Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies.
Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3.8 million students and 60,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Contest Structures and Awards
Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that starts 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. Awards and placements are determined solely by the judges’ scores based on the Poetry Out Loud Evaluation Criteria.
Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, DC to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for their school. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is awarded annually. Visit the FAQ and rules sections for more details.
Program Materials and Schedule
Poetry Out Loud provides free curriculum materials, including an online poetry anthology, videos of student performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media resources. Hard copies of materials are available for teachers participating in the official program but anyone can access the online materials at poetryoutloud.org, or by contacting Karen Woods or Dr. Dawn Hayes.
After schools register with their state arts agency, materials are sent to participating high schools on a rolling basis beginning in August, and the program is run through early winter. Poetry Out Loud does not require full class periods and can be completed in 2-3 weeks. States hold their competitions by mid-March. Following the state finals, the national finals will be held in Washington, DC.
While teachers, students, and poetry lovers everywhere can use this website and its free materials to organize their own contests, the official contest is limited to the programs run by each state’s arts agency.