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Judges at all levels of competition must judge recitations based on the official Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria. For more detailed information about this criteria, please refer to the Judge’s Guide.


For a classroom contest, the teacher may serve as the sole judge. Another teacher, school administrator, or volunteer can fill the role of the accuracy judge.  At the school finals, 3 judges plus an accuracy judge should be sufficient—a group of teachers may serve as judges, or you may invite some community members to judge the contest. Appropriate judges might be local poets, actors, professors, arts reporters, politicians, or members of the school board. Judges should have some knowledge of poetry, although they need not be experts. Be sensitive to conflicts of interest—actual or perceived—with your judging panel. Make sure to choose judges who will conscientiously prepare for their roles in advance.

Print the evaluation sheets before the school contest, and fill in the names of the participants and the titles of the poems. Have these in the order of recitation before the competition, with one set for each judge.

Prepare the judges in advance:

During the competition:

Accuracy Judge

Assign a separate person to serve as an accuracy judge. The accuracy judge will mark missed or incorrect words during the recitation. Print out the accuracy score sheets before the contest, and fill in the names of the participants and the titles of the poems they will recite. Have these in the order of recitation before the competition, and give one set to the accuracy judge. The accuracy judge will also need a notebook with a large-font copy of each poem, in the order of recitation, so they may follow along with recitations and assign accuracy scores. The accuracy score is added to the contest evaluation sheet of each judge.

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