The 71st Hong Kong Speech Festival (English speech) is upon us again and that means a lot of students are preparing for their solo verses. As usual, the poems require the students to immerse themselves in the poet’s words and showcase their ability to convey emotions in order to score high marks. And as always, this is the most difficult part for any participant in these competitions. Students will definitely need speech festival training and practice
Most schools will provide some basic guidance on what students need to do. Teachers will probably go over procedures, the format and provide simple training. Unfortunately, teachers usually can’t help each individual student and that’s why parents often look for speech festival training help on their own. Here we’ll talk about a few tips to help your children improve.
- Students need to memorize the entire poem and be able to say each word correctly. If there are any mistakes, points will be deducted. For example, if the poem writes “the snake in the grass” and the student says “a snake in the grass”, they’ll lose marks for this error.
- Building on saying each word correctly, students also need to be sure they enunciate well. This means that each word should be said clearly and each syllable is audible. Students should practice saying the multi-syllable words in the poem with specific emphasis on saying the ends of the words. Special attention on hard sounds in English, like “t” and “ck”, should be recognized. The organization still emphasizes British pronunciation, so if you can, try to have them practice with this in mind.
- The theme or central idea of the poem should be understood by the student. If they don’t understand what the poem is about, they probably can’t relay it to the audience. For example, if the poem is somber, and the student recites it in a happy way, it shows that they didn’t understand the poem very well.
- The student needs to understand every word in the poem. They need to understand how it’s used to convey the poet’s ideas and feelings. If they don’t understand the words, they won’t know if they need to emphasize it. Sometimes poets play with words in order to create a new feeling or idea and students need to be able to recognise this.
- Volume, syllable stress and timing play a huge role in getting the overall tone of the poem down. Knowing when to slow down, pause, get louder and then focus on certain parts of words give the dramatic effect that leads to high marks.
- Emotions seen through the face and heard through the voice are usually what determines if the student will score high or not (if they do the previous tips well). The student really needs to “dive into” the poem. For example, this year the P3 boys solo verse is “Elephant Walking” by Clive Sansom. In this poem, the speaker is an elephant in search of water. How do you convey the emotions of an elephant? You have to teach the student that the poet is attaching his human emotions onto the elephants in the poem. If the poet or an elephant sees a tiger, wouldn’t they both feel scared? Students have to show the emotions/feelings of the poem accurately and correctly in order to get high marks.
These tips should help students who are preparing for their poems by giving them more focus on what they need to improve on. In most cases, students need to work on all of the focus points above so it truly is a lot of work. There are a few resources online, but a lot of useful ones can be found on youtube. Just type in the name of the poem on the list and you’ll be able to hear and get some analysis on the poems.