Mapping for Ideas


Writing Trait/Strategy:
Generating Ideas; prewriting strategies; techniques authors use to generate writing topics

Mentor Text Suggestions:
My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman
The Once Upon a Time Map Book by B.B. Hennessy
My Heart is a Magic House by Julie Jacobs (heart map)

I get a lot of mileage from this lesson. This activity helps students generate many possible writing topics. To introduce this strategy, I read aloud the picture book My Map Book by Sara Fanelli. I explain that mapping is an effective way for authors to explore a variety of topics. I show them the inside front cover of Ralph Fletcher’s Marshfield Dreams where he sketched his childhood neighborhood. The stories in this short memoir all take place in this neighborhood.


Heart Mapping

Have your students use their writer’s notebooks to do some mapping of their own. You might want to try heart mapping. This idea comes from Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard. Explain to students that writers speak from their hearts. They write about things they care deeply about. Ask students to look inside their hearts, find what really matters to them and then “map” their hearts. Questions to ask: What is in your heart? What has really affected you? What people are really important to you? What memories, secrets, fears, joys are in your heart?

Neighborhood Mapping

You may also want to try neighborhood mapping. The first time I took part in this activity as a writer, I was amazed at the number of stories and memories that came flooding back to me. Before trying this with your students, I encourage you to try it yourself first and take note of what happens in your mind as you draw. After you finish sketching, try doing some quick writes on the following topics:

  • What were your initial thoughts?
  • What was your favorite place in your neighborhood?
  • Who was the nicest person in your neighborhood?
  • Where did you go to be alone?
  • Were there any forbidden places in your neighborhood?
  • Describe some of the sounds in your neighborhood.
  • Describe some of the smells.
  • Was there a place where everyone seemed to gather?
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