Judge Training

Thanks for volunteering to judge!
It saves the team money, and we hope that you will enjoy it!

Please take a moment now to calendar and/or confirm the date(s) and time(s) of your commitment.
(Please arrive 1/2 hour before your shift starts — or 15 minutes before any bus is to leave — perhaps even earlier than that if you will attend any 1/2 hour training (usually offered just before the tournaments starts).

Please also help the organizers move the tournament forward efficiently, so it can end on time :).

Here’s the information you’ll need:

1. Before the Tournament (i.e. now):  


a) Please:

i) Confirm that your profile/account at Tabroom contains the *email/cell-phone number* to which you want instant notification of your assignments sent on the day of the tournament, setting up an account for yourself on that site, if you do not have one already.  Then…

ii) Just before the tournament, link your Tabroom profile/account to the Judging accountwhich the organizers will have created for you by then, in Tabroom.

Throughout the tournament, www.tabroom.com  (a creation of our own Chris Palmer, and used now at tournaments around the country), will send electronic/email/text notice of each of your judge assignments, to the contact info you specify in your Tabroom account, as long as you follow the steps outlined below to “link” your account to the judge account created for you.

That’s the easiest/quickest way to monitor for your round/room assignments (it’s pretty cool).

And, to keep the tournament running on time, judges are now required to use online balloting, which is also done through Tabroom, using your laptop or tablet (paper balloting is available only as an emergency back-up).

So, please create an account at Tabroom, if you have not done so already (click the small “Sign Up” link in the upper right corner of the home page).

And please double-check that your cell/email contact in any existing account is accurate, by clicking on the “profile” link in the upper right corner (once you are logged in to your account), to make sure that notifications of your room/round assignments will reach your handheld, at the tournament.

Then, just before the debate, please log in to your own Tabroom account/profile – through your laptop, tablet, or phone -and click your username/profile, in the upper right corner, and follow onscreen instructions to “Link your account to a judge.”   (If you have trouble, ask your kid to help :), or ask for help when you check in).

–Printable instructions for judge-account-linking, and electronic/on-line balloting, can be downloaded here

–On-line instructions for electronic/on-line balloting, can be found here

(You can navigate there from the Tabroom home screen, by clicking the “Help/About” tab in the upper right; then click the blue “Tabroom Online Manual” link in the upper right hand corner under “How-To Guides”; finally, in the resulting “Tabroom Help Center,” click the white “Judging” link about half-way down the right sidebar menu, listed under “Your Tabroom Account.”)


i. Ideally, check to make sure that  “Lexington” is listed as a “conflict”in your profile, if that is not already filled in on your Judge account; that will prevent you from being assigned accidentally to judge any Lexington debates.  [Judges offered/brought by other teams will judge our own Lexington debaters, so please be nice to them ;)].

ii. You *may* also (but need not) list a “paradigm,“describing who you are, and what you like to see in a debate, under the “paradigm” link, in the upper right of the judge-account screen.   Such “paradigms” are more often recorded by experienced judges of debate events other than Public Forum (which is often judged by “lay” people unfamiliar with debate).  But it often helps *you* for the debaters to know just a little bit about who you are; you can do that, either by listing a “paradigm” in Tabroom, or simply by introducing yourself, in person, just before you begin a debate round.  For example, you could explain what you do for a living, that you are the parent of debater, and/or that, because you are a “lay” judge, you would prefer that the arguments be delivered slowly enough for a lay person to understand them easily.

b. Topic.

Judges need not prepare for debates, and should vote only on what they hear in each debate, but it can be helpful to know the topic in advance, and to look for just a little background on the topic, so that you are familiar with the general terms and arguments you might here.  Your judge coordinator may also provide a helpful link or two before the tournament.

Current topics for each debate event can be found here

2. What to bring 

–   Your cell phone (and charger), to get quick text/email notice of your round/room-number assignments.

–   A fully-charged laptop, or tablet, or any other browser-enabled device on which you can type easily (and its power cord, for those times when outlets are available), to use online balloting at Tabroom, accessing that site from within each debate room.

–     Paper and pens to make notes as the students debate.  (Two pen colors can help, but aren’t necessary).  You may take notes on your laptop or tablet, of course, but you may want paper to scratch on, as well, and as a back-up.

–  A timer which counts seconds, such as a cell phone app, a computer timer, or a watch with a sweep second hand.  (There are usually clocks in the rooms with second hands, and students keep their own time, too, but a timer keeps you from having to rely upon that, so you can resolve any dispute).  The timer will help you end each speech on time, and keep track of how many seconds each side has used in “prep time.”  “Debate Mobile” is an i-Phone app pre-configured to time the various segments of debate rounds in various events, including Public Forum.  “Debate Timer” is available for Android phones.

