Run a Recitation Contest

In order to compete in Poetry In Voice’s individual or team contests, teachers first run classroom and/or school contests to determine their school champions. If this is your first year, you might work with one student or a small, enthusiastic group as an extra-curricular activity. Our hope is that eventually, the competitions will become anticipated events in your school’s calendar. Here is how to run your own contests:



Review our general rules, the rules that apply to your contest (junior or senior) and this year's deadlines.

Feel free to adapt our materials for your students, but in order for students to compete in the Junior Online Finals or the Online Qualifiers and National Finals, their participation will be governed by our rules and their recitations will be judged using our Scoring Rubric and our Accuracy Score Sheet.

If you have any questions, contact us.


In both the Junior Competition and the Senior Competition, we offer students three competition streams: English, Bilingual, and French.

Check with the French teachers at your school to see if they would like to run the competition as well.


Depending on the level of interest at your school, you can run a contest in just one class or you can work with other educators to run the contest across several classes or grades. If there are students in grades 7 through 12 at your school, you can also run a junior competition AND a senior competition.

Poetry In Voice strongly recommends a maximum of 12 student reciters at any given contest (with 24 poems recited) and the inclusion of a brief intermission. Classroom contests can of course be held over several periods. For the school contest,  classroom level contests should reduce the number of qualifiers to less than 12, or consider holding more than one event (one for each stream and/or grade level).

Drama teachers, debate coaches, librarians, and language teachers have all run the competition. See if anyone at your school is interested in working with you.



Here’s how to bring our recitation contest into your classroom, whether your students are competing in the Junior Competition (grades 6-9) or the Senior Competition (grades 10-12):

  1. Each student finds, memorizes, and practices their recitation of one poem selected from our English anthology or our French anthology. Be sure they select poems for grades 7-9 for the Junior Recitation Competition or poems for grades 10-12 for the Senior Recitation Competition.
  2. Students recite for the class and their recitations are evaluated using our Scoring Rubric, Evaluation Sheet, and Accuracy Score Sheet.
  3. The student with the highest score is named your classroom champion. If there’s a tie, refer to our Rules to break the tie.

Ask your colleagues if they’ve also named a champion or champions in their classrooms. If so, you can prepare for the school contest. If only one classroom champion is named and no school contest is to be held,* you can now prep that student for the Junior Online Finals or the Senior Online Qualifiers. You can hold classroom and school contests for students who will recite as individuals, or as teams. In the case of the latter, a team of students is named classroom champions, and then goes on to compete against other teams in a school contest. The winning team then participates in our Team Regionals.

*We strongly recommend that any student who advances from a grade 10-12 classroom contest directly to the Senior Online Qualifiers be given the opportunity to recite both of their poems in front of a large audience, for example, at an assembly. Whenever possible, have these students recite using a microphone on a stand (a microphone will be used at the National Finals).



The winner (or top 2, 3, etc. students) from each classroom is asked to memorize and recite two poems.

When a student chooses a second poem, they also choose their competition stream:

  • 1st poem in English + 2nd poem in English = English stream
  • 1st poem in English + 2nd poem in French = Bilingual stream
  • 1st poem in French + 2nd poem in English = Bilingual stream
  • 1st poem in French + 2nd poem in French = French stream


  • Keep the appropriate online contest deadlines in mind.
  • Decide whether to hold the contest during the day when classes can watch, or hold the contest after school.
  • Choose an appropriate venue for the size of your event, like an auditorium or library.
  • Whenever possible, have students recite using a microphone on a stand. This will be good practice for any student in the Senior Competition who advances to the National Finals, where a microphone will be used.
  • Each recitation takes about three to four minutes (depending on the poems chosen) and judges typically take one minute after a recitation to evaluate. Once all the recitations are finished, the final tally to determine your school champion(s) might take a few extra minutes.


A school can name one champion per prize stream: one English Stream champion, one Bilingual Stream champion, and one French Stream champion. 

Ask your colleagues to identify the competition stream of each classroom champion so that you can organize the contest accordingly. A student competing in the English Stream only competes against other students in the English Stream, and so on.



Depending on the size of your school’s contest and the streams in which students are competing, you’ll need to recruit volunteers to fill the following roles:

3 judges + 1 accuracy judge

A group of teachers may serve as judges, or you could invite local poets, actors, professors, arts reporters, or members of the school board to judge. Judges should have some knowledge of poetry, but they don’t need to be experts. The accuracy judge should mark missed or incorrect words during the recitation.

If you have any students competing in the Bilingual stream or the French stream, you’ll need additional French-language judges.


The prompter will sit near the front of the stage and prompt students who get stuck on a line. Show students where the prompter is sitting before the contest begins.


During the competition, the tabulator should track judges’ scores, so that no time is wasted totaling scores after the recitations are finished.


An MC will guide the competition from start to finish. The MC can provide welcoming remarks, introduce judges and students, and announce winners. The MC could provide biographic information about the poets or competing students (which you would need to have prepared) between recitations.

Music or musicians (optional)

Between recitations, as judges are filling in their evaluation sheets, you could play live or recorded music.



Prepare the paperwork; send each performance judge and accuracy judge:

  • the link to our Judge a Contest page
  • links to the poems that will be recited
  • optional: links to recitation videos on our website, so they can see what recitation is all about and practise evaluating performances prior to your event

Assemble an event package for each member of your contest staff.

For the performance judges:

For the accuracy judge(s):

For the prompter:

  • the poems in the order they will be recited

For the MC:

  • a list of students’ names in the order of recitation and any other pertinent information   



The event should proceed in rounds: Each student recites their first poem and then each recites their second poem. 

After each poem is recited, the performance judges and the accuracy judge complete their evaluation sheets for that student and pass the sheets on to the tabulator. Judges should not discuss the scores they give with one another and they cannot modify scores once they turn them in.




Depending on the students’ chosen streams, you might name one, two, or three school champions. 

We have certificates of participation for you to print and fill in. You may want to give your champion(s) a small prize, such as a poetry anthology or blank journal.



At this point, your school champion is immediately eligible to compete in one of our online contests. If you have run a Team Regional event, the winning team is eligible to compete in a Team Regional competition. Film their recitations and upload their videos and permission form before the submission deadline!


Get the word out:

Take pictures and videos of your preparation, set-up, reciters and contest winners, and let the community know! Tag us on social media so that we can celebrate with you: @pivlvp.

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