Tips on Ballot Writing and Giving Feedback – FREE download

I know judges sometimes struggle with what to write on Speech and Debate ballots. It’s hard to express your feelings on paper. Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of ballots and they are usually a blessing (for the most part) and a source for students to refer back to. I mean, let’s be honest, some kids keep their ballots for years after competing. However, once in a while there are some comments that would be better not to write, and it usually involves a pre-disposed bias. So I challenge judges to really think before you write…

Do have a hard time writing constructive feedback on ballots? Our Writing Ballots Worksheet might be just what you are looking for. Someone once said that we should critique like we are eating a sandwich. The bread can act like a buffer or lessen the blow to the meat or PB and J, which really does need to to be said.

There are three main questions I ask myself when I am giving feedback…

  1. Is the speech clear? Did I understand it? Were the characters defined? If it’s not, here is where you can come in. How can it be? Can you give them ideas for clarity?
  2. Is there a take away? This does not always mean some big epic IMPACT! Sometimes the take away can be the passion the student possesses. Don’t underestimate the “So What Factor!” I have written full articles on it.
  3. What would you do? Put yourself in their shoes.

Of course writing ballots can be a whole lot easier if you a TRULY present judge. Be sure you are giving students the same curtesy you would if you were having a conversation with another adult. Here are a few things I challenge you to do the next time you are judging a speech…

  1. Listen! I mean it. Give your full undivided attention. Assume you have something to learn. Remember, everyone (even a student) may know something you don’t.
  2. Set aside yourself. More difficult than it sounds. Be sure to go with the flow, your personal thoughts may come and go, but don’t get caught up with them. Remember to be present with what your speaker is saying. It’s ok to take notes!
  3. Be interested! Show interest. Be ready to be amazed!

If you struggle to find the encouraging words your speaker needs to hear. Feel free to print off our Worksheet and use it. Once you get the hang of judging, you won’t be at a loss for words. However, here are just a couple things you should pass on saying (and yes, these are actual examples)…

I expected more from you… It’s pretty disheartening for a student to have a judge compare a student’s speech from one room to the next, one year to the next, or one sibling to the next. Unfortunately, I have seen it all. Remember, your goal is to give feedback independently from what the student has done in the past.

You are capable of more… Often times I see this comment when a competitor chooses to do something not as complex. But this was THEIR choice. We may not know why they chose it, but they did. Judge it for what it is up against.

I didn’t like this book… Wha?? You are judging the piece low, on the fact you didn’t like the book? But how did the student do?? Remember, this is the book they chose to do. Maybe they love it, maybe it’s a family favorite, regardless it shouldn’t be ranked lower just because you don’t like the piece. It’s like giving a fifth and below with out them even performing.

I get it, it’s difficult to sometimes articulate what you want. That’s why we created THIS Worksheet, that is part of our Coaching Helps Packet. Remember, judging is an important job. Honestly, I know some people who think it’s more difficult than actually giving a speech. You are a blessing to these students! You Got This! Thank you for judging!