Welcome to Debate Class (BWAHAHAHAHAH!)

Welcome to first-ever Bridges Debate Class.

Are you nervous?

I am.

I haven’t taught debate before in this kind of setting.

What to Expect From Debate Class

If you’ve been in my speech class, you know I have a syllabus all laid out and several years experience teaching.  This is going to be new to me too.

Therefore, I’m making no promises except to do my best to introduce you to two forms of Debate:

  1. Morality Debate (aka Lincoln Douglas Debate)
  2. Current Events Debate (aka Public Forum Debate)

Both of these are standard events that are shaped by the National Speech and Debate Association for high school debate in the United States.  In fact, I’ve chosen two debate topics from their files for us to use in our classroom.

Why Debate Is Different From Speech

Speech class was based on a couple of premises:

  1. To introduce the student to their personal stage fright symptoms and to learn to recognize and overcome them.
  2. To instruct the student on the basics of speech construction and presentation.

I think we’ve done that very well, and certainly knowing what your body is likely to do to you when you step up in your first debate is important.  But speaking skills are less prized in Debate.  In fact, several things that I’ve taught – slow down, use vocal variety and stage skills – are utterly useless in Debate.  We don’t perform in Debate.  Almost half of the speaking time is technically reading aloud.  Eye contact is prized only with the judge, not the rest of the audience.

Debate class is going to be focused on

  1. The creation of coherent, logical, reasoned, factual contentions into a constructive argument.
  2. The ability to follow the opposing argument with flowing.
  3. The recognition of the opposing debater’s arguments’ flaws and weaknesses and how to exploit them.
  4. Developing cross-examination skills.
  5. Presenting a persuasive conclusion to the judge.

And we have 15 weeks to do this.

Debate Class is EXTRA

When I’ve coached debate in the past, I had things going for me that I don’t have here.

First, I had an experienced coach who mentored me and coached the team.  This coach, Jim Kellams, is still coaching Hoover High School’s debate teams and has taken numerous students to the Ohio state debate tournaments and to the National Debate tournaments.  His website Everyday Debate gets thousands of hits per month.  It’s one of the longest run and best debate websites out there.  You’ll be visiting there.

Second, I had experienced debaters already in place when I joined the team.  They coached me as much as I coached them.  You’ll be meeting two of them as visiting professors.

Third, I had a lot more time with my debaters.  We have 15 hours in this class over the semester:  I had more than 15 hours of practice in my first month per school year.

This means you’re going to have to expect a significant amount of outside class assignments, including watching videos and likely staying longer after class.  At least once, I’ll have a guest to help us out – but she can’t come on Mondays.  Therefore, there will be online instruction that will be required.  I hope to be able to record it and post it on Youtube or another website.  Technology is a problem I’m going to face and you’ll be facing it with me.

Flipped Class

In a recent discussion with some retired teachers, they both counseled me to consider flipping the classroom.  I can produce videos, podcasts, assign Youtube videos, and generally do my instruction online.  Then our time in the classroom will be spent with more actual debate time.

We’re going to give this try.

I need you as students and as parents to let me know how this is working.  What doesn’t work.  What’s great and what isn’t.  I’m focused on making this class as productive as possible and I want to hear the negative as well as the positive comments.

Class supplies/requirements

Writing Class has been set as the prerequisite to this class.  I expect students to be able to write a coherent 5 paragraph essay.  If you or your student feels a bit under-prepared in those skills, they’re going to find this class a real challenge.  I suggest that parents take time with their students to be confident in those skills before next week.

Supplies Needed

Every student will need

  • 1 legal size pad of paper.  Color is not important.
  • 4 different color pens 0r 1 multi-color pen.
  • Notebook for glossary and notes from debates.  Pocket/binder is fine.
  • Access to the internet, especially Google Drive and Youtube videos.
  • Access to a printer.
  • The usual equipment for note-taking in class.


There is no syllabus for this debate class.

There will be assignments every week posted here on RockSpeechClass.net. 

All assignments will be done on Google Docs and submitted through that channel.  I will post the links here for each assignment.  The work can be completed offline and copied/pasted into the Google Form.  It will be up to the student to be sure that the material has been properly submitted.  Some of them will be images – taken with your cell-phone or tablet and uploaded – and others will be papers or outlines in a doc format.

The assignments, unless noted otherwise, are always due on the FRIDAY of the week of the assignment.  That gives me the weekend to read the work and assign the grades.  I have 10 students.  I’m not going to be able to accept late work and deal with your work fairly.  If this becomes an issue, I will take down the link to the assignment form on Friday nights so the work cannot be submitted late.

Attending Debates

We are fortunate that this year’s State Tournament is in our backyard – at Jackson High School on March 1 and March 2.  This event is open to the public and all events must permit visitors.  You and your student should plan to attend at least a half day on March 1 afternoon or March 2 morning.  I will provide more details at that time.

