Minnesota Homeschool Speech and Debate (MNHS&D)

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In Minnesota, competitive speech and debate at the local and state levels is made possible by parents from all over the state who volunteer their time during the season serving as teachers, coaches, judges, and tournament coordinators.  These individuals are motivated by the desire to see students grow to be effective communicators in all areas of life, but the ultimate desire is that students grow to be effective communicators for Christ.

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought answer every man.” Colossians 4:6

What do parents, coaches, and speakers say about competitive speech and debate?

“My friends and I laughed when I began competitive speech; I was the one who mumbled, panicked, and lost track during oral reports. God (in His) sovereignty led my mom to sign me up for a Speech Interpretation class.  I would never have believed that I would love it so much! Speech has been invaluable to me, I see how God has used it in my life.  I have learned new skills and have gained confidence.  My trip to the National Tournament was amazing.  I loved meeting new people and hearing so many great speeches.  Winning first place was exciting, but even more exciting was seeing God’s faithfulness to me.  I pray that God will use my experience and all that I learned for His glory.  Speech offers opportunities for everyone, I highly recommend it!” (Natalie Eaton, Thematic Interpretation 1st place winner, 2010 National)

for more information:












MNHS&D Participation

The speech and debate season in Minnesota begins in late fall and wraps up with a state tournament in March. Students must be 12 years of age by January 1 of the current school year in order to participate in speech and debate tournaments. Some competitions accommodate younger speakers. The cost to participate in each tournament varies, generally $15-25 per participant or team.

There are several national forensic leagues through which Minnesota homeschool students may compete.  For more information about each league, visit the Organizations Page.  Speech tournaments in Minnesota will follow either NCFCA or Stoa rules.  The differences between these two league’s rules are not significant at this time. For those hoping to qualify with NCFCA or Stoa, please refer to their respective websites (NCFCA, NCFCA MN State Representative, Stoa).

Competitive Speech
Participation in competitive speech allows students to practice and improve basic, foundational communication skills important to being understood; extended participation (more than one season) in competitive speech allows students to build on these skills as they compete in progressively more demanding categories.

Speech categories for the 2011-2012 speech season are listed below.  The categories do have differences with each league therefore be sure to double-check league rules.

: Duo Interpretation, 
Humorous Interpretation
, Open Interpretation
, Original Interpretation, 
Biographical,  Narrative
, Illustrated Oratory
, and Persuasive Speaking

  • Stoa: 
Dramatic Interpretation, 
Duo Interpretation
, Humorous Interpretation, 
Open Interpretation, 
, Impromptu
, Expository, 
Original Oratory, and 
Persuasive Speaking

Debate builds on skills learned in public speaking, but does not require public speaking experience for students to participate. With practice and commitment, students can become proficient at respectfully and clearly supporting their positions in debate rounds and in everyday life.

Documenting high school credit for subjects studied while participating in debate activities is discussed in several debate resources. (See Resources)
Minnesotans participate in Lincoln Douglas (Values) Debate and Team Policy Debate.



Preparing for Competitive Speech

Most parents would love for their children to become effective speakers! This would be an important goal when we consider how Scripture calls us to speak out for the cause of Christ. Minnesota Homeschool Speech and Debate (MNHS&D) believes in that goal and desires to be supportive to parents and students alike. Because of the times in which we live, we particularly need to raise up the next generation of young people to stand firmly for the freedoms and issues that we face now and in the years to come! One area of opportunity to hone those skills is in the competitive realm. A specific question we hear frequently is, “How do I prepare my children for competitive speech and debate?” Good question! I’d like to address this issue based on my experience and study.

Who may participate in Competitive Speech?

Home educated students age 12 and up by January 1 of the current school year may participate in qualifying speech competitions.

Where does a family begin?

One of the first areas to consider is the type of speech a child is interested in presenting. What are their interests? Are they up on current events? Do they enjoy writing? Do they need a lot of time to plan ahead? Are they comfortable speaking without much preparation? Do they love reading good literature? Do they naturally enjoy making people laugh? Are they often referred to by others as dramatic? Do they have a love for Scripture? Answering these questions may help in deciding which type of speech may be good to begin with. Be careful not to fit your child into a box, however. With time and experience, many will take an interest in several of these areas.

