Throughout its history, The Webb School has placed great importance on teaching students to speak confidently before a large audience. While this requirement has taken many forms over the years, the most traditional assignment is the declamation, a memorized piece of literature with an original introduction written by the performer.
Each 9th-grade student presents a declamation to the student body during a chapel. In their subsequent years of high school, students build on the foundation of their declamation performance with an oration in 10th grade, a creative public performance in 11th grade, and finally the presentation of their original research in their senior year. This process enables students to leave the Webb School ready to share their ideas and findings with the world with poise and conviction.
[Dating to the founders, The Webb School has placed great importance on its public-speaking curriculum, especially regarding declamations and chapel talks. The Columbia Herald, on June 13, 1873, summarized the commencement ceremonies and makes mention of the speaking program: “The declamations were good, the selections were in the main unexceptionable.” ]
Throughout its history, The Webb School has placed great importance on teaching students to speak confidently before a large audience. While this requirement has taken many forms over the years, the most traditional assignment is the declamation, a memorized piece of literature with an original introduction written by the performer. Just as small children learn to speak by repeating the words of the “giants” who surround them, Webb students begin to find their public speaking voices by repeating the words of great authors, poets, and statesmen. Middle School students present a declamation to the middle school each year. Ninth-grade students present a declamation to the student body during chapel. On occasion, new students in the junior year choose a declamation as well (see notes about new Juniors and project selection in the Junior Project section below.) The expectations for each year increase in length and difficulty.
To build upon students’ achievements in previous years with the declamation, 10th-graders will write a clear and concise statement of belief in English class and then present their memorized essay before the whole school. When sophomores perform their oration, they truly become an “emerging voice” as they make a public declaration about something significant to them. The oration program is based on NPR’s popular "This I Believe" curriculum, itself based on Edward R. Murrow’s 1950s radio program of the same title. On this broadcast, both well-known and unknown Americans read essays in which they shared their personal stories, beliefs, and values. The broadcasts and the book they inspired were so popular that a curriculum was later developed to encourage high school students to consider, write, and deliver statements of their own personal philosophies. This curriculum, available at www.thisibelieve.org, forms the basis of our work.
To maximize the Juniors’ participation in The Webb School’s Emerging Voices program, the following is a succinct summary of the evolution of the Junior Class’ public speaking requirement. Faculty who were active in the process of changing the way Webb emphasizes public speaking through a change from each grade level presenting a declamation to each grade level offering a different and “escalating level of public performance” were queried to learn the genesis of this change. For several years before the 2008 Strategic Plan was adopted, grade level advisors painstakingly sought to find different and more “real world” applications to the Webb tradition of teaching public speaking. The Junior class level was given the task of crafting a public performance which would allow students to express their individual creativity, to improve on skills they already knew or to learn a new creative endeavor and to share that creativity via a public presentation to include not only their creative project, but also to emphasize the public presentation of that project through effective public speaking. This new presentation plan was implemented in 2012.
The Webb School encourages you not to be a spectator. The Emerging Voices program urges students to find their voices. So, let’s take a hand in the game and use our voices to influence change.
Your goal in the senior research project is to identify a specific problem within a community and argue for a potential solution for that problem. The problem must be sufficiently significant to warrant the attention of a given community. However, it should also be addressable -- at least in some small part -- in the scope of this project.