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PHS gets ready for forensics season
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Even though their first official competition isn’t until February, members of the Platteville High School forensics team are already hard at work in preparation for the season.

Most students have decided on a category in which to compete. Some have found pieces to perform. Others have started writing speeches.

“The ambitious nature of the students on the Forensics team at PHS foreshadows their inevitable success this coming season,” said PHS English teacher David Freitag.

The goal of a forensics program is to teach students effective oral communication skills. According to a study done by The Conference Board in 2006, 95.4 percent of employers consider oral communication to be a “very important” skill, rated higher than teamwork and collaboration, professionalism and work ethic, and written communication. The skills forensics competitors practice are invaluable, and the investments these students make in their knowledge and skill base will pay dividends in both their professional and personal lives.

Forensics is composed of 16 categories in two groups: speech and interpretation. Each forensics category is a different, high-level cognitive and speaking task.

“The variety of categories provides ample opportunity for students to not only practice many different forms of communication but to find their own niche in the larger spectrum of authorship, interpretation, and presentation,” said Freitag.

Students in speech categories write their own speeches. Some speeches, like those in the Oratory category, are persuasive. Others, like Four-Minute or Moments in History speeches, are informative, either about a topic or a time period. Public Address speeches require students to support a viewpoint on a contemporary issue. Demonstration speakers can demonstrate just about any skill, and Special Occasion speakers must prepare a speech for an occasion like a eulogy, trial, or public statement. For those who work well under pressure, Extemporaneous Speaking requires students to prepare an entire speech on a topic with only 30 minutes of preparation time, and Radio Speaking lets students practice their radio-voice skills in a broadcast exactly five minutes in length.

Students in interpretation categories prepare to present pieces of literature from a variety of genres. Students may present poetry pieces, prose pieces, or a combination of several genres in the Farrago category. Students can act out a serious or humorous piece in Solo Acting, team up with others to prepare a Group Interpretation of a piece of literature, or even present a play in the Play Acting category. Storytelling competitors are required to memorize four stories that they must retell on demand in competition.

Platteville High School belongs to the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association, the oldest high school speech, debate, and theater organization in the nation. Schools that are members of this organization prepare teams of students to send to competitions where the students are evaluated. At these competitions, which will take place this spring, students will receive feedback from trained judges and will be assigned scores related to their performance.

Even though students are evaluated, the WHSFA’s focus is on individual growth rather than winning for its own sake. According to the WHSFA, students attend competitions “not to defeat each other, but to pace one another on the road to excellence.” Competitions provide students with a meaningful audience and occasion for their presentations, a wealth of constructive criticism to help them improve, and the opportunity to meet students from other communities and learn from their performances.

“Platteville High School has a robust team of students — including 21 new members — who are stepping up to the challenge of competition this year,” said Freitag.

Moments in History: Mattea Scanlan and Abby DeYoung.
Four-Minute: Erin Bowden.
Public Address: Rachel Emendorfer.
Special Occasion: Saafia Masoom and Eramis Momchilovich.
Demonstration: David Hahn and Jake Reuter.
Oratory: Sumaia Masoom, Vivian Li, Annapaula Munoz and Thomas Cramer.
Farrago: Sarah Loring.
Poetry: Danielle Jentz and Katlynn Templeton.
Prose: Matt Schaefer, Emily Reuter, Angela Drefcinski and Tianna Gile.
Solo Acting: Jordan Stombaugh, Emma Wilson, Elyssa Vondra and Rachel Demaree.
Group Interp: McKenzie Scanlan, Beth Gardiner, Hannah VanNatta and Elissa Bahr.
Play Acting: Emily Olson, Jackie Evanchik, Minjoo Son, Jaron Frederick, Adam Roberts, Arianna Day, Carla Hoppe, David Ababio, Stephanie Philipps, Stephanie Momot and Hannah Schambow.
Other members: Ivan Acierno, Danielle Dillon, EJ Kruser, Tom Hubl, Logan Briggs, John Lambert, Vanessa Woodworth and Elisa Bilderback.

“As you see our Forensics team members around the community, don’t hesitate to stop and ask them what they’ve got in mind for the coming season,” said Freitag. “The members of this articulate, confident, and ambitious group of young people all have something worthwhile to say, and Forensics will give them an opportunity to share it.”