correctly? 
  • Were there awkward pauses that interrupted the flow of the story or did you read it smoothly?
  • Did your face and voice reflect and add to the meaning of the story? Were you quiet when it suited the story? Did you show excitement, fear, or other relevant emotions?
  • Did you convey the intended meaning of the story?
  • Did you occasionally look up to make eye contact with the audience?
  • Was your voice clear and audible throughout the room without being too loud?
  • Did your posture and demeanor show confidence?

Two samples from previous speech tournaments are provided below for you to practice.

An excerpt from A Series of Unfortunate Events – The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

Aunt Josephine did not like to leave the house very much, because there were so many things outside that frightened her, but one day the children told her what the cab driver had said about Hurricane Herman approaching, and she agreed to take them into town in order to buy Groceries.  Aunt Josephine was afraid to drive in automobiles, because the doors might get stuck, leaving her trapped inside, so they walked the long way down the hill.  By the time the Bauderlaires reached the market their legs were sore from the walk.

 “Are you sure that you won’t let us cook for you?” Violet asked, as Aunt Josephine reached into the barrel of limes.  “When we lived with Count Olaf, we learned how to make puttanesca sauce.  It was quite easy and perfectly safe.”

Aunt Josephine shook her head. “It is my responsibility as your caretaker to cook for you, and I am eager to try this recipe for cold lime stew.  Count Olaf certainly does sound evil.  Imagine forcing children to stand near a stove!”

“He was very cruel to us,” Klaus agreed, not adding that being forced to cook had been the least of their problems when they lived with Count Olaf.  “Sometimes I still have nightmares about the terrible tattoo on his ankle.  It always scared me.”

Aunt Josephine frowned, and patted her bun.  “I’m afraid you made a grammatical mistake, Klaus,” she said sternly.  “When you said, ‘It always scared me,’ you sounded as if you meant that his ankle always scared you, but you meant his tattoo.  So you should have said, ‘The tattoo always scared me.’ So you understand?

“Yes, I understand,” Klaus said, sighing.  “Thank you for pointing that out, Aunt Josephine.”  “Niku!” Sunny shrieked, which probably meant something like “It wasn’t very nice to point out Klaus’s grammatical mistake when he was talking about something that upset him.”

“No, no Sunny,” Aunt Josephine said firmly, looking up from her shopping list.  “’Niku’ isn’t a word.  Remember what we said about using correct English.  Now Violet, would you please get some cucumbers?  I thought I would make chilled cucumber soup again sometime next week.”

Violet groaned inwardly, a phrase which here means “said nothing but felt disappointed at the prospect of another chilly dinner,” but she smiled at Aunt Josephine and headed down an aisle of the market in search of cucumbers. 

An excerpt from “Charles” by Shirley Jackson

“How was school today?” I asked (my kindergarten son, Laurie), elaborately casual.

…He grinned enormously and said, “Today Charles hit the teacher.”

“Why did Charles hit the teacher?” I asked quickly.

“Because she tried to make him color with red crayons,” Laurie said.  “Charles wanted to color with green crayons so he hit the teacher … 

The third day – it was Wednesday of the first week – Charles bounced a seesaw on to the head of a little girl and made her bleed, and the teacher made him stay inside all during recess.  Thursday Charles had to stand in the corner during story-time because he kept pounding his feet on the floor.  Friday Charles was deprived of blackboard privileges because he threw chalk. 

On Saturday I remarked to my husband, “Do you think kindergarten is too unsettling for Laurie?  All this toughness, and bad grammar, and this Charles boy sounds like such a bad influence.” 

“It’ll be all right,” my husband said reassuringly. 

On Monday Laurie came home late, full of news.  “Charles,” he shouted as he came up the hill; I was waiting anxiously on the front steps.  “Charles,” Laurie yelled all the way up the hill, “Charles was bad again.”….

During the third and fourth weeks it looked like a reformation in Charles; Laurie reported grimly at lunch on Thursday of the third week, “Charles was so good today the teacher gave him an apple.”

“What?” I said, and my husband added warily, “You mean Charles?”

“Charles,” Laurie said. “He gave the crayons around and he picked up books afterward and the teacher said he was her helper.”

