High School Categories/Topics

Scroll down for descriptions of public speaking and performance of literature categories, as well as details of differences between categories and rules among various Speech associations.

2023-24 Topics #

Moments in History #

Choose one or both time periods:

  • 1900-1919
  • 1970s (1970-1979)

Examples of areas students might consider: politics, military action, historic sites, monuments, natural disasters, ethnology, legends, folklore, science, inventions, medicine, arts,  entertainment, geography, transportation, sports, religion, heroes, villains, personalities, significant speeches, fashion, and fads.

Public Address #

Choose one topic question:

  1. To what degree, if any, should generative artificial intelligence be regulated and by whom?
  2. To what extent, if any, should schools require community service as a graduation requirement?
  3. What actions, if any, should be taken by the government to ensure an individual’s right to privacy? 
  4. What standards and processes, if any, should be used in determining appropriate content/books/texts in classrooms and school libraries?
  5. What, if anything, should the government do to address economic inequality (e.g., minimum wage, jobs programs, food/housing security)?

Special Occasion #

Choose one occasion:

  1. A public apology
  2. Address to Board of Education
  3. Speech delivered to a school assembly of current students
  4. Wedding toast

Storytelling #

Prepare a story for each topic area. (New rule for 2023-24): each topic area number corresponds to the round to which that topic will be assigned at festivals (e.g., Round 2 = story of advocacy/allyship). Students get to choose which topic to perform at State.

  1. Mystery story
  2. Story of advocacy/allyship
  3. Story about money/greed

Category Descriptions #

Public Speaking #

Students write original speeches, and may use one 4″ x 6″ note card, where students are encouraged to outline or include speaking points, rather than word-for-word manuscripts (so they can engage better with audiences).

Max. Time Max. Time Visuals Description
Expository Speech 5 min. Present a speech with a narrow enough topic to be developed adequately in the time provided to share knowledge, educate and/or raise awareness.
Extemporaneous Speech 7 min. 30 minutes prior to speaking, the contestant will select a question from which to phrase a direct and clear answer and support it with evidence and reasoning.
Impromptu Speech 5 min. Spontaneously provide a direct response to the prompt drawn with an original, well-organized and imaginative interpretation, supported by personal examples.
Informative/Demonstration Speech 10 min. 1-2 speakers offer new information, fresh perspective, and/or instruction to allow an audience to gain knowledge and understanding of a topic and/or process.
Moments in History 6 min. Explore an historical topic within prescribed topics, using such sources as archival records, diaries, personal interviews, letters, newspapers, etc.
Oratory Speech 10 min. Persuade with compelling language by offering a solution to a problem; to take action in response to a situation; or potentially reinforce and strengthen attitudes.
Public Address 8 min. Selecting from prescribed topics, contribute to public dialog on a contemporary issue by presenting a well-informed speech (or two brief pro-con speeches within the 8-min. time limit) directly responding to a question about that issue.
Special Occasion 6 min. Responding to a prescribed topic area, deliver a speech appropriate to a specific occasion and its probable audience by entertaining, persuading, or informing.

Performance of Literature #

Contestants interpret literature to convey the human existence, exploring psychology of characters, to mine the artistry of language, and/or cultivate arguments surrounding themes/issues. Key: Book = performed from manuscript; Brain = memorized.

Category Max. Time Mode Original Quality Genres Description
Farrago 10 min. Variety (poetry, short stories, speeches, essays, drama, songs, novels) Material from a variety of literary genres address a central theme.
Group Interpretive Reading 12 min. Any except drama 2-5 readers compile and present a script with symbolic interpretation such that the audience imagines action being described rather than witnessing it being performed.
Play Acting 12 min. Single play (dramatic literature) 2-5 performers act a scene or cutting from a single play with emphasis on character development, ensemble, and appropriate physical movement.
Poetry Reading 8 min. Poetry, verse, song lyrics One or more poems center on a theme or emotion; delivery mines the artistry of language.
Prose Reading 8 min. Short stories, cuttings from novels, drama, essays, nonfiction One or more works of prose -- including short stories, cutting from novels, drama, essays, or other non-fiction work -- center on a specific theme or emotion.
Radio News Reporting 5 min. Provided script of news, sports, weather, and a commercial. 30 minutes prior to reading, the contestant organizes from a variety of types of news as well as a commercial, a precise newscast cut and edited to 5 minutes.
Solo Acting Humorous/Serious 10 min. Any genre The contestant convincingly acts characterization(s) to transport the audience to the world of the material peformed.
Storytelling 8 min. Any genre; most often, narrative prose Chronicle and perform events in a coherent, unified, clear, and interesting manner, while seated and conveying a sense of audience for one of the prescribed topic areas.

