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Short Declamation Piece For High School

Looking for a good declamation piece for a high school student.

What is the best declamation piece for a 3rd year high school student, that is not too long and not too short?

Expert Answers

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A wonderful candidate for an easy-to-learn, yet, powerful declamation is the 1895 poem "If" by British Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling. It is a tribute to colonial politician and activist Leander Starr Jameson.

This is a good choice for a teenager, because the language is simple, direct, and still relevant to issues in the 21st century. It is made of only 4 stanzas and the words carry a very powerful, active voice.

It is also a heartfelt piece, in which paternal advice is given to a son. It teaches many good lessons on behavior, self-control, humility, and common sense; the poem is perfect for times like these, times of dissension and turmoil that cause people to be disrespectful and heartless to one another. 

As we live in a society that has opted to attack, rather than rationalize, the thoughts of others, this poem is even more relevant today. Also, as we witness people who are supposed to be role models ignoring principles once taught to previous generations, one may see "If" as what it actually is: a masterpiece that can persist through time and that carries lessons that can be applied everywhere.  

You can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:

"If" is also a great piece because it has rhyme in it, which makes it easy to remember. Moreover, it is a poem that entices readers to consider both sides of an argument, to be humble, to learn to mold their public persona, and to learn to be temperate in times of adversity. These are fundamental teachings that not many men or women have been raised to understand. Yet, they are just that: fundamentals for an agreeable and healthy social existence. 

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

Finally, this poem fits well in a world that expresses itself and lends its reputation to social media and internet influence. It is perfect for this particular generation because it brings them back to the fundamental blocks of coexistence:

  • mutual respect
  • tolerance
  • acceptance
  • understanding
  • objectivity
  • forgiveness
  • hope

'If" will inspire the audience and will teach very much needed lessons. The audience will be put back in touch with topics that are basic for survival, both moral and physical. 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
. . . treat those two impostors just the same

For more insight on Rudyard Kipling, check out his study guide here on Enotes. Also, check out the analysis of "If" right here, too. 

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It really depends on several factors including whether you want a comedy or a serious piece, how much cutting you are willing to do, if you are doing a duo or a solo, and what kind of message you want to send with your performance.

My most favorite duo piece I have seen is "Fight Club". I use this one as an example for my Oral Interpretation class at school. I have also seen cuttings from "The Chalk Garden", and "The Odd Couple" that have worked well.

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