–  A coin to flip, to determine who speaks first, and which side they’ll be arguing (though students will often have a coin handy) – and maybe post-its to remind you of which side is which.  Feel free to ask students to arrange themselves on whichever side of the room (left/right) makes their physical position remind you in some way of their debating positions (i.e. pro/con), and/or where their names/team appear on the ballot.

–   A book to read, and/or work to catch up on, in the judge’s lounge, or in the adjacent “quiet room,” when you are not judging.

DRESS?: you may wear business clothes, or casual clothes, as you wish.  Debaters’ clothing ranges from business-casual, to suits; boys usually wear ties.  Sorry:  no robes, wigs, or gavels are supplied :).

3. Where to go

When you first arrive, please check in at the Greeter’s Table, usually in the main hallway.

Please then proceed immediately to the Judges Lounge, to await/check for your first assignment.  PLEASE stay in the judge’s lounge, or the nearby “quiet room,” at all times during your shift when you are not assigned to judge even if you are monitoring for assignments on your handheld, so that you can be found in the event of any problems with communications, or balloting, or for emergency-fill-ins.  This can help prevent significant tournament delays (so significant that some tournaments go so far as to fine teams when the judges they were supposed to send to a tournament cannot be found!).  Please also note the “ballot table” outside the judge’s lounge; that’s where you should go for any questions you may have about assignments, or to pick up paper ballots for your assignments, if you’re not using electronic balloting, or you want paper as a back-up.

As soon as you are notified of your assignment to a round/room, please pick up any paper ballot you may need at the ballot table outside the judges lounge, and proceed directly to the room assigned for the round, where you should find the debaters, who have similarly been called to that room.  Get everyone settled/comfortable as efficiently as you can.   (Try to avoid moving furniture, if you can; instead, try to identify a table/desk for each side, and some sort of “desk” at the front for you; the students can help.  Access to power outlets may be desirable, but try to avoid unplugging equipment in the room).

Once you’ve conducted the coin flip, to establish which side is which, and you get everyone settled and introduced to one another, start the debate, as soon as you can, by and inviting the first speaker to begin, and starting the timer for the first speech when you and they are ready.   (See instructions below on how to fill out and submit your ballot.)

Then return to the judge’s lounge to await your next assignment, if you haven’t already received notice of the next one electronically.

4. Judging– Details

“Rounds”:  Each “round” involves simultaneous debates, in individual room assignments, all over the school.

“Flights”Sometimes, each “round” will consist of two “flights” per room (i.e. both a first and second debate, one right after the other, each involving different debaters/teams).

So, in any given “round,” you may be scheduled to judge:
a) two “flights” (both in the same room);
b) one “flight”; or
c) no debates at all.

The participants in any second flight can enter the room only after the judge finishes oral comments for the first flight.  So, if you are judging only the first of two flights, please take the debaters out in the hallway to give them any oral comments; then the next set of debaters, and the next judge, can enter and use the room for the second flight, right away.

Judge assignments:  At the beginning of each round, Tabroom will issue your room/judge assignments, with debater/team-pairings, electronically — to the cell-phone/text-account/email address which you specified in setting up your Tabroom account — as they are made, sequentially, throughout the day.

Assuming that you are properly receiving notices from Tabroom on your cell phone and/or email, that will be the easiest/quickest way to monitor for your assignments, though you still must remain in the judges lounge, or in the “quiet” room, when you are not judging (you may be asked to fill in for someone else who is busy with a debate that has run overtime, for example, or to clarify one of your votes).

If you have not received any notice from Tabroom by the beginning of your shift, it may simply be that you have not been assigned to judge any debates in the first round within your shift.  But you can check parings/assignments at the ballot table outside the judge’s lounge, asking whether there are any assignments under your name, just to make sure that there hasn’t been any glitch in contacting you.   You may well receive an assignment in the next round even if you did not receive one in the first round.

Someone should also announce all assignments in the Judge’s Lounge.

Again, please stay within earshot of the judge’s lounge (or the quiet room), at all times when you are not judging, throughout your shift, in case anyone is seeking you for clarifications, or fill-in duty.

Immediately upon receiving a judging/round/room assignment:

If you want a paper ballot as a back-up, you may collect it from the ballot table.

Otherwise, proceed directly to your assigned debate room as quickly as possible.

At the assigned debate room, once you have located your debaters, you should immediately log in to your profile on Tabroom (using the Login link in the far upper right corner of the greeting screen, if you are not logged in already), and then click on your login/profile/account name in the upper right corner of the greeting screen.  

If you do not immediately see a list of your assigned debates, click the blue “Upcoming” button in the upper right, to access them.  You should then see a list of your assigned debates, allowing you to click “start round” for the each one, affording you access to the electronic ballot for the round/flight which you’re currently starting.  Clicking “start round” also confirms for the Tabroom that everyone in that round/flight is where they should be, and that the debate will be underway shortly.

If you are ever having trouble understanding the debaters during a round, feel free to call out “slower,” “clearer,” or “louder.”

