Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday Slice of Life: Heart Mapping and What Matters

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Tuesday Slice of Life: 
Heart Mapping and What Matters 
What matters to them?
I have been pondering this question all year, especially for my students who have not found a lot of success in school. Many of my high school students insist that they don't care about much, mostly when it comes to learning. 

Enter Heart Maps. 

I have been a fan of Georgia Heard's Heart Mapping for a while now. In Heart Maps (Heinemann, 2016), Georgia Heard shares this, "Heart Mapping is a metaphor for what all writer's know: to write is to delve into what matters to us, to keep our feelings alive, to be vulnerable, to tell the truth, to question, and to speak what many people keep inside." 

What matters to my students? What matters to me? These are questions that I have tossed around all year, not just in an effort to reach more of my students but as a personal inquiry as well. 

Below are two Heart Maps I created with students this semester.The first one is a general Heart Map of what currently matters the most to me, and the second is a Heart Map that is a zoomed in version of one item from my Heart Map - writing. 

One of my Heart Maps

A Zoomed In Version of a Heart Map - on writing 

As a class, we revisited Heart Maps throughout the school year, especially with my ninth and tenth grader learners. I was often surprised at what my students revealed to me through Heart Mapping, even my students who are the most reluctant to read and write and share. Often Heart Mapping was a springboard for writing, and it often created a perfect opening for conversation. Heart Mapping helped me better understand what my students were reading and thinking about. 

In my classes, Heart Maps aren't fancy. My students used their notebooks. I provided colored pencils, crayons, and markers. Making Heart Maps didn't take a lot of planning time. My high school students reported that they enjoyed the process of creating Heart Maps and often pleaded to work on Heart Maps when we had time.Creating and sharing Heart Maps helped me get to know my students better, fostering a positive classroom culture.  
One student example of a Heart Map (used with permission)
Another student example of a Heart Map (used with permission)
When one of my sophomore students, Tina, unexpectedly passed away in February, I felt paralyzed as a person, not just as her teacher. Tina was a close friend to many of my students, and grief arrived in many ways. One of my classes particularly struggled for an extended period of time, and I knew that I could not simply press on with our scheduled learning, even though deadlines were looming. We used Heart Mapping as a part of our healing. We didn't get to everything in my literacy support course that I wanted to, but I do not regret spending this time to process through Heart Mapping. Crafting Heart Maps also helped me recognize who needed more support than I could offer as a classroom teacher.  

Friday will conclude my nineteenth year of teaching. Still, as a seasoned teacher, I am always surprised at how long it often takes to build trust with students and to discover what they care deeply about. Knowing what matters to my students helps me recommend books for students to read, nudge them in issues to write and learn about, and meet their needs better. It helps me build trusting relationships. My teaching will continue to focus on what matters to my students so that I can serve them better. Heart Mapping is one way that has helped me know my students better, and I will keep using it. 


  1. I love heartmaps! Thanks for sharing your experiences with high schoolers with us!


  2. Oh, what perfect timing! I hadn't seen this exercise formally described before. I really like what it offers anyone who is willing to explore in their own way what matters to them. I've also been thinking about maps as creative opportunities to think about a variety of topics. I will add heart maps to my collection of ideas. Thank you!

  3. It's interesting to read that you have used heart maps throughout the year, and they have played bigger part than just collecting ideas, and that they have been part of healing. What will your summer heart hold?

  4. Heart maps are wonderful, and kids feel cared about when they are invited to draw them. I love seeing writing as an object of love in your heart map.

  5. I have heard of heart maps but have never seen or used them. I feel like these are right up my alley. Thank you for sharing them. And thank you for sharing their power. I can already imagine using this next year.


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