How to Participate
The Poetry Out Loud contest uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the high school classroom level, teachers implement a two- to three-week curriculum using free, standards-based materials including the online poetry anthology, a comprehensive teacher’s guide, videos of student performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media guides. Hard copies of materials are free for teachers participating in the official program.
Students will submit videos of their recitations online to compete at the statewide semi-final competition. If a student is unable to compete at a classroom or school level competition, they are still able to compete in the statewide semi-final competition. The top 15 scoring students will advance to the state competition. The winner of the state competition will advance to Nationals.
Deadline for Schools and Individual Students to Register for the Semi-final– Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Deadline for Statewide Semi-Final State Submissions– Friday, February 5, 2021
Deadline for State Submissions– Friday, March 5, 2021
National Competition– Dates TBD
The Iowa Champion will receive $200 and be able to compete at the National Finals. The Iowa Champion’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials.
The first runner-up in Iowa will receive $100 and their school will receive a $200 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials.
A total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded at the National Finals, including $20,000 for the National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 respectively for the second- and third-place finalists.
- Grade Level: Only currently enrolled students in grades 9-12 are eligible, with an exception made for 8th-grade students participating in a 9th- through 12th-grade class.
- State Finals: A student may not advance to the state finals without competing in the statewide semi-final competition.
- Legal Participation Requirements: 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.
- Prize Requirements: The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded in Poetry Out Loud. State champions and runners up will need a valid tax identification number or social security number at the time that monetary prizes are issued by the Poetry Foundation. Prizes are not transferable.
- Homeschooled Students: Homeschooled students may participate by competing in a contest at a local school (at the school’s discretion) or with other local homeschooled students. Contact your state coordinator for specific guidelines.
School Not Participating? Students unable to participate at a local school should contact their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator to discuss other opportunities for inclusion in the state’s official competition.
- Repeat Champions: Only National Champions are not eligible to compete in subsequent years.
- Poem Anthology: All poems must be selected from the Poetry Out Loud print or online anthology, which is updated every summer. Check the website after September 1, 2020, to view the official Poetry Out Loud anthology for the current school year. Only versions of poems from the official anthology may be used in the contest.
- Can’t Find a Poem? Poems may be removed from the online anthology before September 1, 2020. These poems are no longer eligible for competition, unless they are in the print anthology. However, any poem in the printed anthology is eligible even if it is not online.
- Poem Criteria: At the regional, state and national finals, students must have 3 poems prepared. One must be 25 lines or fewer, and one must be written before the 20th century. One poem may be used to meet both criteria and may be the student’s third poem.
- Contest Participants: Poetry Out Loud competitions must have at least two students to select a winner. If the winner is unable to participate in the next level of competition, the runner-up will participate.
- Evaluation: Students must be judged according to the Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria from the 2020-2021 Teacher’s Guide.
- Rounds: State and national finals consist of three rounds of competition. Competitions at lower levels may have fewer rounds, but students must recite only one poem in each round.
- Poem Order: The order in which the poems are recited is up to the student, but poem order may not be switched once given to the competition organizer. Competition organizers may not dictate poem order.
- Judging: Rankings are based solely on evaluation sheets submitted by judges. Judges should not convene to discuss performances during the competition. Judges may not reconsider their scores after they are submitted. Judges’ decisions are final.
- Scoring: Scoring is cumulative. The scores from all rounds should be added together to determine the winner.
- Ties: In the event of a tie, the tied student with the highest overall performance score should win; if that also results in a tie, then the highest accuracy score will win. If scores remain tied, students may pick one poem to recite again as a separate score to break the tie.
- Memorization: Students must recite their poem from memory.
- Props/Costumes: Students may not use props or wear costumes during their recitations.
How to Register
To participate in Poetry Out Loud either as a high school or as an individual student if your high school is not participating, submit a completed Iowa Poetry Out Loud Registration Form by January 27, 2021. Only schools and students who complete the registration form will be allowed to participate in the statewide semi-final competition.
Preparing for Competition
|Webinar Title/Registration Link|
|Poetry Out Loud Webinar Series - Choosing a Poem - VIEW RECORDING|
|Poetry Out Loud Webinar Series - Physical Presence - VIEW RECORDING|
|Poetry Out Loud Webinar Series - Voice and Articulation - VIEW RECORDING|
|Poetry Out Loud Webinar Series - Dramatic Appropriateness - VIEW RECORDING|
|Poetry Out Loud Webinar Series - Memorization - VIEW RECORDING|
Virtual Competition and Filming Requirements
Teachers are able to host their competition either in person or virtually. Below are the requirements for hosting a virtual competition. The statewide semi-final, state and national competition will be held as video submission contests.
For teachers: Hosting a Virtual Competition
- Video submission contest: Each student records and saves each recitation as a separate video file. Students send video(s) via email or a file sharing platform (i.e. Dropbox, We Transfer, etc.) to the Poetry Out Loud organizer. For the statewide semi-final and state competition, students will submit videos via SlideRoom, our online application portal. The organizer reviews submissions to ensure the videos meet film requirements and then forwards to the judges for their review. Contest judges and the accuracy judge must provide scores for each criterion and review independently—the same as live competitions. Organizers set a deadline for judges to submit scores and then tally the scores. For video submission contests, videos must not be edited, but students may record their recitations more than once and send their best recording for each recitation.
- Recording one-on-one on video platform: The organizer meets with each student competitor individually over a video platform (i.e. Zoom, Skype, etc.) with the accuracy judge and prompter. The student recites their poem(s) live for the organizer while each recitation is being recorded. Recordings of recitations are sent to contest judges to review and provide scores. Judges must provide scores for each criterion and review independently.
- Live contest on video platform: The organizer holds a live Poetry Out Loud contest over a video platform (i.e. Zoom, Skype, etc.). The contest follows as an in-person contest would. Judges submit scores for each criterion to the contest organizer to be tallied; winners and runners-up announced at the end of show.
For students: How to Film a Poetry Out Loud Recitation
- Filming Requirements:
a. Film with a horizontal orientation.
b. Face the camera so it captures your head to mid-torso (medium shot).
c. Each recitation should be filmed in one single shot from one static angle.
d. The sound and picture must be clear.
e. Videos cannot be edited. Do not add music, graphics, titles, virtual backgrounds or computer animation.
f. Use of professional recording studios is prohibited.
g. For video submission contests, each poem recitation requires its own separate video.
a. Stand in front of a neutral background, if possible. Try to avoid wearing clothing in similar colors to the background.
b. Do not place light sources behind you to avoid being backlit.
c. Students may look directly into the camera, at a fixed spot, or at an imagined audience.
d. Make sure you are the only visible and audible person in the video.
e. Use a microphone, if possible. If the microphone is on the camera, position the camera close to you.
f. Start recording a few seconds before the recitation and stop recording a few seconds after the end.
g. For video submission contests, check with the contest organizer if there are file size limits to videos and if there is a preferred naming convention to save your videos.
h. Examples of student-filmed Poetry Out Loud recitations can be found on the Poetry Out Loud YouTube page.
- Reminder – Recitation Requirements:
a. Students must begin by stating the title of the poem and the poet’s name, and the translator, if applicable.
b. A student’s own editorial comments before or after the poem are not allowed.
c. Poems must be recited from memory.
d. For more details regarding the evaluation criteria, please consult the Teacher’s Guide.