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Using Broadsides to Create Classroom Atmosphere and Inspiration

Published October 30, 2022

by Melissa Fite Johnson

I’m honestly excited to see how having [broadsides] on my walls affects the energy in the room, how it stirs up curiosity and creativity.

I’ve been teaching high school English for sixteen years now, and I’ve found that the longer I do this, the more open and less rigid I am about planning activities. While I do outline whole units in detail and have assignments that I usually give each year, I love pushing a planned task aside or making room for a conversation or activity when it comes up naturally or students express interest in something. It’s important to me that my students feel invested and even excited about what we’re doing, that they find meaning in our time together, and often that means meeting them where they are or hearing them when something is on their mind.

Image of a classroom, with desk, whiteboard, and Broadsided Press broadsides above.
Broadsides posted above the classroom whiteboard.
Having said all that, what makes me most excited about this new classroom of mine is that it’s a place that feels welcoming and warm and vibrant. I have my students’ desks facing the wall of windows, because I want to encourage thinking and even daydreaming/spacing out. I want them to connect what we’re reading to their own thoughts and experiences. I want this beautiful space to feel like a place where they’re safe to take risks and experiment and create. Safe to be wild.
Classroom with colorful flats, a metal cabinet with word magnets, bookshelves, and more laminated broadsides.
Word magnets on the metal cabinets, books on the shelves, broadsides on the wall.
And there’s no decor more conducive to this way of thinking than these broadsides. I’m hoping that during class, when they glance around the room, certain broadsides will catch their attention. I’m guessing it’ll be the art first, and I hope in those few minutes between wrapping up a lesson and the bell ringing, they’ll wander over to the broadsides they’ve noticed and read the corresponding poems.
Honestly, if that’s all that happens, it’ll feel like a beautiful thing, just bringing more art and poetry into their lives. But I’m also interested in what would happen next, if anything. I hope they’ll ask me questions about what Broadsided Press is and what it stands for. I hope they’ll talk to each other about their favorite ones. I hope they’ll want to check out the website and go through the archives.
Maybe they’ll want to create their own broadsides and ekphrastic poems, either on their own or with art students, as a project. Maybe this will make them consider submitting to our school’s literary magazine, which also pairs writing with art. Maybe they’ll even want to submit to the Switcheroo, and that could be a little project in April.
Broadsides frame the windows, too.
I’ve loved reading the really specific lesson plans on this site, and maybe I’ll have one of my own someday, after a year or so of having these broadsides on display in my classroom. For now, though, I’m honestly excited to see how having these on my walls affects the energy in the room, how it stirs up curiosity and creativity. I don’t want to have expectations beyond that. I want to see what happens next.

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