High School Rhetoric Team (8th -12th graders)
Teacher: Barb Varnell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Meets: Wednesdays from 2 to 3:30 at MSA (Newark Church of Christ)
Dates of meetings (2:00 to 3:30): September 15, October 20, November 17, December 8, January 12, February 9, March 2, March 30, May 4
Dates of optional competitions (beginning at 2:00, end time depends on the number of students competing): February 2 and April 6
Attention all high school students! Did you know that most colleges require a public speaking
course at some point in your college career? In addition, if you go to ANY college for ANY
major you WILL be doing some type of classroom presentation. You need to make sure you are
comfortable speaking in front of people.
Even if you are not college-bound there is the possibility that you may have to teach Sunday
School, go on a missions trip, present an idea before our boss, go into business for yourself, pray
in front of people, or be called to give your testimony. All of these require speaking in front of
others. Those people who do this well will be the people who became leaders and culture
changers for Christ.
The Mount Sophia Academy Rhetoric Team (a fancy name for the speech team) is here to give
you opportunities to learn how to feel more comfortable with speaking in front of people. The
Rhetoric Team has a dual purpose- the first is to offer the students the opportunity to learn how
to speak in front of people in a very low-key environment at its monthly meetings. We do this as
a combination of teaching and fun speaking exercises. In our monthly meetings, we train you in
how to prepare speeches and presentations and practice exercises that will help desensitize you
to speaking in public (while we have fun doing it). Even students who are scared silly have
found that they can get comfortable with speaking before a group (some of them still may not
like it, but they can do it).
The Rhetoric Team’s second purpose is to offer the opportunity to participate in a number of
different competitions (competitions look great on your high school transcript- especially public
speaking ones). We will offer three competitions a year (please note: due to significant changes
in the organization of ACSI, there will be no ACSI high school speech meet in the 2021-2022
school year). These competition categories include humorous interpretation, dramatic
interpretation, reader’s theater, interpretation of children’s literature, persuasive speeches,
descriptive speeches, individual acting, duet acting, TV news team, and visual aid speeches.
Participation in speech-related activities in high school is HIGHLY desirable to colleges.
Colleges are looking for students to participate for MULTIPLE YEARS in the same activity, and
the low-key nature of our team allows students to do this while fitting in all the academics they
The meetings include my teaching about some aspect of public speaking, but the bulk of the
meeting consists of the students participating in various speaking exercises. Each student will do
some type of speaking exercise(s) EVERY meeting; there will be plenty of opportunities during
the school year for them to get comfortable with speaking in front of people even if they don’t
participate in the competitions. The exercises are not intense but are meant to encourage each
student to grow and become better. I only have a few rules for the team:
- Everyone who is at the meeting MUST participated in the speaking exercises.
- No talking when someone else is speaking upfront (this includes using cell phones).
- Everyone must smile and nod encouragingly at the speaker.
The team is a very supportive environment and includes students who have a variety of skill
levels. I have students there who are literally shaking in their shoes the first time they get up and
speak as well as students who have gone on to compete at the national levels in college (even
one who has traveled around the world on the Air Force Academy debate team). We really have
something for everyone! Most of my students participate each year they are in high school,
which allows them to really improve (and looks good to colleges and scholarship committees).
The students who have participated have said that the team was one of the most valuable things
they had done because they became comfortable being able to speak in any situation into which
God led them in life. We have seen students blossom from being terrified into confident
speakers. All this in a supportive environment where everyone is rooting for you to succeed
(because everyone is in the same boat – group suffering is a wonderful thing!)