writing workshop

Heart Maps: Another Twist.

Sara left the following comment, which I love, first, because it’s a comment and, second, because I was planning to blog about this today.  What is that they say about minds that think alike?

First, heart mapping was developed by Georgia Heard.  She speaks of it in her book, Awakening the Heart:  Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School.  In fact, there is a heart map on the cover.  I also found her handout describing Heart Mapping, in this pdf file of a presentation she gave.  It is on page 11. 

In a nutshell heart mapping is about creating a map of your heart.  It is a way to find the really important stuff of your life.

However, what I’ve found is that sometimes students (especially boys) have a tough time really getting into making a heart map.  For some reason hearts aren’t all that cool to some.  So today, on my way to a classroom where I was going to introduce heart maps, an idea hit me.  (Why is it the best ideas always come at the last minute?) 

This summer I listened to Katherine Bomer speak of writing close to the bones, so why not make a bone map?  Same idea as the heart map, simply a wording switch:  What’s close to your bones?  Yes, much cooler than hearts in some people’s eyes.

I quickly sketched the outline of a bone (it looked more like a dog biscuit, as one student told me) and ran a few copies.  I gave students a choice between mapping their hearts or identifying the things close to their bones.

These concepts work because they give writers a word picture — a concrete image — to apply to help make sense of abstract ideas like finding a meaningful writing topic.    It works at a range of grade levels, as well.  I’ve used this strategy from first grade through eighth grade, with success each time.

We’d love to hear how it goes in your classroom, as well as any adaptions or twists you’ve invented or have seen.

7 thoughts on “Heart Maps: Another Twist.

  1. This is a great exercise. It is fabulous to do in the beginning of the year and revisit later on…It is an almost guaranteed “story starter” for those kids who insist that they get writer’s block – especially at home!

    I have actually used it in two different forms other than the heart: one was where the students were given a profile of a head and they get to fill in “what’s on their brains!” they love that…and the other is where they trace their hands on a sheet of paper and fill in with the things that they “do” or people that they like to give a “helping hand to” and so on. I love the idea of the heart, but I agree that it may not go over too well with some kids, especially middle school boys. I think the bone idea is really cool too…I may offer a choice of all four this year and see which ones my kids respond to.

    Thanks for all of your great posts and suggestions! I really enjoy your site.
    ~Melissa 🙂


  2. I really think giving writers a choice is a great idea. I had writers create heart maps for the first time last year, and for the most part it was a success. I think giving writers the bone choice would have been even better. Could you post a copy of the bone map? Thanks!


  3. I’ve been a lurker all summer but I have to go ahead and post a comment. I’m actually a high school reading teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools who is attempting to make reading and writing workshop the curriculum for a group of kids that have been written off as struggling readers. I did heart mapping with my students today (I added a star for freshmen boys who were too cool for a heart but could put their #1 things in a star) and I have to say that it was a huge success. They were really into it and even liked decorating them. I guess it means we’re never too old to learn to write. Thank you so much for having this blog and encouraging me to be brave for my students. I’m excited to see where this year takes us!


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