Reed Intermediate School students in Valerie Pagano-Hepburn and Georgia Smith's cluster were surrounded by hearts, stories, and friends and family members on Thursday, January 24, when a recently completed project was celebrated.
After meeting in a floor-level Professional Learning Community, Ms Pagano-Hepburn said the idea was formed to use "heart maps" to help students explore the art of memoir writing.
Ms Pagano-Hepburn said students chose things they are passionate about then added them to a heart, which was later framed.
Some of the completed hearts said words such as "friends," "seafood," "love of laughter," "flute," "family and God," "candy," and "Giants!" Some of the hearts had images, like a soccer ball and dogs, and others just shared words to describe the students' favorite things.
Creating the hearts, Ms Pagano-Hepburn said, helped the students to create memoir projects later by allowing them draw on what they had included in their heart maps.
When revising their writing projects, students needed to ask themselves if their writing included dialogue, action, if it hooks the reader, if it exploded with important moments, if it used active verbs, and more, according to a revising handout for the project.
The concept of heart maps comes from George Heard's Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School, and Ms Pagano-Hepburn said it was one of the books shared for the memoir writing project. Other books the students read before writing their memoirs were How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher and Marshfield Dreams, also by Mr Fletcher.
With the hearts finished and the students' completed writing projects revised, edited, and finalized, the idea was formed to give the framed heart maps to the students' families as a holiday gift.
The project was completed before the tragedy of 12/14, and, due to that day, the heart map celebration was postponed until January 24, when parents were invited to visit the students in their cluster to see the maps and hear the students read their memoir projects.
Groups of students and their visiting parents were situated across the cluster's two rooms for the celebration, and cookie hearts were offered along with iced tea as refreshments. One by one students read their memoir writings aloud for their groups to hear.
Ms Pagano-Hepburn said she has never included heart maps in her teaching method before, and found using them helpful for students. She even created a heart map of her own along with a story from her life to share with her students.
The students, Ms Pagano-Hepburn said, did an "awesome" job on both their heart maps and writing projects.
"I thought it was fun," said Bobby Elston, who was talking with his mother and younger brother after sharing his heart map and memoir project. "I liked creating my own heart."
Bobby said creating a heart map helped him reflect on something that is close to his heart. Once, eight years ago, Bobby said his "favorite thing in the world," a glass light-up gumball machine, fell on his little brother, hurting him. His brother had a scar briefly but was otherwise fine, and Bobby's favorite thing was broken.
Another student, Heidi Poarch said she thought the idea of looking back and reflecting on her past was "cool."
For Heidi's memoir, she said she wrote about a time when she and a friend were cleaning her mother's car when Heidi fell, skinning her knee.
"I learned that things don't have to be perfect," said Heidi.