Teaching reasons – How to start teaching reasons with youth: Part 1

Teaching youth how to prepare and give a set of reasons includes helping them become proficient public speakers.

Teaching youth how to prepare and give a set of reasons isn’t as simple as teaching them how to fill in the outline, memorize it and present it to a judge. As a coach you will have to become a speech teacher and help youth to become better public speakers by looking at how they stand, where they put their hands, where they look, whether their voice is too loud or too soft, too monotone or too forceful. In addition, you will need to build self-esteem so that they are confident and strong in telling a group or a judge why they believe the class should be placed according to their presentation. You will find it is important to use not only proper terms, but terms with which the youth are confident and can say effectively. A fancy term is meaningless if a youth cannot present it in the proper manner.

Many times youth are nervous to present their findings because they are concerned about someone judging their opinions. Not many people like it when someone discounts his or her opinion. Therefore it is very important to build confidence by showing them that as long as they are telling the truth then there are no wrong reasons. Reasons are just a way to explain why they placed the class the way they did. They may be different than the judge’s reasons, but if presented in a truthful, convincing way, the score will still be high.

For example, if a horse has a short neck, club foot and long back you may want to use those characteristics in your reasons but most importantly, you do not want to contradict those faults by saying it had strong legs or a strong back. If you say “although the grey horse portrayed a long back, it was stronger than the black horse’s back which was long and sway,” then you are still telling the truth. The judge may believe that both long backs are a fault and would have looked for something else to compare to make their judgment, but at least the items were the truth. Another example may be if a horse had moderately crooked legs but was beautiful in every other way. A youth may place it below a horse that was mediocre in every way but really strong in its legs. Their opinion is that the crooked legs put it at the bottom of the class. But if they make a convincing argument and speak the truth then judge will respect that.

Judges differ in what characteristics they believe are more important when judging horses. Some are very stringent on legs and straightness, while others assert that the breed characteristics are more important followed by the legs and on and on. Since judges differ, the most important thing to teach your youth is to be strong in their reasons and to tell the truth. The judge will appreciate that they see the fault even if they would not have judged the horses the same way.

To help youth feel confident in placing horses continue to teach them all you can at practices and workshops. Once they know the terms, faults and strengths, the rest is in the presentation to the judge. Here are some tips for helping you to strengthen their voice, self-esteem and delivery.

When having youth perform their first set of reasons give them an outline to fill in so they understand the format. Then ask them to judge something that is fun and has no right or wrong, for example, shampoo bottles. “Sir I placed this class of shampoo bottles in my shower 2-3-1-4. In my top pair I place 2 the purple bottle at the top of the class because purple is my favorite color and the bottle was shiny and new, etc.”

At your next class, have 3 or 4 youth stand in front of the class together to give their reasons. It is always easier to stand up front the first few times with someone else. Help them to choose a stance (don’t be afraid to ask them to change this as they go if they look uncomfortable). One at a time, have each give his/her opening statements. After the openings have been given provide some feedback to each person as to how he or she may have made it stronger, but remember to keep your comments to the format only. Then proceed to a different youth giving his or her top pair followed by the others and so on until you get through the reasons. As a final step ask all the youth to give their reasons from top to bottom at the same time. This provides the youth with an opportunity to have fun, really work on the strength of their voice as they talk over each other and to concentrate on the items they are talking about because talking over another person can be distracting.

As a Michigan State University Extension educator, I have found this tool to be very successful and have modified it to sometimes have two youth give reasons to each other at the same time once they really understand the set-up.

Other tips include having the youth turn around and give their reasons to the wall with their back to you and/or the class. This approach really helps if they are nervous from all the faces looking at them.

Another approach is to have the youth stand in front together. Point to one and say “opening,” then point to another and say, “closing statement, another and ask for the middle pair and so on. This approach really helps the youth to go beyond not just memorizing the words on the paper. Instead it encourages them to visualize the class and be able to call out sections of that class at random, even when they are not in order.

Be sure to have the youth practice in front of adults other than yourself, so they get used to presenting in front of unfamiliar faces. Make sure one of these individuals is a man as that often throws the youth off and they may have a male judge. When getting guest judges request that each one judge in different ways. For example, one should stare intently at the youth, another should never look at them, another should look up and down often, and one should nod or shake their head and so on. All of these approaches will help the youth be ready for anything and not lose focus on the class or their reasons even if someone looks upset with what they are saying. Another tip to help with this is to teach the youth to look at the hairline rather than the judges’ actual face and never into their eyes. If they are looking at the hairline the judge will not be able to tell that they are not looking at them and it will keep disrupting looks or smiles from distracting them.

Lastly, always use strange settings when having them practice, such as a janitors’ closet, a large room, a small room etc. Each of these settings can cause distraction and the size of a room can really change how their voice is projecting. Therefore the more situations you can put them in the better and the less likely they will be thrown off of their game during a competition.

Related article:

Teaching Reasons – How to help youth to memorize reasons and visualize the animals: Part 2.

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