Research the categories

Various events are offered each year from these main categories: Platform speeches, Interpretive speaking events, and Limited Preparation speeches. After you and your child have decided what category they’d most enjoy, it’s time to begin looking at material.

Platform speeches

Choosing material to present is a very important part of speaking. It is wise to choose material that “fits” the speaker. For a platform speech, consider topics that the student already knows about, something that they have experienced, or would like to experience so they can do some research. If the topic isn’t significant to them, they may quickly lose interest.

After a topic has been chosen, begin a thorough study of it. Check out books and websites regarding the topic for a platform speech. Talk with people who have experience in that area. Get a genuine feel for the subject. I highly suggest using 3” x 5” cards for note taking and following an outline form in the actual writing process. Determine a thesis statement and work around it. Watch transitions between paragraphs so that the final speech flows well. Then go back and write your introduction which should start with a hook (an engaging opening that grabs the audience’s attention) and give us a reason to listen. Creatively include your thesis statement so the audience clearly understands your topic. Leave writing your conclusion to the end, then essentially repeat the main points of your speech and give additional remarks bringing it to a nice/impressive close.

Interpretive speaking

When an interpretive speech is the choice, again, decide on a selection the student is already familiar with. I advise my students to choose something they know they will enjoy. Perhaps it is a story that has been special to them for years. It may be that they can relate to a particular character. Maybe there’s a portion that always makes them laugh. It may be an emotional scene that makes them think or respond. Whatever portion of literature is chosen, it should give us something to hang on to. There may be a moral or lesson to learn. Ask the question, “What am I giving my audience?” It may be the gift of laughter with good humor or a life changing thought. We may gain insight into the author’s reason for writing the piece. We might even learn something about ourselves. Whatever it is, be sure the student understands the purpose of the piece.

When choosing an interpretive piece, skill level should be considered. If the student is new to speech, select a piece that doesn’t include too many characters; something they can easily understand and will enjoy giving to others. Later, as they progress in their skill level, something a little more difficult will keep challenging them and produce more mature speeches.

A more challenging piece will typically include several characters and should be at least at a high school reading level. Look for developed characters that you can do something with. Each character will need to be clearly defined by way of voice, gestures, stance, and body movement. A good character study will help determine how this should play out.

Limited preparation speeches

Interpretive speeches are a good way to begin competitive speech, but a limited preparation speech will truly challenge a student. The extemporaneous, apologetics, and impromptu speech doesn’t begin at competition, but comes from knowledge gained ahead of time. Mark Twain stated, “It takes me about three weeks to write an impromptu speech!” Each of these speeches requires practice and consideration beforehand. Because of the very limited prep time, knowing several good short stories or examples greatly helps. Strategic planning is the key. Being able to form an outline quickly helps use the prep time wisely. Studying and knowing Scripture, reading quality books on the topics, and writing out the apologetics questions is obviously an important part of apologetic speaking. Being up to date with current events and maintaining a collection of current national and international articles is necessary for the extemporaneous speaker. In other words, having a wealth of information in our minds and hearts all contribute to a well-planned speech.

No matter what type of speech is being presented, consider the element of word bouquets. Word bouquets are good descriptive words that give life and interest to a piece. They help us “see” what is going on and “feel” a part of what is being said. They keep our attention as we become involved in the speaker’s words.

Then practice, practice, practice…

Practicing before a variety of audiences helps the speaker to be ready to perform. Try your speech out on grandparents, neighbors, family gatherings, church friends or anyone who’s willing to listen. Then appreciate their suggestions and feedback. Practice wearing the clothing and shoes that you’ll be wearing to the competition. That way they won’t feel funny or odd. There’s a huge difference between speaking with jeans and tennis shoes and dress clothes.

and perform!

