Poetry Out Loud - Frequently Asked Questions

Home | School Participation | Program Timeline | Materials and National Website | Poem Selections
Teacher Implementation | Recitation Competitions | Contest Prizes | National Finals | Contact Information


About Poetry Out Loud

What is Poetry Out Loud: National Poetry Recitation Contest?
Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. POL uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, DC. More than 100,000 students are expected to take part in POL nationwide each year.

Poetry Out Loud is a fun, participatory way to teach poetry and meet Delaware's English Language Arts requirements. Free, standards-based curriculum materials are available for all participating schools. Participating schools also have the opportunity to work with teaching artists who give workshops on poetry recitation for students.

Who created Poetry Out Loud?
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation partner with the State Arts Agencies to bring Poetry Out Loud (POL) program to all 50 states including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories. In Delaware, POL is administered by the Delaware Division of the Arts, which coordinates the distribution of school participation materials and the state finals event.

Why was Poetry Out Loud created?
In the recent "Reading at Risk" survey, the National Endowment for the Arts documented an increasing rate of decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers. To encourage the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation are jointly supporting Poetry Out Loud. Poetry Out Loud builds on the recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as demonstrated by the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of rap music among our youth. By performing great works of literature, students can master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn more about their cultural heritage by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class.

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School Participation

What kinds of schools are eligible to participate in Poetry Out Loud?
Only high schools are eligible, but all kinds of high schools may take part in the program – public, private, parochial, independent, charter, etc.

Who will coordinate my school-wide competition?
A volunteer Lead Teacher will coordinate the competition in your school.

What is the role of the Lead Teacher?

The Lead Teacher will:

  1. Work closely with the Principal to coordinate the contest in your school (e.g., select judges for the school-wide competition, promote the event, organize the school-wide competition; organize student travel to regional and state competitions, etc.);
  2. Enlist fellow teachers to participate;
  3. Distribute Poetry Out Loud materials to each participating classroom teacher;
  4. Provide necessary information to, and serve as the school point person for, the State Coordinator or the Delaware Division of the Arts.

How does the Division of the Arts support the efforts of the Lead Teacher?

The Delaware Division of the Arts provides registered schools with the following support services:

  1. A preparation workshop. If desired, the Lead teacher may arrange for outside teaching artists to present Poetry Out Loud preparation workshops in the classroom to help launch the program.  Workshops are provided free of charge to registered teachers/schools in the program. Workshops may be scheduled by contacting the State Coordinator.
  2. Student/teacher coaching on how to choose poems for recitation.  After a teacher/school has hosted a Poetry Out Loud preparation workshop, the State Coordinator is happy to provide tailored advice to teachers and students, if desired, on methods for choosing poems and preparing recitations.
  3. Ongoing updates and best practices for teachers. The State Coordinator is available to discuss with Poetry Out Loud program teachers questions that arise during the competition season.

If you have any questions, please contact the State Coordinator, JoAnn Balingit.

How can I sign up to participate?
Complete and submit the school registration form or contact Sheila Dean Ross at 302-577-8286 for further information.

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Program Timeline

When can my school sign up to participate in Poetry Out Loud?
Schools must sign up to participate by September 30, 2016 by completing the school registration form.

When should schools conduct their school-wide competitions?
Schools may begin their programs as soon as they complete their registration. The Poetry Out Loud anthology and the rules for the competition are available on the web at www.poetryoutloud.org. In addition, each participating teacher will receive hardcopy materials to support implementation of the program soon after the school registers.

When will the Delaware State and National Finals take place?
The State Finals will be held February 28, 2017 and the National Finals will be held April 24-26, 2017. Both sites will have a main stage, full lighting and sound facilities, and comfortable theatre seats for the audience.

Friday, September 30, 2016 School Registration Deadline
October–December 2016 Classroom/School Competitions
Friday, January 13, 2017 Deadline to Report School Winners
February 2017 Delaware State Semi-finals (TBD)
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 Delaware State Competition (Smyrna, DE)
April 24-26, 2017 National Competition (Washington, DC)

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Materials and Website

Will any materials be provided to support this program in my classroom?
Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials include online poetry anthologies, a teacher's guide to help instructors teach recitation and performance, a DVD and companion guide of past national competition performances to use as a learning tool, promotional and media guides, and a comprehensive website located at www.poetryoutloud.org. Curriculum materials are available for download on the Poetry Out Loud website, which can also be used by schools not involved in the official 2016-17 contest.

