Speech for all: Reaching out to ALL students

Manda Thomas - mthomas@cam.k12.ia.us

BJ Schuller - bjschuller@thegenerals.org

Julie Visscher - julie.visscher@boyden-hull.org

Tawnua Tenley - ttenley@mvcsd.org


Spread the news about your team via social media, word of mouth, newsletters, announcements, classrooms, freshmen orientation or similar events (we had an activities fair for 9th and 10th graders this year). Whenever possible, use your veteran squad members as ambassadors to your program. That way, they can give first-hand accounts of what it is like to be involved. Additionally, a hesitant student may talk more readily (and candidly) to a fellow student before she or he would to a coach.


     Reach out to theatre-related organizations in the district or in the community. Find out which students participated. Seek out those students!

     Ask students to perform for their classes when possible (with teacher permission) as another way to rehearse for an audience AND as a way for the rest of the school to see how much fun the speech team is.

     Have your students perform for the middle school classes during the school day as a practice. Most middle school teachers are very open to this. Then, when those middle-schoolers get to high school, they have already had exposure to what it is all about.

     If you have an active FFA chapter or 4H, coordinate with that advisor/teacher to have their district competition preparations coincide with those of speech. Some of the categories for their competitions are nearly identical to ours.

     Volunteer your speech performers to provide the homecoming skits; pep rally vignettes can also be a popular avenue.

     If your town has things like summer festivals in the park, get some of your speech groups on the program there, too.


Get your team to recruit friends, offer in-person invitations, enlist colleagues to identify kids (those who need us as well as those who are talented)--pulling the kid from Culinary Arts class with her/his presentation on how to make x, y, z; the physics kid and the lab report; the history kid with the debate on current affairs, the digital media kids who would be interested in short film or TV News, et. al.


Dancers, gymnasts and performers in band and choir are also great kids to enlist. Seek them out by going to their performances and asking those coaches and instructors to help spread your message.


If you hold tryouts for your events (particularly large group), institute the buddy system of two or more per tryout. Often friends and acquaintances will come along to “read” with them. You can always recruit a handful from this approach.


Feed them

On those opening meetings, provide snacks. Seriously, kids love food. We had our introductory meeting last week, and one student mentioned how much she loves the first meeting because I always bring trail mix, cookies, and fruit.

Be excited

Start or continue team traditions (like an end-of-season event with a potluck [see my earlier note about food] or a fundraiser like a haunted house or dog wash); show that you care by saying hello to them, being genuinely interested in their other activities, families, work, and so on; recognize their efforts, growth, and success both formally and informally.

Share your message of inclusivity:

     “We are the land of misfit toys and everyone has a home and purpose even if you can't/don't want to speak in front of people, I have a job for you.” 

     "I promise all of you that unlike many other teams you may choose to join this year, not one person in our programs will ever ride the bench."

     Everyone who isn’t performing or warming up goes to see their teammates’ events at contest--We are a team and we support one another!