All this preparation builds up to the big day! I suggest eating right, getting good rest, and putting in a lot of practice time before that day arrives. Have your presentation clothing ready to go so that you look and feel sharp. It should be conservative and professional. Stay away from patterns and bright colors. The audience’s focus should be on your eyes, face, and voice rather than what you’re wearing! Shoes should be broken in and comfortable. Take some water to keep your throat and mouth wet. Pack in some safety pins and whatever is necessary to keep your hair back and out of your eyes. Be sure you’ve got a tie clasp if wearing a tie. Plan ahead so you’re confident and ready to compete when the big day arrives. Add your smile and pleasant personality. Encourage others and display godly character toward those you’re competing against. Remember that you are a winner when you’ve done your best for God’s glory, not the glory of men. And finally, go prepared and prePRAYERed.


“I served as a judge for the MN State Homeschool Speech and Debate tournament.   I [found] it very well-managed by parents and highly respected by a group of first-rate, talented, dedicated young people to whom we look for future leadership.  As a former judge of public school speech tournaments, this event rivaled them in every category.  What struck me was the discipline and hard work revealed through the high quality of presentations by the students.  Involvement in speech and debate is an indicator of future commitment to serve in our communities and our churches, so I appreciated every effort put forth by the parents and teachers whose expectations of the children pushed them to excel in communication at the highest standards of achievement.  Besides serving in the state legislature, I am a retired public high school English teacher who set high standards for my students when they demonstrated understanding of the skills of communication, and I rank the home school speech students as well-prepared as my top students.  The home-schooled students have learned  well and demonstrated that in the state tournament.”  (Minnesota State Representative Sondra Erickson)

“Minnesota Homeschool Speech and Debate has been life changing in our family.  We have been [involved] for three years.  My middle daughter’s goal in starting speech was to glorify God in her work and words.  The first year she did a Dramatic Interpretation about a concentration camp survivor.  Later we had the opportunity to hear that survivor speak.  My daughter was asked to share her speech with the survivor and others.  It was a memory of a life time, and she is so thankful for God’s grace and opportunity to use her gift!  My oldest daughter had never competed or spoken publicly, but she took what she had learned from her sister, judged at tournaments, and delivered the Student Address at her graduation.  My third daughter started last year, found out how much there is to learn, and how much she enjoys it.  This has been a journey that has brought focus, discipline, and determination not only to their character, but also their academics, and their walks with the Lord.  As parents, we look forward to judging tournaments, and encouraging students in sharing their gifts and growing in their skills.  We praise God for this opportunity, and for all the teachers and helpers who have guided us in this life skill.  Share this gift with your children, and watch the Lord work through them.” (Homeschool Mom and speech encourager, Renee Skeate)



When Should I Start Teaching Speaking Skills to My Child?

“I’m wondering at what age I should begin teaching speech skills to my children. I have an 10-year old who loves to give presentations to anyone who will listen. Please let me know what you think I should do to help her grow in this area.”

“…I’m a homeschool mom not quite ready to teach speech to my nine-year old. When should I begin?“

The two comments above raise a frequently asked question in regard to teaching speech skills to children. These parents have different ideas of when that should take place…and that’s okay, but…

My reply to those posing this query typically is, “You already are teaching your child speech skills whether you realize it or not.” Let me explain.

The moment your child is born, they begin learning by watching your eyes and expression, and hearing the sounds and inflections made with your voice. You are doing them a favor by speaking clearly and slowly so that they mimic you correctly.

As the cooing and babbling change to real words, you can continue to help your child become a better speaker (formally or informally) in a variety of ways:

  • teach them to say the “ing” appropriately at the end of words (singing, vs. singin’) This helps speakers sound professional.

  • pronounce each letter/word correctly. Correctly pronounced words help speakers sound educated.

  • enunciate – speak crisply, rather than mumbling. People can hear better and it makes a speaker sound more credible.

  • speak toward people when responding to a question. This indicates full attention is being given.

  • look people in the eye when speaking to them. Eye contact is a major factor in drawing the audience into a speech and produces trust.

  • smile warmly at people when talking to them. This connects the speaker to the audience.

  • use correct social manners. This shows respect to others.

