Buckingham Browne & Nichols Debate

Sunday, December 2, 2018  10:30 AM - 6:00 PM

80 Gerry’s Landing Road, Cambridge MA 02138

Any student in 9-12th grades

REGISTRATION will close Wednesday, November 28, 5 PM

(If we fill up prior to this date we will announce that registration is closing early)



Karen Koh


2 Rounds of Parliamentary Debate; 1 Round of Impromptus and 1 Round of Interpretive Reading.

These private school tournaments have begun adding speaking rounds to prepare the kids who qualify for Worlds.  At Worlds, all students are required to compete in Impromptus and Interpretive Readings.  Other countries do these events all year so their kids get a lot of practice but American students get very limited opportunities to do these so they thought they should start having students getting used to these speaking events.  Below are the rules for these events.  Spencer Murray, who is incredibly gifted and internationally successful at speaking events worked with the Monday evening kids on these events last week and worked earlier in the year with the Thursday students.  


IMPROMPTU (2 minutes of preparation. 3-5 minute speech with a 15-second grace period on either end)

General guidelines:

Each speaker will draw three topics, which may be words, quotations, or phrases (anything not specifically related to current events). The speaker will have two minutes to prepare, during which time he/she may make notes, but these notes may not be used during the speech. Wit, humor, philosophy, sentiment, absurdity are equally welcome. Although a speaker may make reference to the words or beliefs of others, whether fictional or real characters, he or she must speak in his or her own person for the substantial majority of the speech (competitors may not adopt a persona for their speeches).

Judges will be looking for agility of thought, for the development of ideas, for strong organization,  and above all, for the ability of each speaker to communicate with style and originality. It is strictly understood that competitors will not use prepared material for this event.

NOTE: Plagiarism, including the repetition of an example that a competitor used in a recent competition, will be grounds for disqualification.

Specific guidelines:

  • Speeches should be structured and logical.

  • The speech should be based on the chosen topic.

  • Canned/rehearsed/reworked impromptus will be penalized.

  • Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable.

  • No props of any kind are permitted.

  • The speaker must state the topic at the end of their speech.

  • No notes of any kind, other than the topic paper are permitted during the speech.

  • Although a speaker may make reference to the words or beliefs of others, whether fictional or real characters, he or she must speak in his or her own person for the substantial majority of the speech.  Adoption of a persona is not allowed for Impromptu speaking.

INTERPRETIVE READING--Time: 5-11 minutes (including an introduction of up to one minute)

General guidelines:

Each participant will read a passage of prose or poetry (or a selection of poems) of literary merit, serious or humorous, with an appropriate introduction included in the time limit. The introduction should give an indication of the context of the reading and convey the reasons why it has been chosen. The introduction should be a direct address to the audience, personal and informal.

Judges will be instructed to mark readings of material written principally for children by severe standards relating to the simplicity of the material presented and the lack of demand on the resources of the reader.

Specific guidelines:

  • Dramatic interpretations of the text must be avoided.

  • Dramatic gestures/techniques should be used rarely and only to enhance the text.

  • Books written for children can be interpreted as books that would read by primary school readers ie children under the age of 13.  

  • Nonfiction is not allowed.

  • A recitation of a historical speech is not acceptable, though the reading of a fictional one is acceptable.

  • Speakers must ideally balance reading of the text, knowing the text and eye-contact.

  • Speakers may sit or stand.

  • Speakers may read from the book or from a photocopied script.


Cost for Registration and Participation Fee, Judging, Transportation and Coachs' Costs is $96.


You will receive an email with details the week of the event. Mrs. Henderson will be driving and will leave her place at 8:25 AM. They don't list an end time but we expect to return home around 8ish.  Your kids can confirm via text.


Parents do not attend these competitions. You are warmly invited and encouraged to attend the state competitions in the spring. You are more than welcome to come judge although please realize this does not allow you to watch your own child debate.


Western business attire.  Boys wear a jacket and tie; girls wear a skirt, pants or dress and a sweater or jacket.  If you are in need of any article of clothing please let Ann know so she can put out a group email.  We have been pretty good at coming up with clothing to share.  


Students should bring their own food and snacks. Most schools do not have restaurants nearby and the time for lunch is short, so students. Debaters should carry a water bottle prevent dry mouth during the rounds.

What to Bring

Students should have highlighters, paper and writing instruments to flow.