Debaters, Your Chance to Win!

As we find ways to virtually deliver debate during COVID-19, Chicago Debates is hosting Reformed: The US Criminal Justice System, an online video-based speech contest.

Students will have 5-minutes to provide an original speech on either the affirmative or negative argument of next year’s resolution:  Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, or sentencing. 

Original speeches should answer one of the following three questions:

  1. How should the US reform policing?
  2. How should the US reform criminal sentencing?
  3. How should the US reform forensic science?”

Speeches should: 

  • Inform the audience about the argument
  • Cite evidence, but mostly be original writing
  • Time-Sensitive (5-minute maximum)

Organization and Content:

  • Introduction (presented an interesting introduction to the topic)
  • Body (speech was organized with developed points)
  • Use of Evidence & Logic (evidence clearly cited)
  • Conclusion (summary and closing comments)
  • Length (5-minute maximum)

Contest Dates:  May 20th – June 5th  

Speeches must be submitted using this Google Form 

To upload your speech video:

  1. Record yourself delivering your speech (you can use a computer or a smartphone)
  2. Upload your speech video to your CPS Google Drive
  3. On the speech video, click the 3 dots, then the “Share” option
  4. Click “Get Shareable link”
  5. Click the dropdown menu, select “More”
  6. Select “On – Anyone with the link”
  7. Click “Save”
  8. Copy & paste that shareable link into this Google Form.
  • CPS Students Only
  • Current Chicago Debates Students (students who participated on their CPS Debate Team in 2019-2020)
  • Middle School Division: Grades 5th-8th
  • High School Division: Grades 9th-12th

The speech contest begins May 20, 2020 and will end on June 5, 2020. All speech videos must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on June 5, 2020.

Entries will be judged based on delivery, organization, content, and time. More specifically, these metrics will judge:

  • Facial Expression (relaxed, animated, and responsive)
  • Vocal Expression (variance, rate, pitch, volume, intensity, inflection)
  • Diction, Grammar, and Word Usage (No “you know’s,” “um’s,” or “ah’s,”)
  • Eye Contact (looks directly at camera, not staring or looking down)
  • Bodily Actions and Gestures (relaxed, comfortable, no distracting movements)
  • Time: No more than 5-minutes.  Submissions greater than 5-minutes will receive point deductions.

*Note: Evaluations may include metrics not outlined explicitly in this list.

Winners and finalists, for both middle and high school, will be notified via email on Friday, June 19, 2020. 

  • First Place: $100 Amazon e-gift card
  • Second Place: $50 Amazon e-gift card
  • Third Place: $25 Amazon e-gift card

I do not have a laptop or video camera. Can I record video on my phone?

Absolutely! Your speech will be evaluated on content and performance, not the production of your video itself.   However, if there is trouble understanding the video due to the quality, we will reach out to you through your provided contact information. 

Should I just read cards?

No, the goal of this is to highlight your original writing and interpretation of the arguments. While we encourage you to cite evidence from your files, the majority of the speech should be original writing. This speech should be understood to be more akin to a rebuttal speech than a constructive.

Am I allowed to cite evidence?

Absolutely! All research should be clearly cited in your speech.

Are there divisions for this contest?

Yes, there are separate divisions for high school and middle school students.  But, there are no conferences within those divisions.

What are the prizes?

  • First Place: $100 Amazon e-gift card
  • Second Place: $50 Amazon e-gift card
  • Third Place: $25 Amazon e-gift card

What if I have questions or problems with my speech submission?

If you have questions or concerns, contact Victoria Yonter at We look forward to seeing your entries and hope you enjoy this new take on debate!