Hersey students compete in poetry recitation competition to build communication skills

This week the entire student body at John Hersey High School began participating in a poetry recitation competition to build their communication skills for high school and beyond.

More than 1,800 Hersey students will take part in the Poetry Out Loud competition, an independent literary organization that encourages and potentially rewards students to learn about the art of poetry through memorization and recitation.

The idea to bring the Poetry Out Loud to the school came after Lara Becker, a Hersey English and acting teacher, saw her daughter and other students from another school taking part in the competition. Upon investigation, Becker learned the competition was sponsored by the Illinois Arts Council and is free for students.

In today’s technological age, the art of memorization and the ability to communicate and perform sometimes gets lost, educators said. By bringing this competition to the school, students can build upon the skills they learn in their freshmen Written and Oral Communications course and carry them through senior year.  

“When the words sort of seep into our DNA ... there is something really special and unique about that,” said Becker. “Many of us who are educators can recall something we memorized and we refer to that in our lives.”

At Hersey, students in every grade will participate in the school-level competition. Students will be evaluated in areas such as physical presence, voice articulation, dramatic appropriateness, accuracy and overall performance.

Teachers will incorporate poetry into their curriculum in different ways, depending on the focus of the English course. Each grade level will have two winners, and from there, one student will advance to the regional competition.

The winner of the regional competition will compete at the state level, and has the opportunity to go the national competition in Washington, D.C and win $20,000. Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state.

“No matter what job or career pathway you choose, you will have to communicate well, present well and articulate your thoughts and any ideas you have,” said Dr. Patty Grow, the school’s English and Fine Arts division head. “We just want to give kids as many tools in their tool chest before they leave.”

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