French Public Speakers Deliver at Concours d’Art Oratoire

“Tout ce qui brille n’est pas d’or.” (All that glitters is not gold)

These were the closing lines of Grade 6 student Vienna W.’s speech. Her topic, “the downside of finishing in second place,” ironically and happily, won her a silver medal in last weekend’s B.C./Yukon Concours d’art oratoire French public speaking competition.

Vienna’s medal was one of a handful of hardware brought home by Middle and Senior School students at the event.

There were a few hiccups leading up to the event this year. In particular, several of the top Grade 8 finishers from the February local competition were unable to attend the event for a variety of reasons, so the opportunity to compete was seized by two courageous young students.

When Sophia J. joined SMUS in her Grade 7 year, she was shocked and terrified to learn that all Middle School French students take part in a public speaking competition. She asked numerous times, “Do I really have to do it? In front of my classmates?” Her teachers encouraged and prepared her to jump that hurdle and she survived her first public speaking competition. With this year’s Grade 8 speech about her most memorable holiday to Beijing, she showed great potential. She finished in second place in the SMUS event earlier this year and when the opening came up to represent the school, she accepted while recognizing that there was more work to do.

She worked well with feedback to extend her writing and with only 10 days before the event, she set about memorizing and perfecting her new and improved speech. This past weekend she was poised, animated, and engaging. She performed a flawless speech, drawing listeners in from her first words to her last and holding her own in answering questions from the judges. The competition was strong in a full-time French Immersion category, but due to her impressive performance, she came away with the silver medal in her category.

Two weeks before the competition, Grade 8 student Larry Y. was asked if he would fill the Grade 8/9 French as a Second Language spot. His response: “Sure, why not?” There was work to be done on his presentation skills, but Larry is a diligent and extremely coachable student. He quickly took on advice from his teachers with regards to his poise and body language while onstage. His improvement over the course of two weeks was phenomenal and it paid off with a gold medal in his category for his speech on the Syrian refugee crisis.

These are just a few of the personal stories from this year’s Concours. Teachers and students at SMUS and elsewhere in the province are already considering lessons learned and strategies for next year’s competition, but in the meantime, all of the participants can congratulate themselves on a job well done.

The language arts teachers at the Middle and Senior School are so proud of our students. They took risks, made sacrifices and in the end, the hard work paid off with their ability to present well-polished performances in a second language in front of a large audience and judges — skills that will certainly come in handy in the future chapters of their lives.

The SMUS Concours d’art oratoire team consisted of:

Grade 6 Late French Immersion – Vienna W. (Silver)
Grade 6 Francophone – Cole A. (Silver)
Grade 6/7 Intensive – John D. and Stefan S. (Silver)
Grade 7 Late French Immersion – Claire P.
Grade 7 French Immersion – Sienna P.
Grade 7 Francophone – Amalia M.
Grade 8/9 French as a Second Language – Larry Y. (Gold)
Grade 8 Immersion – Sophia J. (Silver)
Grade 10 French as a Second Language – Jiawen Chen
Grade 10 Francophone – Lelia Hoube (Silver)
Grade 11 French as a Second Language – Sonia Sun
Grade 11 FSL – Pascale Halliday (Bronze)

Want to hear our students speak en français? Watch Grade 8 students Amira and Divyesh practice their Concours d’art oratoire speeches earlier this year:

(Photos courtesy of Canadian Parents for French. Check out their full album on Flickr.)

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Valerie Pike is a French teacher at St. Michaels University School's Middle School.

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