10 Tips for Making the Program a Success at Your School
1) Make the program mandatory for all students in your school.
While every school needs to do what's right for them, we’ve found that schools that require universal POL participation have experienced the greatest success. Standing in front of one’s peers to recite poetry can be scary—that’s why a supportive environment in which everyone is in the same boat is critical. Universal participation also ensures that all students focus on the poetry and achieving their personal best.
2) Learn a poem yourself.
Teachers who value poetry have students who value poetry. Model your love of the genre and the importance of recitation by learning a poem yourself and reciting it for your classes.
3) Ask your colleagues to memorize a poem.
While it’s one thing for an English or drama teacher to memorize a poem, having a math teacher recite some lines from Shakespeare can demonstrate for students that poetry is for everyone. Some participating schools have the entire faculty memorize a poem and then at the school finals draw one teacher’s name from a hat to decide who will perform the poem for the audience. Now that’s a motivator!
4) Embed the Poetry Out Loud program into your curriculum.
The goal of Poetry Out Loud is to help students develop a love of great poetry. Participating in the program while simultaneously having students deeply engaged in the study of poetry is a sure way to increase student understanding and enthusiasm. Participation in Poetry Out Loud can be the spoonful of sugar that makes other things possible.
5) Invite a guest artist to visit your school.
The Arts Council is happy to provide (free of charge) a guest artist visit to your school. Our guest artists are poetry and performance professionals who love working with young people. They can help at any stage in the POL process, from helping students pick poems to helping polish student recitals for a school’s finals.
6) Hold a school-wide finals and invite the public.
Poetry Out Loud Finals are often a major highlight of the school year. Some schools hold their finals during a school-wide assembly (giving students a chance to perform for or support their peers) while others incorporate their finals into parent-teacher nights. A Poetry Out Loud finals can have just as much intensity as a championship basketball game and is an opportunity to foster a culture of poetry in your school.
7) Bring students to the state semifinals or finals.
Bringing a group of students to the state semifinals or finals will help your school champion feel supported and will also give other students a chance to hear excellent poetry recitals. Many students who have attended the finals return to their schools with a new understanding of the program and a passion to compete.
8) Watch clips of student performances.
There are a number of student recitals, from Vermont and around the country, available online. Consider streaming them for your students and discuss what makes for an effective recitation. You can also take advantage of the POL Recitation Guide DVD that is included in the POL teacher’s packet.
9) Use social media to promote the program.
Encourage students to visit and like the Vermont Poetry Out Loud Facebook page. Once there, they can chat with students from other schools, view recitations from around the state and country, and post their own recitation videos. Students can also follow the state and national finals on Twitter or even start their own POL Twitter feed for a school’s finals.
10) Read a poem a day to your classes.
Begin each of your classes with a poem of the day. This is an easy way to help a class focus at the start of class, work on their listening skills, and develop a love of poetry. There can be as much or as little discussion of the poem as you would like—sometimes just letting poems speak for themselves provides the greatest impact. There are numerous resources to help you find poems students will enjoy including Billy Collins’s "Poetry 180 Project" and National Public Radio’s "The Writer’s Almanac".