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Recitation and performance are major new trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on this momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with State Arts Agencies to support the expansion of Poetry Out Loud, which encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This exciting program is celebrating ten years of helping students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

After successful pilot programs in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, the second phase of Poetry Out Loud was launched in high schools across America in the winter and spring of 2006 with tens of thousands of students participating. Ohio high school student Jackson Hille won the inaugural National Finals on May 16, 2006. Last year, more than 365,000 students competed. The program will continue to grow during the 2015-16 school year, culminating in the 2016 National Finals in Washington, D.C., May 2-4, 2016.


Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to the school-wide competition. All school champions are invited to compete in a regional semi-final contest, and the top scoring contestants from each semi-final contest will advance to compete in the state competition. The winner of the State Finals represents Ohio at the National Finals in Washington D.C. in early May, 2016.

The Poetry Out Loud competition welcomes students who are actively engaged in a home school program. In order for home-schooled students to participate, the home schooling association in their area should register for POL and institute a system according to the POL guidelines of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation so that they are properly prepared for Ohio's regional and state-level competitions. At the very least, a student who is home-schooled should have competed with a group of other home schooled students before advancing to the regional semi-final competition.

The POL champion for Ohio will receive $300 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington to compete for the national championship. The state winner's school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The runner-up will receive $200, with $200 for his or her school library. Additionally, a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is given annually at the National Finals, including a $20,000 cash prize for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.



Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials include the online poetry anthology, a comprehensive teacher's guide, a DVD of National Finals performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media guides. Hard copies of materials are free for teachers participating in the official program. 

Visit the national The Poetry Out Loud Web site for extensive information on the program at a national level as well as online anthologies of poems and poetry recitations by well-known actors and poets.

Teachers may receive a free copy of the POL Teachers Toolkit. The Poetry Out Loud Teacher Toolkit includes a comprehensive teacher's guide, a DVD of National Finals performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media guides and may be obtained from the Ohio Arts Council by contacting POL coordinator, Katie Swett at 614-728-4481 or by emailing

Poetry Out Loud materials will be sent to high schools when they respond and register. Participating schools will run the program through early winter. (The program requires only two or three weeks of class time.) The Ohio state finals competition will be held March 19, 2016 at the WOSU station at COSI, 333 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

The National Finals will be held in Washington, D.C., May 2-4, 2016.



Please feel free to explore the following materials, developed in support of the OAC participation in the national Poetry Out Loud program. (links/downloadable attachments)

  • Please feel free to view our invitation letter to schools throughout Ohio as part of this program.
  • A sample follow-up letter to participating teachers clarifies the roles of the classroom and the schools involved in Poetry Out Loud.
  • Working from materials supplied by other states, and the information provided by the national office, we developed a Teacher Information Sheet to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
  • As part of our goal to make Poetry Out Loud an enriching experience for students and teachers alike, the OAC developed a self-assessment rubric to be administered before and after participating in the program to help us, participating teachers and future Poetry Out Loud participants in determining the learning skills developed through this experience.
  • School winners will be invited to participate in a workshop for student champions in Cleveland and Columbus scheduled for February 19-20, 2016 to prepare for the state contest.


  • Teachers will be invited to participate in training workshops for school contests to be held in the fall of 2015.
  • The Poetry Out Loud Teacher Training Workshops will include activities and free resources for teachers to use as they guide their students in learning and performing great poetry. During this intensive workshop, teachers will have the opportunity to experience what can happen as they bring the program to their classrooms. Topics will include how to implement Poetry Out Loud in schools, effective performance techniques, judging guidelines and constructive critiques.

    Participants are asked to commit a line or two from a poem to memory and prepare to recite it for critique during the workshop. Volunteers may memorize longer pieces, and if time permits, perform for the entire group.

