Website review by Maya Paloma, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2021

Poetry Out Loud

Discover, read, and recite with poetry resource and competition

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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Creativity

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Pros: Lesson plans provide innovative ideas for teachers; search options easily connect students with poems.

Cons: The recitation contest itself may not be relevant in class. The site would benefit from expanded accessibility options.

Bottom Line: Unique, free website for teachers and students to engage with poetry in new and exciting ways.

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.

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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. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

The site's focus on demystifying poetry and inviting all to recite it might draw in some students, and the random poem selector is fun, but there's still not much there to convince kids who dislike poetry.

Pedagogy

With poetry collections, a student-focused competition, resources on forms and terms, and lesson plans, there are several ways to approach poetry and its elements.

Support

Though the site is approachable, it doesn't have many supports, accessibility features, or multilingual options.


Common Sense reviewer
Maya Paloma Other

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Featured review by
Mariya E. , Postsecondary student
Postsecondary student
Accessible and organized way of finding poetry!
I enjoyed my experience with this app because it includes poetry from various authors, whether well-known or not. The format of the app is easily understandable and organized, and allows you to look up key terms for what type of poetry you're interested in. One downside is that there isn't an extensive list of poetry for each category. However, there are sufficient selections of poems to satisfy a general poetry reader.
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