Organizing a Contest

Lead Teachers

Each school should identify one or two teachers as Lead Teachers to serve as the go-to people for all things Poetry Out Loud. Some duties for Lead Teachers:

  • Getting and keeping in touch with the state POL coordinator
  • Enlisting fellow teachers
  • Distributing materials
  • Organizing school events

Promotional Ideas and Social Media Publicity

Begin organizing your school event as early as possible in order to ensure greater attendance. Please see the PR Toolkit for information on promoting the event within your school and community, sample press releases and media advisories, and a social media guide.

Staffing the Competition:

Emcee: Since there may be a lull during scoring, you may want the emcee to provide info about the poets or the students. (Music is also a good filler)

3–5 Judges and 1 Accuracy Judge: See Judge Preparation for advice on judge selection

Prompter: This is someone who will have a notebook with each poem, whom the students can look to if they forget a word or line.

Score Tabulator: This person will input the scores into a database during the competition. A template is available here. Remember to test your tabulation system before the event.

Contest Venue

Classroom contests can be held during class periods. Reserve a school theater, auditorium, or other appropriate venue for your schoolwide competition. The ideal setting will have a stage and theater-style seating. Depending on the size of the venue, amplification may be appropriate.

Poem Selection

Students must provide the titles and authors of their poems and the order in which they will be recited to the coordinator. Students may not change their poems or their order once submitted. This will enable the coordinator to have poems for the accuracy judge and prompter and evaluation sheets prepared.

Introducing and Reciting the Poem

Competitiors recite individually. It is the student's job to identify the poem title and author, and, if necessary, the translator. (For example, "Little Father," by Li-Young Lee). A few other notes:

  • A student's own editorial comments before or after the poem are not allowed.
  • Epigraphs should be recited and their omission will affect the accuracy score.
  • Footnotes should not be recited and their inclusion will affect the accuracy score.
  • Stanza numbers and dedications are optional, and their inclusion or omission should have no bearing on accuracy.
  • The poem must be delivered from memory.

Contest Resources

Accuracy Score Sheet (PDF)

Contest Evaluation Sheet (PDF)

Evaluation Criteria and Tips (PDF)

Judge’s Guide (PDF)

Teacher Certificate (PDF)

Sample Tally Sheet (Excel File)

Scoring Rubric (PDF)

Student Participation Certificate (PDF)

What People are Saying

"I learned just how much deeper your understanding of a poem is when you memorize it than when you just read it a couple of times, and how you understand it a little better every single time you recite it."
Alex Hanesworth
2015 WA POL Champion