Poetry Out Loud – FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Poetry Out Loud Background

Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation that encourages the study of great poetry.

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.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation partner with the State Arts Agencies to bring  Poetry Out Loud program to all 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.

School Participation

Delaware High Schools of any type – public, private, parochial, independent, charter, etc. – and its students in grades 9-12 may participate in Poetry Out Loud.
A volunteer Lead Teacher will coordinate the competition in your school.

The Lead Teacher will:

  1. Coordinate the contest in your school and organize the school-wide competition
  2. Provide necessary information to the Delaware Division of the Arts

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

  • Preparation workshops. If desired, the registered Lead Teacher may arrange for a teaching artist to present Poetry Out Loud preparation workshops in the classroom free of charge by contacting the State Coordinator
  • Student/teacher coaching on how to choose poems for recitation.  The State Coordinator is happy to provide tailored advice to teachers and students, if desired, on methods for choosing poems and preparing recitations.
  • Ongoing updates and best practices for teachers. The State Coordinator is available to discuss  questions that arise during the competition season.

Complete the registration form on this website or contact Sheila Dean Ross at for further information.


Program Timeline

Click here for directions on how to register your school for the Poetry Out Loud (POL) program. Schools must sign up to participate by Friday, November 1, 2019.

School-Wide Competitions
Schools may begin their programs as soon as they complete their registration and must complete their school-wide contests by Mid-January. Rules for the competition are available at

Delaware State and National Finals
The State Finals will be held February 2020 at a location TBA and the National Finals will be held April/May 2020. Both sites will have a main stage, full lighting and sound facilities, and comfortable theater seats for the audience.

August 19, 2019
November 1, 2019
October–December 2019
January 21, 2020
February 2020
April 27-29, 2020
Registration Opens
Registration Deadline
Classroom/School Competitions

Deadline to Report School Winners to State Coordinators
Delaware State Competition
National Competition, Washington, DC

Materials and National Website

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. Curriculum materials are available for download on the Poetry Out Loud website, which can also be used by schools not involved in the official current contest.

The online poem anthology, sample audio and video clips of poetry performances, and tips on poem selection and recitation are available on the Poetry Out Loud website year-round, free of charge. The Teacher Packet, which includes a teacher’s guide, learning recitation DVD and posters, will be sent to participants soon after registration.

Yes. The Arts Endowment 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.

Poem Selections

No, 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.

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.
At the state and national competitions, students must have three (3) poems prepared: One 25 lines or shorter, one written before the 20th century (the same poem may be used to meet both criteria), and a third poem of the student’s choosing.

Lead teachers must submit this information by the deadline.

Teacher Implementation 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 visit free of charge, contact State Coordinator JoAnn Balingit at if interested in this opportunity.
No student may be excluded from participating in Poetry Out Loud on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin. Schools may determine eligibility for classroom and school level Poetry Out Loud programming pursuant to local and state law. 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.

Recitation Competitions

One to three minutes. A sonnet generally takes about a minute to recite, and we are trying to keep the maximum time per poem to around three minutes.

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.

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.

Contest Prizes

  • 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 Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation will be awarding $50,000 total in scholarships and school stipends at the National Finals

The Poetry Foundation will provide all prizes, including the travel costs to the National Finals for each state winner and one adult chaperone.

National Finals

The 2020 competition will be held at the Lisner Auditorium/George Washington University in Washington, DC. This site has a main stage, full lighting and sound facilities, and comfortable theater seats for the audience.

We expect to lightly amplify participants at the National Finals with a stage microphone, so volume will still be an element of evaluation.

Unless a student has special needs or disabilities, there will not be a podium or other furniture for his or her use.

There will be an audience, including media, at the National Finals.

Poetry Out Loud Contacts
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, Program Officer, Arts in Education/Accessibility

JoAnn Balingit, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator

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