Ag Teacher’s Guide to FFA LDEs

Untitled Design (1)I am super passionate about FFA LDEs, y’all. I love training kids in these speaking events because I find that it pushes them more than any of the other FFA contests. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts about being an ag teacher: watching kids bloom! If you have ever trained your students to compete in LDEs before, you have probably also witnessed how they come out of their shells more, and they gain more confidence, self-esteem, and friends.

I was on a podcast called Ag with Ms. Wedger, and she sent me the following questions before we talked for the episode. I wanted to make the written content available to y’all in case you couldn’t take notes while listening to the podcast or if you aren’t much of a podcast listener (I still recommend listening to it though)! It was a fun experience for me. I’m not much of a podcast listener myself, but there are several that I constantly lean towards…Ag with Ms. Wedger is one of the few!

I hope that you are able to implement some of these ideas in your LDE training and practice sessions or in the classroom. If you have any suggestions or additions, please feel free to email me at!

1. How do you introduce LDE’s to your students? 

I show the students a list of all the LDEs they can participate in and briefly describe them during my Intro to FFA Unit. I show them the banners they can win by participating in these contests. During this unit, the students are assigned officer parts for opening ceremonies which is how we begin class for the first couple of weeks. I show them a video of the National FFA Officers saying opening ceremonies. Some of the students will try to imitate how the officers said their parts which I have always found entertaining. This allows for students to become more comfortable with public speaking and creating the culture of the classroom. Then, we read the FFA Creed together as a class. I typically choose one person to read each paragraph out loud. They are given copies at their desks. They star their favorite paragraphs, circle words they don’t know, and box off each time the phrase “I believe” is in the FFA Creed. I separate them into pairs after this where they have to answer questions about the FFA Creed. We discuss their answers and the words they don’t know. Then, I tell them they can choose any paragraph of the FFA Creed and deliver it in class. I also show them a video of the national winning FFA Creed speaker as an example. I tell them to write down 3-5 things that they observed from the speaker. We then discuss and share our thoughts about the delivery. Students have a week to memorize their paragraph. When the students deliver the creed, I pay very close attention to their confidence, poise, and natural speaking ability. I grade them using the FFA Creed speaking rubric. I make sure to advertise the FFA Creed Speaking LDE Contest by telling students “you already have one paragraph memorized!” I usually pull aside the students who exhibited good public speaking skills to encourage them and ask them personally if they would be interested in participating. For employment skills, I give students index cards with different careers on the cards. Some of them are fun ones like background vocalist for Taylor Swift, bee keeper, or hair stylist. I call random students to go up before the class and pretend it is a real job interview for that position. I tell the other students (employers) that they have to come up with one question they would need to know about this person before they hire them. You would be surprised at the questions the students think to ask and the eloquent and sometimes, funny answers you receive from the student being interviewed. I place a time limit for each student. I advertise employment skills following this activity.

2. How do you encourage your young students to “dig deeper” with their LDE’s? 

  • Claps like cow clap, firework clap, power clap etc after they read in class and during opening ceremonies to give them a boost of confidence and make them want to volunteer/not be afraid of public speaking. This helps set up my classroom to be a positive environment!
  • Give them two positives and one SUGGESTION *never too harsh about improvement
  • Focus on improving one particular area for each practice like time, word memorization, voice inflection in certain places, movements, hand gestures, etc. 
  • I ask them, “what do you think you can do to improve?” Reflection on their presentation and practice session is very important to their growth!
  • Watch videos of national competitors giving speeches
  • I try to be a constant source for ideas but when I give them ideas, I always remind them that this is THEIRS and is up to them what they want to do with it
  • One-on-one time with me

3. How do you structure your LDEs and practicing for middle school students?

  • Guideline packets for each LDE were a lifesaver for me last year and available on my TPT store. My ag students are given a choice of which LDE they would like to compete in even if they aren’t a FFA member. Every student must pick one they are most interested in. They complete a certain amount of objectives that are listed on the packet each week, and I check in with each student as they complete the objectives. I get more participation from students this way since they realize that they are doing this for a grade. When they are given a choice of which LDE they would like to compete in and do the work to get the grade, some of them decide to go ahead and try to compete! It’s easy to see which students really want to compete by the effort they put into their work.
  • I practice with one/two particular LDEs once a week after school. I don’t schedule too many different LDE practices on one day because I feel like I am spread too thin. I like to spend as much one-on-one time with the students to help them prepare as much as possible.

4. What are 5 tips and tricks you have for middle school LDEs and/or LDEs in general?

  • Focus on quality > quantity
    • Try to slow down the new FFA kids who want to compete in every single contest and make them realize that they need to put forth a lot of work into just one for now!
    • You don’t need to overload/overwork yourself.
  • Encourage students to practice in class before the contest. Most are scared to death to do this but have the class give them positive feedback ONLY! It’s an instant confidence boost and if you make the other students write five positive things about their presentation/delivery, it keeps them engaged.
  • Set up your classroom to be a positive environment so students will become comfortable with the idea of public speaking at the start of the year. The biggest effect of this is that more students will gain the confidence to participate in LDEs.
  • EXAMPLES and clear, specific steps are EVERYTHING especially in middle school. Middle schoolers become easily overwhelmed and high schoolers can also get the idea that a contest seems like it will be “too much work.” You have to ease them into the LDE. If you feed them just a little bit of information at a time like the requirements of the contest and the workload, it’s less daunting to them. If they can see an example of a speech, resume, cover letter, good interview, bad interview, etc, they will be able to have a better idea of where to start and won’t completely shut down. YOU, the teacher, can also be an example. Show them how they can change their voice a certain way in the speech or how they can emphasize words. Use hand gestures that you may be suggesting in certain places by reading their speech to them and showing them what they could do to improve.
  • The teacher should constantly remind the students competing that this is supposed to be fun and the placing they receive does not define who they are as a person. It does not mean that they are terrible if they lose or that they are the best if they win! If the kids win, I remind them to stay humble and keep working hard to push towards the next level. I ask, “What can we do better next time? There’s room for improvement and we should try to keep growing.” I also ask students what they learned and if they made any new friends! This keeps everything in perspective and takes the pressure off.

5.What are some examples of LDE’s that have been done really well at this age level? 

  • 7th Grade State Champion and Top Middle Schooler in Geaux Teach Ag Contest (Louisiana based)//before this level, the student achieved top ranks at the parish, district, and area levels
  • 7th Grade State Top Middle Schooler Prepared Public Speaking Contest (had to beat 50% of high schoolers to achieve this at the state level)// 2nd place at the area level and top middle schooler
  • 7th Grade 2nd place Employment Skills and Top Middle School at the area level qualifying for state
  • 7th Grade 4th place at the District level in Gulf of Mexico Speaking (Louisiana based) and qualified for area

6. What are some specific roadblocks to watch out for?

  • Giving too much criticism at one time or not focusing on the positives! This results in students not wanting to participate, giving up, or losing confidence.
  • If you refuse to put in the time, work, and/or give advice to your students, they won’t perform well. Let them see your dedication to them. It is absolutely amazing what this can do! If you don’t care, they won’t either!
  • Make sure that the parents are aware of practices by sending home permission slips or calling home.
  • Cell phones! Make a cell phone rule when practicing. They’ll be more focused if you don’t let them on their cell phone for the one hour you are practicing with them.
  • Don’t make practices too long.

7. What support and/or resources are available?