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Q: Is Forensics a class or a competitive activity?
A: Both. Forensics is a co-curricular class. It operates much like Band, Orchestra, or Choir, in that we do classroom activities that are skill and content focused to prepare us for performances/competitions. Forensics tournaments happen on the weekends, and the occasional week night, and are the culmination of our classroom preparations.
Q: Does my student need to compete every weekend?
A: No. The minimum class requirement is 24 rounds of competition. A student can generally compete in 4 rounds on a Friday, and 3 rounds per event on a Saturday. Most students will compete in 2 events on Saturday, totaling 6 rounds for the day. This means that most students can complete their requirement in 3 to 4 weekends.
Q: Wait. I'm confused. What events happen on which days, and how many rounds are involved?
A: Each school's invitational tournament is different, but as a general rule, Lincoln-Douglas (LD) Debate and Congressional Debate happen on Fridays. LD will usually have 4 rounds. Congressional Debate is two 90 minute sessions, where students can give as many speeches as they can get called on to give. Each speech counts as one-half of a round of credit, and students can usually give 4 speeches if they are making an effort to do so. Public Forum Debate sometimes happens on Friday, and when it does, there are 4 rounds of competition. On Saturday, the following events are usually offered: Extemporaneous Speaking (Foreign and Domestic), Original Oration, Informative Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Prose, and Poetry. The Saturday events all have three rounds of competition, with a fourth (final) round for the top 6-8 competitors in each event. This includes Public Forum Debate when it happens on Saturday. The travel sheets will make clear which day(s) your student is travelling.
Q: How does my student know which weekends s/he is competing?
A: Students sign up in the Forensics room for the weekends they want to travel. If they have a conflict on a particular weekend, they simply don't sign up. This does require students to plan ahead, and it does require families to discuss scheduling conflicts early in the semester.
Q: What happens if my student can't participate in the minimum number of rounds?
A: A student who does not compete in 24 or more rounds, cannot pass Forensics class. We view tournaments like tests. Students who take no tests do not pass other classes. Forensics is no different. The nice thing about Forensics, is families get to plan their tournament schedule ahead of time, so there are no surprises as the semester progresses. If there are extraordinary, extenuating circumstances, we will work with a student. But a simple failure to plan ahead is not sufficient to have this requirement waived. The coaching staff recommends families plan for 5 competitions, so that minor illnesses don't put a student's grade at risk. Then, if the student has completed their requirements in fewer than 5, and does not want to compete again, the student simply doesn't sign up for the last two tournaments the family had planned for.
Q: How does my student get to tournaments? Do I have to transport him/her?
A: We travel as a team, by school bus or school van. Parents are only responsible for getting their student to LHS in time to meet the bus.
Q: How do I know which tournament(s) my student is signed up for?
A: Your student should be able to tell you whether s/he has signed up for a particular weekend. Managing their schedules is an important skill for students to learn, in order to be successful in high school. The coaching staff will give each student a travel sheet the week of the tournament. Usually these are handed out Tuesday or Wednesday before a Friday/Saturday tournament. This information will also be posted on the Forensics Website, under the "Travel Sheets" tab.
Q: How do I know what time the bus leaves? Does it really leave that early Saturday morning?
A: The travel sheets will have a complete schedule of when students will be travelling and competing. Most Saturdays we leave between 5:45 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. in order to be at the host school by 7:15 a.m.
Q: Is Forensics a spectator sport? Do parents go watch their students perform?
A: Occasionally parents do come watch their students, but it is not the norm. I encourage you to see your student compete at least once in his/her career. But most parents who watch a round or two feel like they've seen what they want to see. Please also be aware that your presence may make your student nervous. For this reason, we ask, if you are going to watch your student, please do so at an invitational tournament, and not at a post-season tournament. If you get in touch with the coaches ahead of time, we will happily work with you to find the best time and place for all involved.
Q: If my student is really bad at Forensics, and does poorly at tournaments, how will that affect his/her grade?
A: It won't. Tournament points are based purely on whether or not students compete, not whether they win or lose. Winning is its own reward, and generally functions as a motivator. Grades will also be based on assignments handed out in class, coaching sessions in class and after school, and other assignments. It is entirely possible for a student to get an "A" without ever advancing to a final round. However, that is unlikely, because if they do everything we teach them, they will find some success.
Q: What supplies does my student need for Forensics?
A: This will vary by event. All students will need a folder or space in a three-ring notebook where they can save their ballots. Students in Debate and Extemporaneous events may want to use their own laptop. This is permitted, but not required. Students competing in Prose, Poetry, and Program of Oral Interpretation will need to have a small, black, 3-ring binder, prior to their first tournament. (5.5" x 8.5" is the norm)
Q: What should my student wear to Forensics tournaments? Is there a uniform?
A: While there is no uniform, per se, your student will be competing against other kids wearing suits, slacks, business skirts, and other similar attire. Boys need to wear a tie, dress shirt and slacks, and dress shoes. Suits are not required, but boys who intend to be serious about competing in should invest in one before they begin post-season tournaments. Girls should wear what is appropriate when men are wearing business suits. Because of the movement required during performances, and stairs they have to climb, many girls find slacks and flats to be the most practical combination. Girls who intend to be serious about competing should also consider investing in a business suit before competing in the post-season. If you look at the pictures on the home page, you can get an idea of what appropriately dressed debaters wear.
Q: How does my student get access to meals at tournaments? Does s/he need to pack a lunch?
A: Packing a lunch is always a good option. This is particularly true if your student has dietary restrictions. Many host schools offer some kind of pizza or sandwich lunch deal in the neighborhood of $5 to competitors. If there is no lunch deal offered, we generally pool money from interested students and order pizza to be delivered. If the coaches know ahead of time what the lunch plan is going to be, we will include that information in the travel sheet.