  • listen sincerely and respond – don’t cut people off (let children answer the questions people ask of them) . Shows interest in what others have to say and tells the audience you are in tune to them.

  • give them time to talk to adults when appropriate, rather than asking them to be quiet so you can talk. This will teach respect for others and that they are worthy to be listened to.

  • respond to life issues from a Biblical perspective. Speaking out for Christ is extremely important in the world we live in.

As you can see, you are teaching speech skills to your children whether formally or not. Later you may have them sharpen those skills further by participating in a class, club, or competition. Start them out right. Excellence in speaking is one of the greatest skills a person can possess.

(Published in The Paper MÂCHÉ, October/November 2008)





Participation in debate is a huge commitment, but benefits abound! Christy Shipe writes, “…Whatever the resolution, a student will almost certainly cover government, economics, political science, composition, research, public speaking, logic, rhetoric, current events, typing/word processing, computer skills, editing, and argumentation and debate theory…”


Check individual class and club listings at www.mache.org/mnhs&d for age/grade recommendations.  For debate competition, home educated students age 12-18 by January 1st of the current school year may participate.


Younger students (7th - 9th) who are not yet ready for debate can improve their speaking and reasoning skills in the following speech events:

Impromptu Speaking:

In a class, club, or competition students pick a topic and are given two minutes to prepare a 5 minute (maximum) speech. Students who practice impromptu daily will learn how to think on their feet! Students will use the skills they learn from impromptu in everyday conversations and, if they choose to participate in debate, during cross-examinations and refutations of other teams or individuals in debate rounds. On your own or with a group of friends, work through the resource:

  • Split Second Thinking by Zac Flowerree

(Time commitment is approx. ½ hour, 4 times per week, 4-8 weeks. After completing the book, prepare and give a speech two to three times per week to keep your skills sharp)

Platform Speaking:

Writing and presenting Persuasive or Original Oratory speeches gives students more confidence in these skills, which will carry over into writing “plans” for, or presenting “constructive” speeches in debate rounds. As students write platform speeches, they will search for and add in facts, stories and quotes that will support their topics. Sharpening their ability to “search” for information from print and online resources will prepare students for doing the same with debate, where they must always be prepared to debate the affirmative or the negative side of a debate resolution. On your own or with a group of friends, read or work through the platform speaking activities in one or both of these resources:

  • As I Was Saying …A Guide to the World of Competitive Speech by Thane Rehn

  • The Art of Platform - Speaking Learning From Great Orators by Michele Hop

(Time commitment varies with reading level. Students can practice writing and speaking on subjects they are currently studying in class.)


Older students (mature 7th - 8th graders, 9th - 12th graders) who start out in debate, rather than speech, will learn and practice the skills mentioned above in class, at club, and/or in competition. Before competing in debate rounds, students must become familiar with debate theory.  To learn debate theory, students can take a debate class. For more practice using what they have learned in class, students can also attend a debate club, where they will participate in a variety of debate-related activities. Students may also study debate on their own. If a student chooses to learn debate theory outside of a class, it is a good idea to do so with a few friends or a small group, as this will help all students stay motivated and give them a chance to discuss the resolution, articles, or their cases with others. 


Team Policy Debate:
A Team Policy debate round can last up to 74 minutes. Participants in a Team Policy debate round include four debaters, one or more judges, and a timekeeper. Two-person teams debate the given resolution. In each round, the teams are prepared to debate for (affirmative) or against (negative) the resolution, and will debate equally for or against the resolution in preliminary rounds of a tournament.  During timed constructive speeches, cross-examinations, and rebuttals, debaters on both sides of the resolution attempt to convince the judge(s) that their position on a policy is the correct one. Throughout the season debaters will continue to gather information to strengthen their cases to more confidently argue for or against the resolution.

