Shawntay Henry from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is this year’s winner of Poetry Out Loud, a national competition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. Shawntay’s recitation of “Frederick Douglass” by Robert E. Hayden is whispery and dramatic, commanding her audience to reflect upon each word.
Even if your students were not among the 200,000 nationwide who participated, you can devise a competition for your own classes. The Poetry Out Loud website has an amazing list of 400 poems, both classical and contemporary, from which to choose. Here’s one of my favorites: mulberry fields, by Lucille Clifton.
In the true spirit of the actual contest, require your students to memorize one poem. They will ‘own’ that poem, and it will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Begin by creating a Google form so that students can input their choice of poem. Create input fields for each student’s name, the poem’s title, and a link to the particular poem they have chosen. You will then have a list at your disposal to enable you to follow along with the students’ recitations. If possible, project the written poem from the links on your list to a screen for the audience to follow along as the poem is being performed.
What a wonderful way to celebrate our poetic heritage.
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