When will materials be available?
The online poem anthology, sample audio and video clips of poetry performances, and tips on poem selection and recitation are already available on the Poetry Out Loud website www.poetryoutloud.org. The Teacher Packet, which includes a teacher’s guide, learning recitation DVD and posters, will be sent to participants soon after registration.

Can teachers request additions to the anthology?
Yes. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation plan to continually expand the selection of poems available on the website. We will try to satisfy anthology requests whenever possible, but please remember that copyright permissions and other issues must be taken into consideration. Poems in the public domain may be easier to include, and we cannot include poems in translation. Please note that student-authored poems will not be included on the website and cannot be recited as part of the official competition.

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Poem Selections

Can students choose poetry outside of the poems in the anthology?
All poems must be selected from the Poetry Out Loud online anthology, which is updated every summer. Check the website after September 1st of each year to view the official POL anthology for the current school year.

Can't find a poem?
Poems may be removed from the online anthology before September 1st, so please check after that date to ensure that the poem is eligible for competition in the current school year. The removed poems are no longer eligible for competition. Click here for a list of eligible poems.

Are there any other requirements for students' selections?
At the state and national competitions, students must have three (3) poems prepared. One must be 25 lines or shorter, and one must be written before the 20th century (the same poem may be used to meet both criteria). Any other selected poems are of the student's choosing.

How do I notify the State of my school winners' poem selections?
Email or fax your winning student's poem selections to Sheila Dean Ross at 302-577-8286. Lead teachers must submit this information by the published deadline. When you do so, it is very important to indicate the order in which your student will recite the poems: first, second, and third. Participating schools must submit the School Representative Form and School Alternate Form.

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Teacher Implementation in the Classroom

How much time will teachers need to spend implementing Poetry Out Loud in the classroom?
We suggest that teachers implement the program in the classroom and school in the late fall. Each individual teacher might spend from one to three weeks on Poetry Out Loud, although the program will not require full class periods during this time. A teaching artist can be provided—free of charge to the school—to assist in launching the Poetry Out Loud program in the classroom. The lead teacher should contact State Coordinator, JoAnn Balingit if interested in this opportunity.

What students are eligible to participate in Poetry Out Loud?
Schools may determine which students participate at the classroom and school-level Poetry Out Loud programs, pursuant to local and state law. Under federal immigration and tax law, participation in state-level contests and the national finals is restricted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. As part of the routine collection of biographical information, you will need to confirm eligibility of your school champion and runner-up prior to their participation in the state competition.

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Recitation Competitions

Is there a minimum and maximum amount of time that a participant can use to recite his or her poem?
A sonnet generally takes about a minute to recite, and we are trying to keep the maximum time per poem to around three minutes.

Can embellishment be used to deliver the poems; i.e. movement (gestures, walking), or will participants be expected to stand and deliver the poems in one place? Can participants add any kind of sound or musical instruments for effect?
The recitation of poetry, in this context, is a bit different than theatre acting. Poetry recitation is about the poem, not the performance. No props, costumes, or music may be used. Overacting, exaggerated movements, and odd voices and accents can be distracting. However, depending on the poem, gestures and some movement may be appropriate.

How long will the school contest run?
A contest event should take less than two hours; any longer than that can be difficult for the audience. There will be detailed instructions and recommendations in the Teacher's Guide on organizing the school contest, depending on the number of participants.

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Contest Prizes

What are the prize amounts at the state and national levels?
The state winner will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, to compete in the National Finals. The state winner's school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation will award $50,000 total in scholarships and school stipends at the National Finals.

Who covers the cost of awards and travel for the participants?
The Poetry Foundation will provide all prizes, including the travel costs to the National Finals for each state winner and one adult chaperone.

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National Finals

Where will the National Finals take place?
April 24-26, 2017 at the Lisner Auditorium/George Washington University in Washington, DC. This site has a main stage, full lighting and sound facilities, and comfortable theatre seats for the audience.

Will students have amplification as part of their delivery such as a wireless or handheld microphone?
We expect to lightly amplify participants at the National Finals with a stage microphone, so volume will still be an element of evaluation.

Will a podium be available on stage for the students?
Unless a student has special needs or disabilities, there will not be a podium or other furniture for his or her use.

Will an audience be present at the National Finals, or just the judges?
There will be an audience, including media, at the National Finals.

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Division Contact

The Delaware Division of the Arts will provide guidance in running your school's Poetry Out Loud program and is happy to answer any questions or concerns. Please contact Sheila Dean Ross at 302-577-8286.