That same week, there will be a special Lincoln Douglas Debate hosted by the City Club of Cleveland.  Two of the best Cuyahoga County debaters will be on the stage.  If you’re willing to make the drive and pay the money, you can attend this event.  I will be out of town at a conference, so go have fun without me and buy your tickets early.  This event sells out early every year.  Alternatively, WCPN (91.3) live streams the event.

I won’t make attending this event a required class activity.  As it’s during our break, I can’t assign it.  But it will be available online for later listening – I’ll post the link and give extra credit to any student who submits a flow of the debate.

We Want to Have Fun

Of course we do.  Impromptu speaking has been the best part of public speaking class.  We do have some fun games to help build skills, but weekly games/speaking opportunities are not going to happen in the fun way we’ve had in the past.  Wait for cross X training – you’re going to LOVE that.

Mrs. Krajci’s Annual Trip to Florida (yes, I cap all of those words because it’s an EVENT for me) starts on March 3.  That’s our Spring Break week and I expect to be back in plenty of time… but I said that last year and was stuck in Florida due to a blizzard in the northeast US.  If I am stranded again, our class will be canceled that day unless I have access to technology, which I can’t guarantee.  You’ll know in plenty of time.

Contact info

Contacting me is easy:

Home phone: 234-678-7589

Cell phone 330-232-1839

Email:  speechteacher.kim.kraj@gmail.com

Texts are not ideal.   I don’t check them often enough and will likely miss them.



Persuasion Presentation Skills

The most successful persuasion speech doesn’t start with the speaker’s desire for change.  It starts with knowing what you want to change and why it shouldn’t.

You read that right. Why the change you want should not happen.

Persuasion Starts Here

Start with the status quo.

What do you want to change means that there’s something already in place.  So ask a few questions:

  1. Why are things the way they are now?
  2. Who will be harmed if the change I want is enacted?
  3. What are the long-term impacts of this change?

In order to be ready to answer the challenges against your proposal, you must understand their perceptions of why things need to stay the same.

This is the single most important thing you must do before you write your speech.  Why? Continue reading “Persuasion Presentation Skills”

Time for a Change: Persuasion

It’s time for a change.  A change in someone’s mind.  Whose?  I don’t know!  It’s up to you because it’s time for your persuasion speech!

Persuasion Speeches

The first thing you have to understand about persuasion is that you’re asking for change from the current situation. Change is difficult.  People fight wars over change.  So expected to change someone’s mind isn’t just a “ok, I’ll say a few words and everyone will agree with me.”

Doesn’t work like that.  If it did, we wouldn’t see the same advertisements over and over.  We’d only need to hear it once and we’d all agree, right?  Apparently not. Continue reading “Time for a Change: Persuasion”

How Did that Speech Make You Feel?

Storytelling is as much about the feelings in the listener as it is about the content of the story.  How did the storytelling speech make you feel?

That’s why we had a different evaluation form for you today.  Today’s speech evaluations will never leave your hands.  It’s for you to analyze –


Make You Feel?

Instead of focusing on your own skills today, we’re going to take a backdoor approach to your own skills.

I don’t know why this is true, but it is.

The things you notice in someone else’s speech are the things you need to fix in your own speeches.

That’s weird, but it’s true.

  1.  Did you think today’s speakers did a good job of creating feelings in you?
  2.  Did the speaker use good hand gestures?
  3.  Did the speaker’s body language convey a non-verbal part of the story?
  4. Did the speaker’s vocal variety help you to understand the different characters?

How you respond to those questions tells you what you need to work on in your speeches.


Speaker Evaluation of Yourself

The storytelling evaluations will be important to you after Thanksgiving.  Don’t lose them!

Make a few notes about your feelings, yes, but the speech evaluation form I gave you focuses mostly on speaker skills.

  • Eye contact
  • Body language
  • Vocal variety.

Looking back, do you see an improvement in how you are presenting in class?

(In case you’re wondering, I’ve seen all of you improve immensely!  I’m so proud of all of you!)


Homework assignment:

  1.  Our next speech will be persuasion.  You might want to think of something you want to persuade you parents about – getting a pet, getting your license, getting another baby brother… and start thinking about what you may want to say to them.
  2. Nothing else!  If you’re not on the speaker list for this week, you’ll be speaking next time – the week after Thanksgiving.  You’ll need to practice during the break, of course, but I’m looking forward to the break as well!


See you later, alligators!


How to Start Your Story: Introductions

Remember when I told you to write your speeches backward?  Start at the end and write the intro last?

That’s a bit harder to do when you tell a story, but it doesn’t make it any less important.  Introductions set the stage for your audience.

Introductions Matter

This week, we have a lot of material to cover, so we’re going to work very hard at it to get it all done.

That’s an introduction.  It signals several important things to the audience.

  1.  There’s important information that they need to pay attention to.
  2. There’s a deadline for this presentation.
  3. We are working together on this project.
  4. We will have to work hard to complete it all.

That’s a lot of information packed into one sentence.

Other sentences have similar impact on the listener.  We start stories like this:

Once upon a time…

Did you ever…

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

These introductions set the stage and create expectations in the audience.  Which brings us to this question:

What do you want the audience to know when you start your story?

