Volunteer Judges,

We appreciate your time and your help!

Contest entries will be scored by you, our special guest judges, (TBD) on ___ at ___.

Thank you.


ROUND ONE:  To Slush or Not to Slush?


INSTRUCTIONS for 20-50 Entries:

  1. Level 1 Judge will place essays in one of two bins;  one bin is labeled “POSSIBLES”, and the other bin is labeled “IMPOSSIBLES”.
  2. Level 2 Judge will double-check Level 1 Judge’s  POSSIBLES and may downgrade.  Another Level 2 Judge will double-check Level 1 Judge’s IMPOSSIBLES and may upgrade.
  3. To achieve consensus, Level 1/2 Judges may determine whether or not to double-checks both bins for downgrades and/or upgrades.  NOTE:  Use of pens/marking up is not needed for this round.
  4. Give all IMPOSSIBLES to Scoring Facilitator to make Certificates of  Participation/Thank You Letters.

INSTRUCTIONS for 50 Entries or More:

  1. Divide essays into to manageable chunks, to be determined by judges.  20-50 is recommended.  (Remaining/Waiting judges … will participate in Step 2.)  Each Level 1 Judge will place their allotted essays into one of two bins;  one bin is labeled “POSSIBLES” and the other bin is labeled “IMPOSSIBLES”.  NOTE:  Level 1 Judges can self-switch to Level 2 Judges when finished.
  2. When Level 1 Judges are finished, Level 2 Judges will double-check Level 1 Judges’ POSSIBLES and may downgrade.  Level 2 Judges will double-proof Level 1 Judges’ IMPOSSIBLES and may upgrade.
  3. Level 1/2 will determine whether or not to double-check all entries.  NOTE:  Use of pens/Marking up is not needed for this round.
  4. Give all IMPOSSIBLES to Scoring Facilitator to make Certificates of  Participation/Thank You Letters.

RATIONALE:  The first step seems a bit harsh, but this speeds the scoring process.  For our First Annual Kwanzaa Essay Contest, we may not have to do this step.  It really depends on the number of entries we receive.  If we receive over 50 entries, and if we anticipate someday receiving 500 entries, this step will a timesaver.


Judges are invited to use their own aesthetic of what makes great writing.  In addition, to collectively ground this process, we will use the 6+1 Traits for Writing.

For ROUND ONE, please focus on the following Traits:

  • Ideas – Conveys a clear, focused, accurate, and significant main idea and includes unique, substantial insights that are fully developed and supported.
  • Organization – Uses seamless organization that enhances and showcases central ideas; orders or structures information in a compelling way; clarifies relationships among ideas.
  • Voice – Addresses the reader in an individual and engaging way that shows ownership of purpose and topic; is respectful of the audience and/ or purpose.

Why?  We don’t want to eliminate a gifted writer because they lack a mastery of conventions. By focusing on Ideas, and Voice, we will value creativity and that which makes each writer unique.  We do want our winners to show mastery of all aspects of writing; this is what we’re going for.  However, by focusing on Ideas, Organization, and Voice, we can avoid eliminating great writers who have profound messages to share.

ROUND TWO:  Who are the contenders?


Depending on the number of entries, ROUND TWO may be skipped, because it is ROUND ONE on repeat.  Now that judges have developed a sense of the caliber of the entries,  ROUND TWO gives judges an opportunity to choose the actual contenders, the possible winners.


  1. Repeat Steps 1-3 from ROUND ONE, except the bins will be labeled POSSIBLES and CONTENDERS.  NOTE:  Use of pens/Marking up is still not needed for this round.
  1. Give all POSSIBLES to a Scoring Volunteer to make Honorable Mention Certificates/Thank You Letters.

ROUND THREE:  Determine the winners.


OBJECTIVE: Determine the high school and middle school winners.


  1. Use a paper clip to attach scoring cover sheets to each contest entry.  Be sure to write each contest entry code on each score sheet, to prevent a misplaced cover sheets/essays.
  2. Each entry will be judged 3 times by 3 judges.
  3. Scores will be added and averaged.
  4. Top scorers will be the winners.
  5. Top scorer will be the winner.


To finalize the process, judges will be asked to reflect.

  • Was the scoring process fair?  If NO, regarding the scoring process, what should we take into consideration for next year?
  • Regarding the essay contest overall, what can be improved?

Appreciations for participation.