Words and wisdom

Poems will artfully slip off the tongues of three Shaker High School seniors as they compete in a regional poetry competition in February.

This will be the fourth year Shaker High School students will participate in the competition, called Poetry Out Loud, which requires participants to memorize and recite two poems before a panel of judges.

Siobhan Matrose, a 10th and 12th grade English teacher at Shaker High School, said she brought the idea of the competition to Shaker High School Principal Richard Murphy, who thought that the program, and competition, was something English students throughout the high school could enjoy and learn from.

What is really nice about this is that it's an extracurricular activity, but it's really tied to our English curriculum, said Murphy.

In late September, English teachers throughout the school signed a declaration agreeing to participate in Poetry Out Loud. In October, Matrose said, the classes began focusing on the poetry, with each student choosing a poem to study and learn.

But students do not only need to memorize the words of the poems, Matrose said. They need to become a part of the poetry when reciting it.

"They have a couple different criteria: physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance," she said.

While students are encouraged to get a real grasp of the poems they are reading aloud, Matrose said the students are discouraged from acting out the poem, and that judges want to focus on the quality of the students' voices when reading the poems.

"You have students who are reciting two poems, and they're not only reciting them, but they're really interpreting them through their voice, oratory skills, the difficulty of the poem," said Murphy.

Even if the majority of students do not make it into the competition, Matrose said what they are still learning.

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