To do Poetry By Heart well, you need to have a small team of adults willing to take on different roles during the competition. These roles are:
Poetry By Heart Co-ordinator (and a back-up)
S/he develops and co-ordinates the school/college’s participation in the competition. They encourage teachers to hold class heats, distribute materials, organise the school/college competition, arrange your champion’s progression to the county round and communicate with the national Poetry By Heart team. They will ensure that the school/college competition runs smoothly, all volunteers are present, judges are briefed beforehand and scoring is fair.
Class competitions need only be judged by 1 adult, usually the class teacher, though it is acceptable to involve others from school/college or the wide community.
An MC will guide the school/college championship from start to finish, providing welcoming remarks, introducing judges and students, and announcing winners. The MC will make sure judges have enough time to complete their scoring before the next student begins to recite. The MC may entertain the audience, share biographical information about the poets or student performers, introduce live or recorded music, or otherwise fill time between recitations or rounds.
There must be 3-5 judges, including 1 accuracy judge. Judges could be drawn from teaching and library staff, or you may invite some community members to judge the competition. Appropriate judges might be local poets, actors, professors, arts reporters, politicians, governors or community leaders and mentors. Judges should have some knowledge and enthusiasm for poetry although they need not be experts.
It is important to have someone following along with the recitations, ready to prompt a student who may get stuck on a line. Prepare a large-font copy of each poem, in the order of recitation, for the prompter. Seat the prompter in the centre of the front row and show students where s/he is sitting before the competition begins. If a competitor is stuck for several seconds and looks to the prompter for help, the prompter may provide the next few words of the poem to get the student back on track.
While the competition is taking place, someone needs to tabulate the judges’ scores so that no time is wasted totalling scores after the recitations are finished. A spreadsheet works well for this purpose but remember to test it works beforehand. It is useful to have a runner who can collect score sheets from the judges after each recitation.
Depending on how much of an event you want to make your school/college competition, you may like to create a programme that lists the competitors and the poems they will be reciting. Ushers could give these out and direct audience members to their seats.