January 7, 2014

Imagination to be rewarded at student speech festival in Merced County

Students can persuade their audience or tell tall tales

Imagination will be key for an upcoming speech festival for about 150 fourth- through eighth-grade students from 17 schools throughout the county.

The students can give speeches from persuasive, tall tale, legend, fable or report of information categories. Those who are the most clever with their topics and presentations likely will excel, according to Valerie LeDuc, special events coordinator for the sponsoring Merced County Office of Education.

The county schools office will host the Merced County Speech Festival from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Jan. 14-15. It will take place at the Clark, Newbold and M conference rooms at the MCOE complexat 13th and M streets in Merced.

LeDuc said general speech categories can be found in the handbook guide for a companion writing festival. This year it was decided to leave more room for imagination in subject matter. The outcome is expected to be more creative speeches.

There will be three judges for each grade level. Volunteer judges are mostly MCOE teachers, supervisors and retired teachers.

The festival has been held for more than 20 years, LeDuc said.

Sheila Brooks, an after-school program supervisor for the ASSETS program, has been a festival judge twice before. She enjoys the judging experience and said many students put plenty of effort into their presentations, using vivid images and supporting props.

“This exemplifies what MCOE is all about,” Brooks said. “They (students) shine when it comes to speaking to a crowd of 40 to 50 people.”

Liz Rojas, also an after-school program supervisor, helped judge last year’s festival. She said overall the competing students were very talented and their ability to memorize their speeches was impressive. Students from the smaller school districts seem to do well in the competition, she said.

Rina Serrano, another after-school program supervisor, said the speech festival is a well-organized event. She praised the performance of the students.

Serrano said principals and parents also attend the festival to provide support for the young participants. While some students are nervous, she said, others are more self-assured and animated in their delivery, indicating they are mastering public speaking skills.

During the event, students in the same grade compete against each other. They stand in front of the audience and judges to deliver their presentations.

A panel of three judges will determine first-, second- and third-place winners, who will be announced at school sites after the competitions. An awards ceremony is scheduled at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at MCOE. First-place winners will be invited to give their award-winning speeches that evening.

For more information, contact LeDuc at (209) 381-5910.

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