Getting started with Poetry By Heart

There are many different ways of getting started with Poetry By Heart but our top tip is always to give pupils some encounter with poetry recitation before asking them to give it a go. After all, if you’ve never seen or heard anyone reciting a poem before, how would you even know what “it” is? Here are some of the ways our fabulous Poetry By Heart competition organisers have told us they got it started in their school:

Share a favourite poem. Not even reciting. Just ask pupils, staff or parents to share a favourite poem aloud in class or assembly or some other suitable occasion. It generates a buzz and you can introduce the idea of Poetry By Heart from there. To get inspired, check out former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project website with loads of favourite poem videos. The ‘We Real Cool’ video chokes us up every time!

Invite someone in school who already has a poem by heart to share it at a public occasion – an assembly, a Remembrance Day event, in a lesson or your poetry after school club. That someone might be staff or pupil, and if a teacher it might be a teacher in any subject – you never can tell who knows a poem! If you have lots of volunteers, invite them to mentor a pupil who wants to give it a go.









Play one of the short Poetry By Heart Hear from the Students films which give a flavour of what the competition is like. The 2016 film is below, or try the 2017 film on the Introduction page of the About the Competition section of the website – or the slightly longer 2015 vox pops on the What students say page. These are 14-18 year old pupils from previous national finals events – we can’t wait to hear what younger pupils say!


Show a couple of videos of previous Poetry By Heart finalists reciting a poem – click open the red timeline anthology, click filter poems on the red bar at the top, select video links on the left hand side and click the green go button. Pick a poem, open up the page, scroll down to find the video performances

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Find movie clips of characters reciting a poem – the Breaking Bad trailer of ‘Ozymandias’ was pretty hot for a while, and one year W.E. Henley’s ‘Invictus’ was the most recited poem in Poetry By Heart because it featured in the film of the same name about  the South African rugby team. What’s hot this year?


One or more of these ideas might be enough to get Poetry By Heart going. Encourage everyone in a class or year group or form group to give it a go with just one poem. That way you can find out who rises to the challenge, enjoys it, is good at it or simply has great courage and commitment! Once you have 3 or more pupils like that in a key stage you can get your school competition under way, with these pupils then learning their second poem.

If your pupils need a bit more encouragement, try building their courage and confidence with our tried and tested one-lesson-fun taster activity, learning and performing e e cummings’s maggie and milly and molly and may together. It’s on this week’s blog here. Try it and let us know how it goes!

If you haven’t yet registered for the 2019-20 competition, you need to do this to get your pack! Register your school/college here NOW!

For more advice and tips about getting Poetry By Heart going in your school, talk to us!

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Call us on 0117 905 5338

Message us @poetrybyheart

And if you want to talk to us live over the Skype-machine, on your own, with colleagues or with pupils, we’re standing by! Give us a shout and we’ll fix a time.