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Ceremonial speech assignment for younger students

This was the ceremonial, or special occasion, speech assignment for middle school students ages 10-14.

  • Topic: “What are three things you have learned (or that inspired you) from a character in a book you have read?”
  • Length: 4 minutes – 1 minute for each main point, plus 1 minute to cover the introduction, transitions and conclusion.
  • Structure: The students should use a three-point structure and include a metaphor for their character in the speech. There are two pattern options for main points.
    1. Categorical pattern: Each main point should be a lesson learned with the metaphor mentioned anywhere in the speech. For example, “From Harry Potter I learned that you should look out for your friends and family.”
    2. Comparative pattern: Each main point should be a comparison between the character and the metaphor, where the metaphor is mentioned in each main point. For example, “Another way that Harry was like a snowy owl is that he was protective of those he cared about. Snowy owls are very protective of their families and will even fight bigger predator like wolves, according to National Geographic.”
  • Outside sources: None are required except for the book from which the character is taken, which should be used for examples. Other sources may be used if desired, as in the example above.
  • Visual aids: Optional.
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Ceremonial speech assignment: Award presentation

Although I did not use this assignment often, the award presentation was a nice speech assignment that can be used at any point in the semester. Students must choose a real award winner, but are allowed to create the award. I gave them the option of bringing in visual aids or dressing the part. The sample notecards I offered the students were from an award presentation about Paul Newman. (Find a link to the notecards here.)

If they choose someone famous for the award, the research is very straightforward. They can also choose someone they know — relative, friend, coach, teacher — but will need to be more creative with their research. I allowed them to use one interview of someone who knows the award winner and then to research “what makes a good….” Like, “What makes a good coach?”

Here is how the assignment was presented to students:

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Videoclip for ceremonial speaking

Link to episode description

Simpsons: Season 4, episode 19

Toward the end of this episode is a clip where Abraham Simpson, Homer’s father, is invited to an award ceremony because they believe he wrote an episode of the “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon. In fact, the kids wrote it but used their grandfather’s name and Abraham had never even seen the show. During the ceremony, a clip of the show is aired and grandpa is horrified. Instead of being thankful when he wins the award, he calls out those in the audience for the horrible work they do.

It is a nice clip to show that expectations play a large role in ceremonial speaking. It is expected that winners will be grateful and express their gratitude appropriately. Violating the audience’s expectations, especially in a ceremonial speech, is to take a big risk.

Photo courtesy of Simpsons Wiki.