Poetry Out Loud

What is Poetry Out Loud?


Poetry Out Loud is a free program created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation for students in grades 9-12. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools across the country, including, Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Visit poetryoutloud.org for more information.  The program has helped students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage through classical and contemporary poetry.

Similar to the National Spelling Bee, Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest begins at the classroom level, as participating teachers use the free Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitations and run classroom competitions. The program does not require full class periods, and all teaching resources are aligned with NCTE ELA Standards, making it an excellent addition to existing curriculum.

Each school champion will go on to compete in the State Finals in Nashville, which includes an exciting weekend of activities and programs for the student and their educator. The winner of the State Finals receives $1,000, as well as represent Tennessee in  at the 2022 Virtual National Poetry Out Loud Finals. The winning student of the National Finals will receive $20,000 – an honor received by a Tennessee student in 2014!

2017 TN Poetry Out Loud state champion, Marquavious Moore
“I learned that I enjoyed poetry – a lot. I’m known as the “football guy” at my school and it surprised me, and others, that poetry would be a big part of my life. Also, I realized that I am not bad at performing and public speaking.” Marquavious Moore, Memphis Tennessee, 2017 Poetry Out Loud State Champion.

Who Can Participate?

Any high school group in Tennessee that teaches students in grades 9-12 can register to participate in Poetry Out Loud. Public, private, parochial, alternative, independent, as well as homeschool groups or organizations and school-sponsored after-school programs — are encouraged to participate.

How can I get started?

  1. Contact TN State POL Coordinator, Michelle Sipes, at michelle.sipes@tn.gov
  2. Get started by requesting free materials in the Request Materials Form or by downloading the guide online.
  3. Teachers submit a School Registration Form to register as a participating school and implement the program in their school by leading a classroom or school-wide competition.
  4. Hold a School Competition.
  5. Once your school winner has been selected, you can register the school winner for the Tennessee State Finals (March 4-5, 2022) by submitting the State Finals Registration form.

School Year Timeline

Summer 2021: Request materials via this form Contact TN State POL Coordinator, Michelle Sipes, at michelle.sipes@tn.gov

Fall 2021: Help students choose poems, study and memorize, and plan school competitions. Register school for TN State Finals.

Winter 2021: Hold school competitions.

January 2022: State Finals school registration closes.

February 2022: Register School Champion.

March 4-5, 2022: TN POL State Finals at the TN State Museum in Nashville, TN.

April 25-27, 2022: The POL National Finals will be a virtual competition.

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