More About Poetry Out Loud Contests


All high schools in Ohio are eligible to participate in Poetry Out Loud (POL). POL is a flexible program and size varies across the state from two participants to 800 participants. Teachers may assign POL in class or make participation voluntary. The POL program welcomes online schools and students who are actively engaged in a home schooling program. Home-schooled students may compete with a group of other home-schooled students, and the winner may compete in his or her regional semifinal, but their program’s teacher must register for POL with the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). Interested teachers should contact their regional or state coordinator.  

School Contests

The basic requirement is for the classroom or school contest to feature at least two students who choose poems to memorize and recite from the POL anthology, and who compete using the two official POL scoresheets. 

School contests may have up to three rounds (most school-level contests have one or two rounds). Contestants can choose any poems in the anthology for a contest of one or two rounds. The POL rule about including a pre-1900 poem and a poem of 25 lines or less (which may be the same poem) is only applied in a three round competition, in which students may be reciting three poems. 

Students can help organize and emcee contests. Students can also serve as prompters or accuracy checkers with supervision, but they should not serve as judges. 

Registered schools will send one school champion to the regional semifinal.   

School Champion Info Sheet

Following the school contest, the winning student will complete and submit the School Champion Info Sheet. The info sheet asks school champions to choose and list three poems in the order in which the student wishes to recite them. While students are asked to choose and list their third poem at this point, they will NOT be reciting their third poem at their regional semifinal and so do NOT need to memorize or prepare it for their semifinal. The semifinal contests will have only two rounds, and the students will recite their first and second poems there. School Champions will need to memorize and prepare their third poem if they advance from their semifinal contest to the State Finals. 

Regional Semifinals

Regional semifinals will have two rounds of recitation only, in which students will recite the first and second poems they listed on their School Champion Info Sheet. Semifinals will be scored by three judge panels, plus an accuracy checker. Students will recite in a pre-assigned random order. The top scoring students at the end of each semifinal will be announced as state finalists (there will be no first, second, or third place), and the state finalists will be invited to compete in the Ohio Poetry Out Loud State Finals. The number of students advancing to State Finals from any given semifinal will vary depending on the number of school champions in that semifinal and in the state as a whole. Approximately 12 state finalists will compete in the State Finals.   

State Finals

The State Finals are free and open to the public. All POL students, teachers, and schools are invited. The State Finals will have three rounds, so state finalists will need to memorize and be prepared to recite their third poem if they are chosen to advance to the third and final round of the contest. State finalists will recite in a new, pre-assigned random order before a new three judge panel. First, second, and third place winners will be announced after the third and final round. The State Finals will always have three rounds of recitation.   

Past Contests

View POL contest information including state finalists, school champions, and past judges.


CHIQUITA MULLINS LEE | Arts Learning Coordinator