Heart Maps: A Review and a Giveaway


Georgia Heard’s newest book, Heart Maps – Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing explores the thing most central, most essential, and most necessary in teaching writing.

What is that one, most essential thing? It is the heart. Your own heart, and your students’ hearts.

In this book, Georgia offers practical tools to spark ideas for writing. The work is accessible and feels doable even for a writing workshop novice — but the maps are so much more than just a tool for generating ideas. The book, organized into twenty or so ingenious templates for heart mapping, offers a way to study the heart from all angles. There is a template for mapping important memories, places, and people. There’s one for mapping the things that inspire you as a writer, and another for exploring your heart as a reader. There are others for gratitude, wishes, people you admire, and more. The list of ways to study what lives in your heart is long, and inspiring, and beautiful.

You might be familiar with the concept of mapping the heart from Georgia’s book Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. Or perhaps you discovered heart mapping some other way. In any case, Heart Maps leaves you inspired and thinking about this tried and true strategy in countless new ways.

Each section of the book is organized with an introduction, student examples, a blank template (that can be downloaded from digital resources), and a list of mentor texts to read aloud along with the particular heart map.

Here’s an example of the ‘My Wishes’ heart map:



One of the lovely aspects about this work is that it can be applied across grade levels and across units of study. Each heart map includes suggestions for the types of writing that might spring from the ideas generated in the map, and there are suggestions sprinkled throughout for ways to use the maps with younger or older children. The templates are simple, just a blank heart in most cases, ready to be filled with students’ ideas and creative takes on mapping their hearts.

I’ve been carrying the book around with me in my visits to many classrooms in my role as a literacy coach. It is not an exaggeration to say that every teacher who has seen the book, no matter the grade level, has exclaimed something to the effect of “I NEED TO HAVE THIS BOOK!”

This ‘Special Place’ heart map is just one of many examples of the templates that could easily be used with any age group:

heartmaps_p74 heartmaps_p75 heartmaps_p80_examples

The book ends with three essays to inspire you to take heart mapping in your own direction. Pam Allyn writes about using heart mapping as a project in places around the world where children are learning to read and write under the most challenging circumstances. “What may appear as a simple activity is really courage in action,” she writes. “Heart maps portray deeply felt memories, loves, and sorrows– artifacts too often suppressed by forces around them” (p. 120).

Nancie Atwell writes about the power of heart mapping to encourage all writers, boys in particular, to use writing to communicate and organize their thoughts and feelings. “The feelings of my male students are just as strong as those of their female classmates,” she writes,”but guys don’t always have the language or the opportunity to express them” (p. 127).

Penny Kittle’s essay is about mapping music of the heart. “My students and I discover the gift of a heart map playlist: to soothe, to comfort, and to remind us of the beauty in our past and in our daily living” (p. 129).

Georgia Heard ends her book by saying, “My hope is that as you explore heart mapping with your writers, you will fall in love with the stories and poems, truths and courage that will unfold–both theirs and your own” (p. 131). The beauty of this work lies in the creativity of kids to take it in unexpected directions, and for you take the idea, run with it, and enjoy the journey.


  • To win a copy of Heart Maps–Helping Student Create and Craft Authentic Writing please leave a comment on this post by Sunday, October 23rd 11:59 p.m. EST. A random number generator will be used to pick the winner.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid email address when you post your comment, so we can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only. Heinemann will ship to winners in the United States only.
  • If you are the winner of the book, you will receive an email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – HEART MAPS. Please respond to the e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days.