The paper or electronic ballot will ask you to decide, immediately upon the conclusion of the debate (and as quickly as you reasonably can):

1. The Winner(aff/pro, or neg/con);

2. Speaker Points for each debater – on a scale of 20-30, with many/most falling in the 27(good) – 29(excellent) range; often the judge-meeting leaders will give you guidance on this; and

3. Reasons For Decision (“RFD’s”)- why you voted for the side you did.  (These RFD’s are important, but they can be very brief, or even skipped, when first submitting the ballot, if you’re pressed for time.  You can then add/amend your notes later, in the judge’s lounge, by re-accessing your ballots just as you accessed them the first time.  The tournament organizers need the winner, and the speaker points, almost immediately, to establish that the round/flight is complete, and to figure out whom to enter/pair in any upcoming elimination rounds.  However, your Reasons For Decision, as well as comments to teams, or to each debater, are important feedback for the debaters and coaches, and they are valued, perhaps even during the tournament itself, as the debaters craft arguments for successive rounds; the debaters will be able to access them electronically, if you use an electronic ballot; otherwise, your paper ballot will eventually be scanned, and made available to them – and to other debaters – as a .pdf).

Factors you might consider/mention in judging (Kaz mentioned these in training), are:
1. Persuasive argument style
2. Eye contact
3. Quality of Evidence
4. Demonstrated cleverness or creativity
5. Your gut feeling – about whether you are persuaded more by one side than the other.

The form also asks you to check a box if you have issued a “low-point win” (i.e. – if the speaker points on the losing side were higher – generally a less-frequent situation).

You may decide that you “won’t disclose” your vote verbally to the participants, though they will see your vote when it is posted in Tabroom.  Indeed, tournament organizers sometimes instruct judges not to disclose verbally at the conclusion of the debate flight/round, if necessary to keep things moving along, though students are usually eager to hear who won, right away.  It is helpful, after voting, to make brief verbal comments on what you thought of the arguments, regardless of whether you are disclosing your final vote.

“Runners” (students) will be in the hallways near the debate rooms to answer questions. They will be monitoring the rooms and/or shuttling ballots and other info between the debating rooms and the central “Tabroom” (i.e. the physical base of operations for the tournament organizers during the debate – the nerve center, where all ballots for the tournament are ultimately collected/tabulated, and assignments are made).  This physical “Tabroom,” or “Tab” – in the library – should not be confused with the web site Tabroom, although the organizers in the Tabroom use Tabroom all day to run the debate.

As soon as you are done judging each flight/round (even before giving verbal comments, if possible) – and while you are still in the assigned room/area – please submit (and confirm) your electronic ballot (electronically); or get any completed paper ballot back to the ballot table – either by giving it to a runner, or by quickly returning it there yourself, as you check for a new assignment and/or return to the judge’s lounge promptly.

Note: if the internet is slow/overburdened, it may take a few refreshings of your screen to get your ballot through.  This is one of the reasons it is useful to have the paper ballot as a back-up, for an emergency, even though electronic balloting will generally move the tournament along much more efficiently if it can be used at all.

Again, printable instructions for the electronic ballots are here

Should you wish to review more information on judging Public Forum Debate, see the helpful sheet attached,  which Kaz distributed at judge training.

5. Questions/Resources for Judges

–   Send questions before the tournament to the current parent judge co-ordinator for Lexington (amdinius@yahoo.com

–      Questions at the tournament can be answered by Lexington trip leaders, people staffing the greeting tableballot tablerunnersother judges in the lounge; or (in a pinch) by the tournament organizers themselves, who can usually be found, slightly sequestered, in the “Tabroom” (i.e. – the physical location in the school which the organizers use as a ballot-tabulating base — usually right near the ballot table — not to be confused with the web site Tabroom).  If you must reach/find the organizers remotely (running late? can’t find them?) send questions/info to the email address for the tournament organizers listed as a link under “Contacts” on the right side of the tournament’s page in Tabroom.

–    Wi-Fi login information is usually posted in the Judge’s Lounge.

–    The judge’s lounge itself, or an adjacent room, may function as a “quiet room,” to catch up on work, when you are not assigned to judge a round; rounds should be announced there as well as in the Judge’s Lounge itself.

–   There are usually free food and beverages in the Judge’s Lounge — for snacks at least; sometimes breakfast and/or lunch is served (though you may want to carry snacks in case your judging schedule causes you to miss meal time).  Small concessions are often on sale (as long as you leave the Judge’s Lounge only briefly).

Thank you!

P.S. – Is your CORI certification current?  Though it’s unlikely that anyone will bug you about it at a home tournament, this is a good time to check whether you have on file a CORI form necessary to go to any debate which is away from LHS even slightly; if not, you should go in person to the LHS main office, or to the administration building, with a completed “CORI form” (available at the link below), before the Tournament: http://lps.lexingtonma.org/domain/455