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A female Collingwood student in a tartan skirt and navy sweater stands in a dark room while presenting her speech.
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Collingwood School

Public speaking and death: these are two common fears cited by people worldwide. Students who graduate from Collingwood may be the exception – public speaking is ingrained in their education from the start. Our School has recognized the importance of public speaking for over 30 years, and students as young as six years old are learning how to combat their jitters and stand confidently in front of a crowd. It’s an element of Collingwood’s curriculum that our Alumni credit as a real game-changer after graduation. It even came up in our recent Alumni Survey where one participant wrote: “The emphasis put on public speaking transformed my life.”

The Speak Week we celebrate today at the Senior School is the latest iteration of this tradition. Formerly known as Public Speaking Day, each English class would complete a public speaking unit and select three students to compete. There were only two categories: persuasive and humorous. In 2014, the program became much more inclusive and was broadened to five categories. Every student from Grade 8-12 picks a genre (interpretive reading, dramatic monologue, TED Talk, spoken word, and persuasive) and writes and delivers their speech during the tournament’s first round. From there, about 30 students from each grade are selected by judges to move onto the semi-finals. On Monday, December 18, 2023, 155 students presented their speeches during Community Block in front of school faculty and staff judges. Each grade and category was then narrowed down to a handful of speakers who competed in the finals on Tuesday. 

A female Collingwood student in a tartan skirt and navy sweater stands in a dark room while presenting her speech.
A male student in a Collingwood uniform stands in a dark room while presenting his speech.

It may sound nerve-wracking, but these students have been preparing for a tournament like this since Grade 1. At Wentworth, students practice speeches in front of their homeroom classes every year, and work up to bigger audiences as they approach Grade 7. By the time a Collingwood student enters Grade 8, they are already well-versed in public speaking and can deliver a presentation confidently in front of their peers. To an outsider, our students’ ability to talk clearly, eloquently, and with conviction is awe-inspiring. To the students, they feel the pay-off of their hard work whether in a university or job interview, class presentation, or when conversing with others–it all becomes second-nature. 

"Speak Week provides a fantastic opportunity, beyond the classroom, for students to demonstrate their speaking skills in a variety of forms for new audiences - a key learning outcome of the English Language Arts curriculum," says Head of the English Department, Tami Lyon. “Most adults can’t do what these students can do, and this skill will benefit them as they navigate school, career, and life long after Collingwood.”

In any given year, Collingwood students usually rank as some of the best public speakers or debaters in the province. This year, among all Grade 10-12 speakers in the province, Grade 10 students Zachary W. and Matthew Y. came in first and second respectively. In the Junior category, Connie J. and Chanelle Y. took second and third place in BC. Earlier this season, we had 14 students compete in the British Parliamentary Debate Provincials, two of whom qualified for the Nationals in Winnipeg. At the national level, four Collingwood students will compete at the BC qualifier for Team Canada Debate tryouts in February 2024.

Speak Week now culminates in a showcase assembly on the last day of school before Winter Break when a selection of winners present their speech in front of the whole student body. Clips of some of our students' speeches will be shared on our social media

  • English