    Books Recommended by Dionne Custer, POL Workshop Leader:

  • A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
  • Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
  • In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit
  • Poetry Everywhere by Jack Collom and Sheryl Noethe
  • The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja
  • Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR's All Things Considered edited by Catherine Bowman
  • Russell Simmons Def Jam on Broadway and More edited by Danny Simmons
  • Listen Up: Spoken Word Poetry edited by Zoe Anglesey
  • The spoken word revolution: slam, hip hop and the poetry of a new generation edited by Mark Eleveld

    The Poetry Out Loud Student Workshops will include discussions and activities to support students as they prepare to recite great poetry at Ohio's Poetry Out Loud Semi Finals and State Finals. Much of the day will build on what students have been learning at their schools. Topics will include: channeling nervous energy, effective performance techniques, constructive critique, and recitation practice activities addressed through Poetry Out Loud. Participants are asked to be prepared to recite one poem for critique.


    Teachers Praise Ohio's Poetry Out Loud

    "Thanks so much for running a class act from start to finish…with Poetry Out Loud. You made it very easy for us to participate, and the day of the competition, everything ran quite smoothly."

    "It was a wonderful day of competition and the quality of oral interpretation was great. Thanks for all you did."

    "Thank you for such a lovely day and contest. My student and I had a wonderful time and are already planning for next year's competition. Once again thank you so very much for all your hard work on our behalf."

    "Very happy to be a part of this; great opportunity for students. I hope it keeps getting larger."

    this program was exceptional, and this belief was reinforced by the turnout for our school competition last year… Several teachers also memorized poems alongside their students and came to remember the process of learning and the fun of performing…it was entirely inclusive and at the very least, the students would hear great poetry.Young people that initially were apprehensive gained confidence.  Students who might have been resistant to poetry have greater insight.  Finally, eight hundred young people now own a bit of poetry that they will carry with them for a lifetime.”

    "Congratulations on a beautiful day and well-thought out procedures. I was very impressed with the smooth operation of the event. I thoroughly enjoyed the students’ presentations, sound, lights, judging, music, and especially Katie Daley’s performance. You should be very pleased and proud."

    "We really enjoyed the experience. Thanks for your hard work and efforts to offer such a rewarding program!!"

    “Thank you so much for another wonderful year of POL! We were thrilled to participate and even more excited that our champion placed third in the competition. She is a great girl and we are so pleased that she can leave our school having competed twice in POL at the state level and making it to the finals both times.  You can bet we will be on board again for next year!”


    Parents Praise Ohio’s Poetry Out Loud

    “I would like to thank you for all that you did to make this happen. Before arriving I thought that this would be a long boring day. But I surprised myself how much I enjoyed watching my daughter…do something that she has a passion for...So proud of her being one of the six finalists. She told me that they made a long announcement this morning about it…only wish she could come back next year, but off to college.”

    Students Praise Ohio's Poetry Out Loud

    "I had so much fun! Thank you for letting me participate in Poetry Out Loud.  Even though I'm shy I love to write and perform! And even though I didn't win, it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. As you probably found out from the workshop I'm very shy around people I don't really know, and this actually helped with that a lot!

    “It helped me personally get over my fear of speaking in front of people.”

    “I thought this assignment was good because it taught the more introverted students to come out of their shells.”

    “I loved how everyone had to participate.  I liked how people you thought didn’t care about school or this, actually participated and tried their best.  I guess the poetry unit brought out the best in everyone.”

    “It’s nice to feel a certain connection to the poem you chose.  Like it’s your own poem.”

    “The poetry recitation assignment helped me really grab on to poetry in a way that we hadn’t in the past years.  I love sitting down for a couple of hours and picking the poem apart and memorizing it.  I thought this was a great way to interact with poetry and cannot wait to do it again in the upcoming years.”  [this is from a football player, B- student]

    "It has been amazing this past year to call myself the Poetry Out Loud Ohio State Champ! Poetry Out Loud was one of the best experiences in my life!"



    For more information on Ohio's Poetry Out Loud program or to share your contact information so that you can receive program updates, please feel free to contact POL coordinator, Katie Swett at or Chiquita Mullins Lee, Arts Learning program coordinator, at


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    Registration for the 2015-16 Ohio Poetry Out Loud (POL) year is now open until December 1. Beginning this year, Ohio POL will add three regional semifinal contests in addition to regular school contests and the State Finals.  

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