Things to consider:

  1.  If this is not your personal story, you need to cite the source.
  2.  A humorous introduction to a sad story creates conflicting emotions in the listener.
  3. Using imagery to create the scene helps the audience to buy into your story – especially if it’s unlikely to have happened in real life.
  4. How does the story end?

The ending is also as important as the beginning.  You need to take that moment when you’re done to let the audience absorb what you’ve told them.  Don’t rush the ending.  Let everyone savor the ending.

I’d like to end this assignment with something for you to really think about in preparation for the next speeches.

Here’s the link to the online worksheet.  After you’ve finished today’s class assignment, this shouldn’t be too hard.

Since it’s so easy, I want you to record your speech again and send the recording to the Google Drive.  Please follow the instructions on the previous post.  If you had trouble with this, then it is your responsibility to call me to figure out a solution.  It’s best to give it a try before you call me, and then note – that means write it down! –  where you’re having problems.

If you had a problem and could not create an MP3 file, please go to this site and follow the directions for your computer system.

Because of Thanksgiving, we have to speed up the pace of this assignment.  We will be having our speech presentations on November 12 and November 26.    We will draw cards again for the speaker order.


Storytelling: Pick Your Story and Stick To it

Our next speech assignment is Storytelling.

Let’s start with the first problem you might have:

Your story does not have to be true.

By definition, a story is fiction.  It is not true.  It’s not a record of the events or a testimony before a court.  So if you’re telling a personal story in your speech, you may change things up.  The location, the people, the event – none of these have to be reported like it’s a news story.  This is your story.  You can tell it however you want.

Just be aware, if you make your sister sound bad – she will hear about it.  I guarantee it.  So if you want to make someone sound worse than they truly are, you might want to not use a real person in the story.

If you are using a story about yourself or a family member, please be aware that they might not like you using it.  Ask if you think they might have an opinion.  And if they don’t like the idea of you not telling the story truthfully, explain this rule:  stories don’t have to be true for this assignment.

Your story needs to be interesting.

Think about an adventure.  It’s going to do and see something new.  You’re giving that to your audience. You’re giving them something that needs to entertain or educate them.  You need to engage their emotions.

We will talk about the basics of storytelling.  How to put emotion into our speeches by

  • using sensory words and images
  • crafting the sequence of the story
  • creating a lead character that the audience can relate to.

We need to create an adventure for our audience.  That requires an introduction and a conclusion that will satisfy our listeners.

If you create a roadmap for yourself, you can help yourself not need notes for your story.  You’ll need to memorize what you want the audience to feel, not the words that you have to say.  When you’ve got your emotional road map written down, you’ll be surprised at how much easier storytelling can be.

That roadmap isn’t a quick exercise.  You need to recognize the value of each character and every action.  You need to think about what the audience will need to respond to so that they have the emotional reaction you want.

The story setting creates a mood for your audience.

Please read the following link.



Now that we’ve covered the basics, your homework assignment is pretty simple.  Go to the link and answer the questions about your upcoming Storytelling Speech.*

Please decide your topic before you try to answer these questions.  Once you’ve decided it, stick to it.  We have a lot of work to do and you’ll be recording your speech and submitting it again next week, so get to work!


*Just as a reminder – these assignments do contribute to your grades.  Doing these can make the difference between the grade you get on your speeches and the next grade up.  Just sayin’.



Did You Follow the Directions? Recording Your Speech

Did you follow the directions?

Eight of 11 students did submit a file I could listen to.

However, a significant number of you did not do it as it was assigned.

What was the problem?

Today’s quiz is pretty simple.  Go to the link and answer some simple questions.  I need to know what went wrong

  • my instructions
  • the due date/time was unexpected/earlier than you thought
  • unexpected computer/headset problems (aka Audacity errors, can’t create MP3)
  • upload problems (Google issues)
  • lack of computer/internet access.

Even if you had no problems, I need you to go to the quiz and fill it out anyway.  It will give me a sense of what did work.

Why is this important?

You need the opportunity to practice.  I want to give you some helpful comments to make your speech better.  Because we have a limited amount of time in class, this is the best way I can think of to give you the opportunity to practice and get feedback before you go live.

From my perspective, there was one major problem.

I didn’t get them until very late – Friday afternoon.  That makes giving you comments very hard.  That’s on me.  I’m going to set an earlier due date in the future.

We will be doing more recordings.  They will be due on Wednesdays at 5 p.m.

Do you have any questions for me?

I’ve heard from a couple of parents that students are emailing me with no response.  I’ve checked my spam folders and none of you are in there.

If you have questions or problems, please remember how to contact me:

  1. Cell number  330-232-1839
  2. Home number 234-678-7589
  3. Email speechteacher.kim.kraj@gmail.com

If I don’t respond in 24 hours, please call me.

Just a reminder – We will have impromptu speaking next week if we have time.  Do you want to be in charge of impromptu speaking?