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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Agricultural Science | FFA

4 Best Tips from Teachers to Help with FFA Judging Events

March 9th, 2023 | 6 min. read

Mike Cescon

Mike Cescon

With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the iCEV curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.

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If you’re looking to prepare your students for FFA judging events like dairy, poultry, or meat, you know it’s essential they have the best guidance possible to get the most out of their experience. 

After all, agriculture students who succeed in these events walk away with valuable decision-making, critical thinking, and leadership skills. Students who flounder, however, may only find that their confidence has been dashed. 

So how do you prepare students for their FFA judging events? What strategies can you implement to ensure your students can hold their own on a national stage? 

In this article, you’ll discover four of the best tips to help you train students in FFA judging: 

  1. Commit to Training Sessions
  2. Attend Practice Contests
  3. Focus on Oral Reasoning
  4. Prepare the Night Before

After reading, you should be well-equipped to turn your students into veteran judges at FFA. 

1. Commit to Training Sessions

In the National FFA Organization, basic training sessions are essential to helping students prepare for judging events and other Career Development Opportunities (CDEs). 

Sometimes called “general workouts,” these practice sessions help you engage with students in order to train them in the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen event. By committing to regular trainings, you ensure your students are able to keep up with their peers on the national stage. 

These general workouts can take various forms, depending on the resources you have access to. These include: 

  • Using example events and practice videos to give students firsthand experience. 
  • Studying past FFA judging events and approved references to gain an understanding of contest rules, procedures, and strategies.
  • Having students partake in activities that trigger their thought process and prime them for learning how to grade items. 

It’s important to remember that, with how busy students can be, you may have trouble scheduling regular trainings. This is because students who judge FFA events are more likely to have full academic schedules and extracurricular activities on their docket. It’s essential, then, to figure out the best times for these practice sessions early on. 

2. Attend Practice Contests

Besides general workouts, another great way to prepare students for FFA judging events is to have them practice their skills in an official setting. This can help students learn rules and regulations, as well as how it feels to compete against their peers in an organized event. 

For practice, your students can participate in judging contests like: 

  • Invitationals
  • County shows
  • Fairs
  • Field days
  • University-sponsored events
  • School shows

After students gain experience in these official settings, they should be mentally prepared to compete in an FFA judging event, which will put them far ahead of the curve. 

However, remember that your students shouldn’t become too accustomed to how these practice contests conduct their shows. After all, these contests often judge by different parameters than FFA shows do. If the only experience your students have is with county shows or fairs, they may find themselves unequipped to handle FFA. 

Instead, use these contests purely as practice, and keep in mind their goal is to prepare your students for FFA. To that end, balance these practice contests with FFA-focused training sessions.

3. Focus on Oral Reasoning

The oral reasoning section of a judging event is where students present their justification for the placings they gave within a class. For many students, oral reasoning is the most intimidating portion of an event. 

While public speaking alone can be frightening, students here have the added pressure of clearly explaining the findings of their whole team. That means the rest of the team is putting their faith squarely in the speaker, which can be difficult for anyone to handle. 

To ensure your team are confident enough to deliver their oral reasoning, it helps to hone in on this section of the event during your trainings. Some ways you can accomplish this include: 

  • Creating individual handouts or activities students can use to practice.
  • Using online videos and curriculum to give students essential training.
  • Distributing templates students can use to guide them in crafting their oral reasoning.
  • Working in groups to prepare their oral reasoning, then having students deliver them individually.

These strategies help you ensure each team member is capable of basic public speaking and expressing their thoughts under pressure.

4. Prepare the Night Before

For many FFA judging events, you find out the classes your students will be judging the night before the event itself. It can help, then, to do some last-minute, focused practice so your students are ready to go the next day. 

Some strategies you can use to prep students the night before a contest include: 

  • Having students practice on the specific topics they’ll be judging during the contest.
  • Reviewing test questions and have them take part in short activities.
  • Reminding them of their priorities for placing different types of classes.
  • Reinforcing the general principles you’ve instilled in them throughout their training.

However, while these methods can help your students compete the next day, it’s essential you don’t force too much information on them last minute! If you push too hard, it’s possible to overwhelm your students and either stress them out, shake their confidence, or cause them to fixate on potential issues that may never come up during their competition. 

Instead, try to end your review session early to ensure your students can rest easy and get a good night’s sleep before their contest. This will likely be more valuable than trying to cram the night before!

Need Training Resources to Help Your Students Prep for FFA Events?

In this article, you’ve discovered some of the top tips out there to prep your students to be exceptional FFA judges. Whether they judge meat, dairy, poultry, or horses, with these strategies, you can train your students well and get them off to a strong start at their competition. 

But while these tips are useful, if you want to begin enacting them with your students, you’ll need the right resources to do so. To that end, check out the Agricultural Science curriculum from iCEV!

The iCEV curriculum offers plenty of resources aligned with FFA judging events, including training videos and activities designed to give your students the practice they need to thrive on the national stage:  

Discover Agricultural Science Curriculum