Lincoln Douglas Debate:
A Lincoln Douglas debate round is completed in approximately half the time of a Team Policy debate round. A Lincoln Douglas debate round involves two individualdebaters on opposing sides of the resolution, one or more judges, and a timekeeper. In each round, the individuals are prepared to debate for (affirmative) or against(negative) the resolution, and will debate equally for or against the resolution in preliminary rounds of a tournament.  During timed constructive speeches, cross-examinations, and rebuttals, debaters on both sides of the resolution attempt to convince the judge(s) that their position on a value is the correct one. Throughout the season debaters will continue to gather information to strengthen their cases to more confidently argue for or against the resolution.


For current information about classes, clubs, debate (and speech) resolutions and resources, tournaments, and other opportunities, contact us HERE.



Speaking & Writing Opportunities

Listed below are opportunities for Minnesota homeschool students to use their speech talents. Many offer cash or other prizes and winners may advance to national level competition.  

  • American Legion - http://www.mnlegion.org/html/oratorical.html
. The American Legion hosts an annual Minnesota State Oratorical Contest which is open to students in grades 9-12.  Interested students should contact their local American Legion Post for contest sponsorship and district contest dates.  Contact Heidi Cook - heidicook123@aol.com - for more information.

  • Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Oratory Contest - http://www.mccl.org/Page.aspx?pid=404
. Offered to Juniors and Seniors. Local Oratory Contests are held throughout Minnesota. Local contests will be held September through March. The MCCL State Office can put students in touch with local Oratory Contest coordinators.

  • Minnesota History Day - www.mnhs.org/school/historyday. 
The Minnesota Historical Society hosts the annual Minnesota History Day where students make history come alive with exhibits, original performances, documentaries, and historical research papers. Takes place in March - early April.

  • NMA Leadership Speech Contest - http://www.nma1.org/Speech_Contest/Speech_Contest.html
. The National Management Association Leadership Speech Contest is open to students in grades 9-12 and is a unique opportunity to research, write, and present a 4-6 minute address to an NMA audience.  The subject?  Leadership – what it is, what comprises its attributes, who personifies your definition of a “leader”, or whatever else works its way into the students’ understanding of the subject.

  • National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit - http://www.friendsofnra.org/National.aspx?cid=90
. The National Rifle Association is currently accepting applications from outstanding high school sophomores and juniors to participate in the annual NRA Y.E.S. program in Washington, D.C. College scholarship money is available. The application deadline is February 1, 2012.

  • Toastmasters International - http://www.d6tm.org. 
Toastmasters is devoted to effective communication and leadership development in a supportive club environment.  On their site, you can find a club near you that matches your location by clicking on “Find a Club”.




The following is a list of speech and debate tournaments for 2011 and 2012 in or near Minnesota:

  • January 14, 2012 -  Liberty Speech Tournament
. Type of Tournament: Individual Events (using NCFCA categories) and Juniors
Location: Liberty Baptist Church, Eden Prairie

  • February 1-4, 2012 – Freeze Your Phrases Qualifier. 
Type of Tournament: NCFCA Speech and Debate. 
Location: Brooklyn Park, MN. 
Registration: January 4-18 through the NCFCA website

  • March 17, 2012 – Heartland Homeschool Speech Tournament. 
Type of Tournament: Individual Events (using Stoa categories) and Juniors 
Location: Hope Covenant Church, St. Cloud, MN

  • May 2-5, 2012 – Region 5 Invitational
Type of Tournament: NCFCA Speech and Debate
Location: Robbinsdale, MN. 
Registration: April 11-18 through the NCFCA website





Names and contact information are available upon request  Click HERE.  Classes and clubs (participation fees vary):

  • CHAT, Eden Prairie
 (Christian Homeschool Academy of Tutoring) - 

  • Heartland Homeschool Speech Club, St. Cloud

  • Home-By-Design speech class, New Prague

  • Metro Edge Homeschool Debate Team, Minneapolis

  • North Metro Homeschool Speech Classes
 (Mrs. Marti Ackland) - 

  • Northern Lights Speech and Debate Club, Ham Lake

  • South Heights Christian Classes, Burnsville - 


  • MNHS&D – Minnesota Homeschool Speech and Debate.  MNHS&D operates as a separate committee under the umbrella of The Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE). It is made up of individuals who volunteer their time during the year serving as teachers, coaches, judges, tournament coordinators, and other support staff.  MNHS&D Committee members: Marti Ackland, Chairman; 
Don Goscha; 
Lea Langley, Secretary; 
Michael Mullen, Webmaster; 
Larry Roth; 
Emily Van Vliet; 
Mike Wanschura, Treasurer. To contact a committee member, click HERE.


