Dr Julie Blake, co-founder and director of Poetry By Heart, shares some of the benefits to teachers and pupils of getting involved with England’s national poetry speaking competition for schools.
Take a poem into your heart
“Taking a poem into your heart makes it part of you. Saying the poem aloud makes you part of its life in the world. This is a rich and nourishing relationship that can last a lifetime.” Jean Sprackland, poet and Poetry By Heart judge.
Poetry by Heart is now in its tenth year and has encouraged as many as 200,000 young people to “take a poem into their heart”. England’s national poetry speaking competition for schools, Poetry By Heart invites all young people aged from 7 – 18 to choose poems they love, learn them by heart and perform them in a school or college performance event. With options for both solo and group performances, school staff can then select who to enter into the national round of the competition, make a simple video of their poem performances and submit entries to the Poetry by Heart website via secure upload. A team of experts, including leading poets, review all the entries and select finalists to come and perform their poems live at the competition’s grand finale. This year it will be held at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on Monday 26th June.
New ways to connect with poetry
You might already know about the competition and be enjoying the excitement it provokes, with pupils enthusiastically embracing the challenges of learning and performing poetry. We know from teachers how much taking part boosts students’ confidence and wellbeing, and how it increases enjoyment of poetry across the whole school. As one regular participant told us, “Our pupils are genuinely excited to begin the Poetry by Heart competition each year, and they always respond in surprising ways, revealing talents and enthusiasm which we often don’t see in those students.”
We love hearing too how the competition connects students within the school and the wider community, how it boosts teachers’ own confidence and enthusiasm to teach poetry, and how it allows all pupils to encounter poetry that speaks to them. Just over a year ago, in fact, we asked teachers and school librarians involved with Poetry By Heart to fill in a survey detailing the value of taking part. They identified seventeen different benefits, all listed on our website alongside their comments.
If you haven’t taken part in Poetry By Heart before, don’t worry, there’s still time! The closing date for 2023 entries isn’t until 31st March, and you can run your competition events whenever it suits you.
We’ll support you every step of the way
As well as being a competition, Poetry By Heart is a website for teaching and learning about poetry that has developed over the course of the competition to offer a wide range of resources to support teachers and schools taking part. Registration is free and there’s a competition kit to download with everything you need, from a Competition Guide to a Poem-a-Month calendar complete with starter activities to lift the poems off the page. There is even a ready-to-use assembly presentation with a short video of the 2022 finals that is guaranteed to inspire your pupils. Perhaps you could set learning a poem by heart as a half term challenge to get things started?
We know too that sometimes there’s nothing better than speaking to a real person, and we’re more than happy to do that. You can email the team via [email protected] or pick up the phone and call us on 0117 905 5338 for tips, poem suggestions and extra resources.
Plus, every fortnight between now and the end of March, we will be holding a Poetry Forum over Zoom. These friendly and informal sessions are open to all and provide a chance to get input, advice and resources from the Poetry By Heart team, as well as tips from other teachers who have taken part in the competition before and ideas to help you tailor it for your pupils. The next date is Wednesday 8th February and the topic is “How to Stage your Poetry By Heart Event”. To book a place, email us now on [email protected].
Everyone entered into the national competition receives a certificate and Record Of Achievement with individual feedback about their poem performances. There really is nothing to lose by signing up and, as Jean Sprackland says so perfectly, taking part and learning Poetry By Heart could be the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Special offer for Literacy Hive readers
Please drop us a line if you’ve decided to take the plunge as a result of reading this blog and we’ll send out a pack of posters and our printed Poem-a-Month calendar to everyone who signs up. Simply email us via [email protected] to claim your pack, including Literacy Hive in the email title.