Student poetry blogs – writing for an authentic audience

Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post comes from Adrian Nester, educator extraordinaire with 17 years’ experience in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. She is passionate about equity in rural education and the power of Twitter. She currently teaches AP Literature, English 11, and Journalism. She is also a T-ball coach, Interact sponsor, and Sunday school teacher in her spare time. She enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, reading, and playing sports. Read more about Adrian’s journey on her blog The Learning Curve.

logoThe summer is an excellent time to start thinking about changes and additions to the current curriculum. Having students blog about living poets is a year-long activity that is student driven, while also providing choice and an authentic audience.

Getting Started

Choose a platform to host the student blogs. Here is a post about getting started on Edublogs. There are also great video tutorials that can help with details with set-up..

The Assignment

This original assignment was inspired by Mrs. Effie and adapted by Melissa Smith into the current Pick-a-Poet blog assignment. This model allows for student exploration into the work of  the poet of their choice, while giving them enough structure to move beyond basic summary and toward analysis.

Finding Poets

Finding a group or list of suitable poets that are diverse, highly regarded, and published can be a stumbling block for teachers less familiar with the ever-evolving world of living, writing poets. Luckily, the website has now made this easy. Under the Find Poets tab find the amazing Teach Living Poets Digital Library and a MASSIVE LIST of poets for students to consider.

When I introduce this assignment, I give students resources (the links above) and a few days to explore the poets’ work. Then we have a poetry auction, which simply consist of me drawing names and students selecting their poet for the year. Students who have done their research benefit greatly from this by picking a poet that they are sincerely interested in spending a year studying. I plan to allow class time next year for exploration through the Digital Library.

Authentic Audience

The nature of a blog itself creates an authentic audience. Students can share their work on social media and tag the poets themselves. When a student gets an acknowledgement on Twitter from the poet they are following it is so exciting!

Assigning comments within the classroom is an excellent way to expose students to more poetry and other students’ analysis. I usually assign one comment and then allow for choice. This guarantees that each student gets at least one comment. Be sure to review what makes for an appropriate comment. Karla Hilliard encourages her students to introduce themselves, comment on the analysis, and extend the student’s analysis with a new thought or question. If you want to keep students accountable for comments or even grade them, I recommend creating a Google form for them to copy and paste their comments.

Creating a blog-share with other classrooms can be a way to create an additional authentic audience and provide feedback through comments. Find other teachers who would like to do this assignment in your district or on social media. Create a calendar of due dates for both blogs and comments for the year and who will comment on who. Hearing from students from California, Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Georgia definitely added another element of excitement and accountability for the blogs.


Depending on the number of students that are blogging, assessment can be a tricky thing. Here are two different style rubrics to get you started: Sarah Soper’s holistic rubric and my check-off style rubric which the students fill in and submit with their annotations.

Other blog options

Student blogs have so many possibilities for other writing opportunities. Many students will embrace having a space to share their work. Teachers may encourage students to publish class assignments online as well. Here are some examples of How Blogging Benefits Student Voice through narrative essays and mentor text poetry. Finally, if the pick-a-poet assignment starts to get a little stale for students try these Blog Alternatives.

The Bottomline

Before I started using student blogs, blogging seemed like a scary thing to try out. The truth is, it was really simple, and the benefits have been tremendous.


Thank you for reading! Do you have a story, lesson, activity, or something else to share with Be a guest author! Email me at 

You can follow me on Twitter at @MelAlterSmith and please tweet all the awesome things you are doing in your class with the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag! 

If you want to order a #TeachLivingPoets shirt, check out my awesome sister-in-law’s Facebook store Megan’s Makes. Shirt options are: gray unisex crew-neck S-XXXL, black unisex crew-neck S-XXXL, white women’s v-neck S-XL. All shirts are $20, PayPal accepted.

2 thoughts on “Student poetry blogs – writing for an authentic audience

  1. Pingback: Reflections from 2019 AP Literature Reading - AP LIT HELP

  2. Pingback: The Power of Teaching Contemporary Poetry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s