  • Christian Communicators of America - 

  • The Institute for Cultural Communicators - 

  • NCFCA – National Christian Forensics and Communications Association - 

  • STOA – Students Growing Through Speech and Debate - 






From Playpen to Podium by Jeff Myers - 

As I Was Saying …A Guide to the World of Competitive Speech
 by Thane Rehn - 

Coaching a Club by 
Kim Anderson - 

Jeub’s Guide to Home School Speech and Debate
 by Chris Jeub - 


Beginning Public Speaking
Lessons for the Christian student and teacher
Teresa M. Moon


Starting a Club Workshop (for all levels) - 

Speech Events Workshop—Interpretation, Platform, and Limited Preparation - 

Workshops (Speech & Debate) for beginning-advanced students and coaches. 
Fees dependent on travel and lodging costs to your location from LA.
Rachel Welch and Brittany McGehee
 - www.valuedebate.com



The Art of Interpretation: 
A Study in Bringing Literature to Life
 by Nicholas R. Elledge - 

The Art of Platform Speaking
: Learning From Great Orators
 by Michele Hop - 


Beginning Public Speaking: 
Lessons for the Christian Student and Teacher
 by Teresa M. Moon - 



Holy Bible
, LifeWay Christian Book Stores - 

Handbook of Christian Apologetics by 
Peter Kreeft & Ronald K Tacell - i

Mere Christianity (and other titles), 
C.S. Lewis - 


The Art of Apologetics: 
An Introductory Study in Christian Thinking and Speaking by 
Karen Kovaka - 

Sliver Book Curriculum by 
Chap Bettis - 



The Extemporaneous Handbook
A guide to Extemporaneous Speaking for the Beginning and Intermediate Student
 by Anna Crowson - 

Keys to Extemp by 
Cody Herche - 


Split Second Thinking: Mastering the Art of Impromptu Speaking
 by Zac Floweree - 

Thorns Have Roses: 
Over One Thousand Quotations and Abstractions for the Impromptu Speaker
 by Thomas Gowen, Editor
 - http://www.instituteforculturalcommunicators.org/store/



Value Debate Research: Parent/Coach Manual and 
Value Debate Research: Student Workbook
 by Anna Crowson - 

Lincoln Douglas Value Debate Curriculum 
Student Workbook and Teacher Manual by 
Rachel Welch and Brittany McGehee
 - www.valuedebate.com


Contact the coach, teacher or national organization(s) directly for a list of sourcebooks written specifically for the resolution they are using in class, club, and/or competition. For more information, visit the "Organizations" section on this page.



Policy Debate Research: Parent/Coach Manual and 
Policy Debate Research: Student Workbook
 by Anna Crowson - 

It Takes a Parent: A Teaching Guide for the First Time Parent/Coach 
by Deanna Stollar

Coaching Policy Debate: Transitioning from a Debate Class to a Debate Club
 by Terry, Deanna, and Ryan Stollar
 - Antithesis-debate@comcast.net

An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate 
Argumentation and Debate: Taking the Next Step (Student Textbook)
 and Argumentation and Debate: Taking the Next Step (Teacher’s Manual) by Christy Shipe - 

The Art of Value Debate
: A Study in Understanding and Discussing Values 
by Matt Pitchford 
- http://www.instituteforculturalcommunicators.org/store/


Contact the coach, teacher or national organization(s) directly for a list of sourcebooks written specifically for the resolution they are using in class, club, and/or competition. For more information, visit the "Organizations" section on this page.

Critical Thinking and Fallacies:

Fallacy Detective
, The Thinking Toolbox, and 
Logic in 100 Minutes (DVD)
 by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn - 



contact MNHS&D

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