information for students

fine arts - speech/debate Judges Instructions

(For printer-friendly version of this site click here)  
Printable Instruction Sheet: includes event descriptions, time limits and judging suggestions

Blank TFA Ballots

Sample Videos (approx. 2 min. ea)
Interpretation Events:
Prose Interpretationvideo

Poetry Interpretationvideo

Humorous Interpretationvideo

Dramatic Interpretationvideo

Duet Actingvideo

Duo Interpretationvideo

Public Speaking Events:
Original Oratoryvideo

Extemporaneous Speakingvideo

First and most importantly, the Churchill Speech and Debate team would like to thank you for volunteering your time to judge at the Churchill Classic Forensics Tournament.  This annual tournament has been in existence for more than 30 years and draws competitors from around the state and the country.  Hosting this tournament is our primary fund raiser for the year and your participation is crucial to making sure the event is a success.  So, while you are certainly helping our active speech and debate program, which competes throughout the state and country, we also believe that you will enjoy and be amazed by the selections that the students perform.

We would like you to feel as comfortable as possible when you walk into the room to judge, so we have created this on-line tutorial to give some helpful hints and present some brief samples of the events you might see.

Your confirmation letter that you received should inform you at which time(s) you are scheduled to judge.  We would like to request that you show up 15-20 minutes before the round is scheduled to start and check in at the judge table in the teacher's dining room (this is located downstairs in the old building, right off of the cafeteria.  We will post signs to help lead you there.).  Once you have checked in, you are welcome to enjoy our amazing judge lounge right next door until your ballot is ready to be picked up.  There will be a variety of beverages, snacks and meals served throughout the tournament.  This is a small thank you for your time.

When you receive your packet of  ballots, you should proceed to the room indicated on the Master Ballot.  In every event except Extemporaneous Speaking, it is customary for the competitors to act as the audience for the other performances.  Please allow them to do so.  And certainly if there is someone who wishes to view an Extemporaneous Speaking round, they may do so as well (however, competitors have staggered preparation time, so they will be coming in one at a time).  When the starting time of the round has arrived, you may call up the first available competitor.  Try to follow the pre-assigned speaking order when possible, but please be flexible so that we can keep the tournament running on time.  Competitors in any event may be cross-entered, indicating that they are entered in another event during the same time frame.  If so, please allow them to leave the room after they perform, or to come in after the round has started if they were performing elsewhere.  If a competitor has not shown up 15 minutes after the last speaker has performed, please proceed back to the judge's table and inform them that you have had a no-show in your round.  They will tell you what to do.

Your confirmation letter should have indicated whether you are signed up to judge an interpretation event or a public speaking event.  Each event is described in the Printable Instruction Sheet.  Additionally, we have provided two-minute video clips of each event to give you a taste of what each event will look like.  The performances will be longer than 2 minutes each, but the videos should give you an idea of what will be happening in the room.

The time limit for each event is included in the Printable Instruction Sheet.  Ideally, the judge would have a stopwatch and keep time for each performance in the round.  Time signals would be given to each performer: holding up 3 fingers when s/he has 3 minutes left, 2 fingers for two minutes, 1 finger for 1 minute, 1 finger bent in half for 30 seconds left, and a closed fist when they have reached the end of their time limit and have entered the grace period.  At that point they have 30 seconds to finish their performance, or the tab room will disqualify them in that round.  However, not all circumstances are always ideal.  If you do not have a reliable time piece with a second hand or stop watch function, or if you do not feel comfortable keeping an eye on a stopwatch while trying to adjudicate the round, simply don't keep time.  Circle the option on the master ballot that time was not kept in the round.  However!  If you are scheduled to judge public speaking, it is necessary in Extemporaneous Speaking to keep time somehow.  Since it is a limited preparation event, the students don't have the opportunity to time it out ahead of time and need some indication of how long they have been speaking.  It would be very helpful to bring a timepiece of some sort to be able to provide the students with an indication of how long they have been speaking.  In any case, the judge should never penalize a student for time!  If time was kept and time signals were given to the student, please indicate that on the ballot, rank the round without considering time, and tell the judge table that you had an overtime situation.  The tournament officials will handle any overtime penalties.

Your ballot packet will contain one master ballot on top of eight individual ballots (if you'd like to look at the blank ballots we will use, you may click here - the master ballot we use will be slightly different, though similar in spirit).  The master ballot gives an overview of the round and is what the tabulation room works from, while the individual ballots are distributed to the students so they can read your comments.  After all the students have performed, please rank them in order from 1-8 (with 1 being the best performance in your eyes, and 6-8 needing the most work).  Please make sure that the ranks that you write on the master ballot match the ranks that you circle on the individual ballot.

The individual ballot is an opportunity to critique each performance.  This includes both telling the competitor what you really liked about their performance, as well as telling them what didn't work in your eyes.  Students always hope to see a Reason For Decision on their ballot.  There is very little more frustrating for a competitor than to read only positive comments on a ballot and then to receive a rank of 6.  This is a subjective activity and your opinion in that round is important.  Please share with the students how you think they could have improved their performances in your eyes.  The students' ultimate goal is to appeal to any judge in any round, so your opinion matters!

After you have written the individual ballots and ranked the round on both the individual and the master ballots, return them to the judge table where you picked them up.  The students there will be happy to check them to make sure everything is completed correctly and are more than willing to answer any questions you might have.  Once your ballots are turned in, your job is done!  You have helped the Speech and Debate students at Churchill with their fundraiser, you have broadened the perspectives of forensics competitors from around the state and you have, hopefully, been impressed by the talent on display at this tournament.  Your willingness to volunteer to adjudicate these rounds is so important to the success of our tournament and we couldn't appreciate it more!

If you have questions regarding anything about your upcoming experience as a judge, please don't hesitate to contact me at or at 210-442-0800 x354 (e-mail is the preferred method).

If you have questions regarding debate judging, there will be a workshop in person at Churchill High School in room 3110 on Monday, January 14 and Tuesday, January 15 at 7:00pm (the information will be the same at each - you need only attend one session).  Other debate questions may be directed to Ms. Kandi King at