“If you don’t make your students memorize poems, try it. The transformation will astound you.”

— Sina Queyras

Professor, anthology poet, Poetry In Voice judge

School Contest

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Many of the instructions below are specific to a live recitation contest. Poetry In Voice is recommending all classroom and school contests be held online. Please read our Run an Online Contest before consulting this page.


Click on the headings below for more information. 



The winner 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


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.


  • 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.
  • Poetry In Voice recommends a maximum of 12 student reciters at any given contest (with 24 poems recited) and the inclusion of a brief intermission. If you expect your school contest to exceed two hours, consider holding grade-level contests first.


Let the community know how proud you are of your reciters: share the news on social media, and don’t hesitate to tag us: @pivlvp! We will be happy to celebrate and share your school contest information and results!

You may ask a student to take pictures and videos of the various stages of the planning and of the contest itself!


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.


A week before the event

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

For the school contest

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

For the performance judges:

  • Evaluation Sheets

For the accuracy judge(s):

  • the poems in the order they will be recited
  • Accuracy score sheets

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:

A student only needs to recite two poems to participate, so be sure to film their recitations and upload their videos and permission form before the submission deadline! 



“If you don’t make your students memorize poems, try it. The transformation will astound you.”

— Sina Queyras

Professor, anthology poet, Poetry In Voice judge