“What happened?” I asked incredulously.

“He was her helper, that’s all,” Laurie said, and shrugged.

“Can this be true, about Charles?” I asked my husband that night.  “Can something like this happen?”

“Wait and see,” my husband said cynically…

The PTA meeting’s next week again,” I told my husband one evening. “I’m going to find Charles’s mother there.”

“Ask her what happened to Charles,” my husband said.  “I’d like to know.”

“I’d like to know myself,” I said

“If only she is there,” I said prayerfully.

“She’ll be there,” my husband said.  “I don’t see how they could hold a PTA meeting without Charles’s mother.” …

After the meeting I identified and sought out Laurie’s kindergarten teacher…

“I’ve been so anxious to meet you,” I said.  I’m Laurie’s mother.”

“We’re all so interested in Laurie,” she said.

“Well, he certainly likes kindergarten,” I said. “He talks about it all the time.”

“We had a little trouble adjusting, the first week or so,” she said primly, “but now he’s a fine little helper.  With occasional lapses, of course.”

“Laurie usually adjusts very quickly,” I said. “I suppose this time it’s Charles’s influence.”


“Yes,” I said, laughing, “you must have your hands full in that kindergarten, with Charles.”

“Charles?” She said.  “We don’t have any Charles in the kindergarten.”

 Round Two Script for Judge’s Assistant

Below is a copy of the script that the judge’s assistant and judge will be using the day of the tournament.  It might be helpful as you practice your elocution speech.  There is also a copy of the judge’s score sheet.  These materials are provided to all contestants to help you know what to expect at the tournament and to understand the criteria for judging.

These instructions are written for the judge’s assistant and the judge.  The you in this section refers to the judge). Words in italics are the assistant’s script.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Judge’s Assistants

An announcement will be made to begin each round. The door to your room should always be closed while you are in session.  You may open the door once the dismissal announcement is made.  We will make this announcement once all rooms are finished with each round, so that rooms still in progress will not be disturbed. 

Round Two—Extemporaneous

Wait for the announcement to begin before you start this round.

Judge’s Assistant:Welcome to your new room.  My name is ________________ and I am the student assistant for this round.

 I would like to introduce you to your Judge ______________.  (If there is another student helper – introduce them too)

This round is Extemporaneous Reading.  You will all have the same selection to read, and you will have a chance to study it beforehand. 

As I call your number, please come up for the selection and then you may go out into the hallway or stay in the room while you study the piece. 

You may have help during this time. 

When the announcement is made to collect the practice sheets, please come back into the room and return the selection to me. 

Then I will ask all of you to wait outside the room, VERY QUIETLY, until it is your time to read. Please know that if you are making noise – meaning you are not being mindful and courteous to the other contestants – the hallway monitors have the right to disqualify you from this round.  So please do not talk while you are waiting to for your turn to read.

You will not hear the other participants before your turn to read, but you will stay in the competition room when your turn is over and thus will hear the ones after your turn. 

Please remember that after each recitation, we will allow time for the judge to finish tabulating the contestant’s score before we proceed to the next student.  Please do not applaud during any of the round.”

At this point, wait for the announcement to hand out the practice sheets and then do so.

Judge should have the score sheets in front of you at this point.  If you do not, please ask your student assistant for them. 

Judge’s Assistant: Give the contestants 10 minutes to practice their reading.  Once ten minutes has passed, an announcement will be made to collect all practice sheets.  Then call the first contestant by symbol, e.g. 10-08-123.

Call one contestant at a time.  When the contestant enters the room to read, he/she should be given the reading that is printed on cardstock (a heavier type of paper).  When the contestant has finished his/her reading, the reading that is printed on cardstock should be taken from them (for use by the next contestant).  Each contestant stays in the room once he/she has finished.  After each contestant has completed the reading, you should say “Thank you” and continue on.

Paper and iPad Scoring

You will score the individual components of each student’s speech on the paper scoring sheet and write the total at the bottom. Next, record the total on the iPad form provided to you by your assistant.

Let your assistant confirm your math and that the score on paper matches the score on the iPad. The assistant will submit the score electronically and collect the paper scoring sheet.

Repeat this process for each contestant.

Round Two Extemporaneous Judge Scoresheet