Poetry, Classrooms, and Community

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Poetry, Classrooms, and Community

Ava Hawkes, Staff Writer

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Poetry Out Loud is a yearly competition at RHS, championed by ELA teacher Ms. Colum. The competition spans from school-wide to nationwide, culminating in a large national competition that takes place on May 1st. Students are required to memorize and recite a poem from the Poetry Out Loud website, adding emotion and movement to their performance to make it that much more invigorating. There’s a very specific scoring system for each performance, based off of features such as physical presence, articulation, drama, and understanding of the piece.

So why Poetry Out Loud? The Teacher’s Guide for the competition outlines that Poetry Out Loud “builds self-confidence and helps develop emotional maturity… encourages students to do their best and support their peers… and… [improves] [students’] analytical skills through reading and interpreting a variety of poems.” Many ELA teachers host the competition in their classroom as an opportunity to come together and bond over poems that each student can relate to.

As a student who’s done POL for two years in a row, I can testify that the experience really does bring the class together. Kids who hold no interest in poetry have to find a piece that they understand and can relate to. The confusion of it, in my opinion, is what brings students together. There’s solidarity in having no idea what you’re doing and knowing that the person next to you also has no idea what they’re doing, but you’re working together, critiquing each other, praising each other, going through the process together. The nerves brought on by public speaking quickly fade when you realize that you’re performing in front of people who have already seen you practice. Presenting the finished product of my performance was immensely exciting for me, and it left me beaming with pride after class ended.

Even for students who might not like poetry can find some enjoyment in POL. A big piece of the puzzle is understanding your poem on a deep, subtextual level. Why did I pick this? Why do I like it? Can I relate to it? Sharing these thoughts with classmates allowed me to bond with them in a way I’d never experienced before. I felt included. I felt like I understood my classmates and they understood me; after POL, we’re a tighter community, not just a classroom.

In the end, the competition isn’t just about winning or losing. It’s about art, emotion, and relationships. Any educational program that brings students together like Poetry Out Loud has is truly special, and deserves more recognition and respect than it gets.