California Arts Council

State of California

Judging Criteria for Poetry Out Loud

Published: 03-15-2010

The judges for the 2010 California Poetry Out Loud state finals will use the following criteria to evaluate the students competing on March 15, 2010.

This category is to evaluate the physical nature of the recitation. Consider the contestant's posture, use of eye contact, and body language.

This category is to evaluate the auditory nature of the recitation. Consider the student's volume, speed, use of voice inflection, and proper pronunciation. At the State Finals, contestants will use a microphone. 

Qualities of a strong recitation: All words will be pronounced correctly, and the volume, speed, pacing, and phrasing will greatly enhance the poem. Pacing will be varied where appropriate. Scores will be lowered as a recitation falls short on one or more of these elements.

Above all, recitation is about conveying a poem's sense with one's voice. It is not a theatrical enactment. Theatrical performances distract the audience and the judges from understanding and enjoying the poem. Subtle dramatization must enhance the audience's understanding of the poem; it should never overshadow the poem's language.

This category is to evaluate the comparative difficulty of the poem, which is the result of several factors. A poem with difficult content conveys complex, sophisticated ideas, which the student will be challenged to grasp and express. A poem with difficult language will have complexity of diction and syntax, meter and rhyme scheme, and shifts in tone or mood. Poem length is also a factor in difficulty. Every poem is a different combination of content, language, and length, and the judges should score accordingly.

This category is to evaluate whether the performer exhibits an understanding of the poem in his or her recitation.

Qualities of a strong recitation: The meaning of the poem will be powerfully and clearly conveyed to the audience. The student will display an interpretation that deepens and enlivens the poem. Meaning, messages, allusions, irony, tones of voice, and other nuances will be captured by the performance. A low score will be awarded if the interpretation obscures the meaning of the poem.

This category is to evaluate the overall success of the recitation, taking into account the above criteria, the diversity of poem selection, and any other factors that may impact a judge's perception of the student's performance. Note that there are twice as many points available in this category.

A separate judge will mark missed or incorrect words during the recitation, with small deductions for each. If the contestant relies on the Prompter, points also will be subtracted from the accuracy score. Eight points will be added to the competitor's score for a perfect recitation.

Contest Structure: California Poetry Out Loud uses successive competitions at the local, state, and national levels. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to the school-wide competition, district competition, then to the county, state and ultimately to the national finals.

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