Wisconsin Speech Category Differences #

Summary of rules differences between the WISDAA, Wisconsin Forensic Coaches’ Association (WFCA), National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA), and National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL).

Informative/ Demonstration  One 4x 6 note card allowed; Second person may have shared speaking assistant role. Labeled as "Informative." Prohibits food. Not offered. 
Duo Interpretation  Not offered; may adapt from Group Interp. or Play Acting.  May come from any published source including online.  Restrictive guidelines for source material.  Restrictive guidelines for source material. 
Expository One 4x 6 note card allowed.  Notes allowed. Supplemental event at National Tournament. Not offered. 
Extemporaneous  One 4x 6 note card allowed.  One 4x 6 note card allowed.  No notes allowed when speaking. International and United States categories.  No notes allowed when speaking. 
Farrago (Wis.) Program of Oral Interp. (NSDA)  Contestants presenting a transitionless program must announce as such.  Adaptations should be for continuity; gender/pronoun changes or to avoid potentially offensive language. Lines attributed to one character may not be attributed to another. Platform movement should be minimal and non-intrusive to performance. Manuscript may be memorized and/or used as a prop.  Restrictive guidelines for source material.  Not offered. 
Group Interpretive Reading  Time limit: 12 minutes; chairs/stools/ reading stands allowed.  Time limit: 10 minutes; see manuscript in Farrago.  Not offered. Two-person performance may adapt to Duo if memorized.  Not offered. 
Impromptu  Time limit: 5 minutes. One 4x 6 note card allowed.  Time limit: 5 minutes. One 4x 6 note card allowed.  Offered as 7-min. consolation at National Tournament. No notes.  Not offered. 
Moments in History  One 4x 6 note card allowed.  Notes allowed.  Not offered.  Not offered. 
Oral Interp. of Literature  Not offered.  Manuscript may be used as a prop.  Not offered.  Specific rules govern movement. 
Oratorical Declamation  Non-Original Oratory for middle level contests only.  Not offered; some invitationals  offer NCFL version.  Not offered.  For 9th and 10th grade students only. 
Oratory  One 4x 6 note card allowed.  Must be memorized.  Must be memorized.  Must be memorized. 
Play Acting  Time limit: 12 minutes; must be from a single work of drama.  Time limit: 10 minutes; see adaptations in Farrago.  Not offered. Two-person play may adapt to Duo.  Not offered. Two-person play may be adapted to Duo. 
Poetry Interp/Reading Prose Interp/Reading  Contestants presenting a transitionless program must announce as such.  See adaptations/platform movement/manuscript in Farrago.  Each offered as 5-min. supplemental event at National Tournament.  Not offered; see Oral Interp. of Literature. 
Public Address  Not offered. May adapt to Oratory.  Not offered.  Not offered.  Not offered. 
Radio  Specific point deduction framework for timing. Same as WISDAA, except point framework. Not offered.  Not offered. 
Solo Acting Humorous (Wis.) Humorous Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL)  Single stationary chair allowed.  Different evaluation criteria for humorous/serious. See adaptations in Farrago.  Restrictive guidelines for source material.  Single category - mixed humorous/serious contestants. 
Solo Acting Serious (Wis.) Dramatic Interp (NSDA), Dramatic Perf. (NCFL) 

Single stationary chair allowed.

Different evaluation criteria for humorous/serious. See adaptations in Farrago.  Restrictive guidelines for source material.  Single category - mixed humorous/serious contestants. 
Special Occasion  Same as WFCA. Same as WISDAA. Not offered.  Not offered. 
Storytelling  Same as WFCA. Same as WISDAA. Offered as 5-min. consolation at National Tournament.  Not offered. 

* In WISDAA all manuscripts in interpretive categories and note cards in speech categories must be paper (and not digital devices). WISDAA also allows students to utilize a speaker stand, if they provide it.