Although Poetry Out Loud is primarily a poetry recitation competition, its website offers teachers and students numerous resources for exploring poetry in a new, creative way. Students can see the poetic devices they learn about in action by browsing through poems organized by poetic forms and terms, or they can find a poem for any occasion by searching through thematic collections. For instance, assign a different poetic device to groups of students to discuss how poets put them to use, or challenge students to compare different poems that employ the same poetic device in different ways.
Beyond the poems themselves, the site features lesson plans that highlight poetry as an experience rather than a form of literature. With the discussion-based lessons, emphasize that there are no right answers, both as students analyze poetry and as they write their own original poems. Show students the audio and video clips of poem recitations by students who have competed in the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition and by other poets; these can complement the lesson plans or support students and teachers pursuing the competition.Continue reading Show less
Poetry Out Loud, created by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, is both the information hub for the poetry recitation competition of the same name and a resource for teaching poetry. Its digital anthology of more than 1,100 poems is easy to explore through a basic search feature and options to browse by title, poet, thematic collection, even by the poetic forms they feature. There's even an option to pull up a random poem. Both the recitation competition and the site are aimed at high school students, but the structured browsing could help middle schoolers find poems without feeling overwhelmed, and the curated digital anthology avoids any inappropriate content. Audio and video recordings of poem recitations give students another way to engage with the poems they encounter.
The site also includes several lesson plans curated by Poetry Out Loud that encourage students to analyze poetry through an experiential lens, each lesson focusing on a different aspect of that experience. For example, one lesson discusses the power of name-dropping celebrities and historical figures; another considers why one might choose to memorize and recite poetry and how poems might be put to use in life. In addition, the site houses FAQs, tips on reciting poetry, and information for recitation contest judges and organizers. All of the poems in the Poetry Out Loud digital anthology are options for the recitation competition. The site also includes a page regarding accessibility during the contest and specifically provides supports for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students who wish to recite their poems in ASL. However, there are no specific supports for students with any other disabilities or for ELLs.
Poetry Out Loud is a unique resource, particularly for its lesson plans that take an experiential approach to teaching poetry. Lessons center the students' experience of poems and take the focus off of the search for one correct interpretation of a poem. Poem composition lessons are less concerned with writing a "good" poem and more concerned with how to craft a poem that elicits a desired effect. Students can also explore the digital anthology in a variety of ways that are sure to lead them to a poem they find engaging.
However, outside of using the website as a complement to the lesson plans or teachers' own lessons, there's little for students to do besides browse the Poetry Out Loud collection. It would be great if there were tools that allowed students to annotate a poem to engage with the text in the moment, so that their exploration of the poetry could continue beyond simply finding a poem, or if simple poetry experiments and projects were available to the students directly rather than only in lesson plans.