Writer’s Workshop: Heart Mapping

Sometimes coming up with topics and things to write about can be difficult. In Writer’s Workshop this month, we talked about where our writing ideas come from.

When you put your thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper you are opening yourself up to whoever reads your writing. You are letting readers see into your heart. That is where a lot of your ideas can come from – your heart. Real authors also use their hearts to help them decide what they want to write about as well. Authors think about special people, places, and things that are close to their hearts to help them write their own stories.
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A heart map is a visual representation of your heart, displaying topics that live there; these topics are ones we show passion for and find interesting if we are reading or writing about them.

Your heart map is for you, to help you discover your inner vision and your own unique voice that derives from your unique experiences and passions.

Begin by asking students to think about the things and people that are important to them. Go around the circle and allow each student to share one thing that is in their heart – one thing that is special or important to them.

Share samples of student heart mapping you’ve found online or demonstrate the process of creating your own heart map.

Use these guiding questions to help students uncover what is in their heart. The questions are to help students think about what is important to them and what they may want to include.

  • What has stayed in your heart?
  • What has really affected your heart?
  • What people have been important to you? Are they friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, and other people?
  • What are some experiences or central events that you will never forget?
  • What special moments stand out to you?
  • What happy or sad memories do you have?
  • What secrets have you kept in your heart?
  • What small things or objects are important to you – a tree in your backyard, a trophy, a stuffed animal… ?
  • What places, books, fears, scars, journeys, dreams, relationships, animals, comforts, and learning experiences do you hold in your heart?
  • Should some things be outside of the heart and some inside of it?
  • Do you want to draw more than one heart – good and bad; happy and sad; secret and open – and include different things inside each heart?
  • Do different colors represent different emotions, events, relationships?
  • What’s at the center of your heart? around the edges?

heartmapjOnce you have considered these questions, encourage students to begin their own heart map.  They may wish to draw a rough draft and then a final copy into their art journal after they have made any revisions.

Draw a large heart on your paper. In the center of your heart, place the most important person, place, or thing. Then, work your way out using specific words in each section. Verbalize each section as you’re placing it on your map (e.g., “My brother and I go to heritage camp in the summer. I’m going to write ‘Heritage Camp’ in my heart since I have so many memories of camp.”)

Tips: Take your time – possibly taking a break to give your long-term memory time to do its work. Do not worry too much about the illustrations, but do take care with the contents of your heart, filling your heart map with as much personal meaning as you can.

Encourage students to color in sections of their heart (e.g., they might want to color code it: purple for people, green for places, blue for things, yellow for ideas) once they’ve filled in all of the sections.

When a student runs out of ideas for his next story, he can re-visit his heart map to find an appropriate topic. The heart map has become the single best idea I’ve ever seen for keeping students from saying, “I don’t know what to write about.”