New Speech Categories: What You Need To Know

The new categories are here!

If you're a speech coach, you've probably been waiting with baited breath on the new categories. Us, too! We went all the way to Austin to get the scoop just for you. So here they are, in all their exciting glory.*

Poetry Category A

Examining Our Changing World

The goal of this category is for the performer to examine his or her changing world in order to inform the audience about a societal change and its impact on the performer. Societal change refers to a significant alteration over time in behavior, cultural values and norms. In this category, the contestant shall perform a single poem, excerpt of a poem or literary program designed to increase the audience's knowledge about a contemporary societal change occurring in the performer's world such as, but not limited to: education, family, personal relationships, career choices, minority struggles, or community issues. The purpose of the performance should be to inform, not persuade. 

Our Thoughts

Societal changes as a theme can be so very powerful. Some of the best pieces I have ever seen performed were on topics of feminism, changing civil laws or our perception of sexuality. This could be a wonderful chance to use what your students believe in as inspiration for a piece. 

Poetry Category B

Taking a Stand

The goal of this category is to develop a thematic program that supports a position by using poetry to make a persuasive argument. For this category only, poetry includes published, online and transcribed poetry such as, but not limited to: slam, spoken word, chapbooks, novels in verse. In addition, for one of the selections, contestants may read a play written in verse, a single song, including a song from a musical, or one poem included in a podcast. 

Our Thoughts

Wow! We can't remember a category like this in the years we've been coaching. We can imagine that upcoming bills to be passed in government could make a great topic, as you will likely be covering a topical issue that many people will be familiar with. Another idea would be to go the light-hearted, comical route to explain why garden gnomes are evil and why they should be stopped. Seriously, this could be a piece. Find the book here

Prose Category A

Examining Our Changing World

The goal of this category is for the performer to examine his or her changing world in order to inform the audience about a societal change and its impact on the performer. Societal change refers to a significant alteration over time in behavior, cultural values and norms. In this category, the contestant shall perform a single literary work of prose or excerpt of a work designed to increase the audience's knowledge about a contemporary societal change occurring in the performer's world such as, but not limited to: education, family, personal relationships, career choices, minority struggles, or community issues. The purpose of the performance should be to inform, not persuade. 

Our Thoughts

Because they say to speak on a societal change occurring in the performer's world, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your students. What issues are they facing? What movement is growing amongst the teenagers as we speak? One that comes to mind is the push for body-positivity. Or perhaps the laws surrounding the legislation of marijuana. Read on below for a piece on that!

Prose Category B

Taking a Stand

The goal of this category is to develop a thematic program that supports a position using different types of literature to make a persuasive argument. For this category only, prose types include fiction, nonfiction, news sources, speeches and essays. In addition, for one of the sources, contestants may use a script from a movie, documentary, television show/movie, radio show, play or monologue.  

Our Thoughts

With the sources for content so vastly open, the options are basically limitless. A student could use a speech from an upcoming presidential candidate, or maybe a monologue from a hit TV show. We see TV, movies and news articles every day. Take a step back and look at it through a different lens. What agenda do those shows have? What are they trying to persuade the American public to believe? Are those topics relevant to your students?

Is your head spinning like ours? We've already started brainstorming for next year! Check it out below. 

Here's a few quick ideas we came up with! 

  • Have a female performer present a piece on body-positivity. Persuade the audience to have sympathy for those struggling with weight, with eating disorders, with the insurmountable standards set for women in media. 

  • Let a performer present a piece on the lacking voter turnout in recent elections. Use news articles or political podcasts as resources for this content. We will have a new president by the time these speech competitions roll around, so inform people on the lack of voters and how that shapes the democracy we have today. 

  • With the legislation of gay marriage still fresh to America, we think a deep, thoughtful piece sourcing news articles, interviews, books and the like on types of marriage could be powerful. Maybe comparing arranged marriages to modern marriage, or even citing a news source on the rate of divorce in gay marriage and using those numbers to persuade the audience into agreeing with you that yes, gay marriage is still marriage and divorce does happen. 

  • Has technology gone too far? Maybe the age off innovation has gone off the rails. You could combine a piece on a woman's struggle to conceive with news pieces on "designer babies" and medical science going too far when it comes to creation. 

  • We recently watched the TV movie about Kevin Durant, or more specifically, his mother. Her struggle to ensure her boys had a good life is heartbreaking. You could use dialogue from that movie along with the sweet children's novel Salt in His Shoes, the Michael Jordan story of pursuing his dream to be a star basketball player, to inform people on the inspiring stories of star athletes. 

  • The 27 Club. Ever heard of it? Basically, some of the world's greatest musicians mysteriously pass away at the young age of 27. Perhaps you could combine pieces on music's power and lyrics from artists like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse or Jimi Hendrix to inform your audience on the beauty and mystery of music. 

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*Please keep in mind that the information we provide here is merely a summation of the category information and not the full text provided by the UIL League. Go to their website to learn more about the contest and specific details of the category updates.