Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Georgia Heard: Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing

by Mary Howard


On October 20, 2016, #G2Great was delighted to welcome guest host Georgia Heard. Georgia is the author of the incredible new book from Heinemann, Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic WritingWithin moments of announcing Georgia would be our guest host, an enthusiastic hum spread across Twitter and grew to a fever pitch throughout the chat.

Every once in a while a book comes along that emanates JOY. “Joy” is custom made for Heart Maps where Georgia takes us on a joyful ‘heart journey’ with student-centered maps in hand to celebrate the inner writer within each child. Page after glorious page is filled with the perfect blend of carefully crafted advice from the heart and illustrated heart maps that bring her sage advice to life. Twenty Heart Map templates in Georgia’s book have already captivated writers by giving their ideas a ‘heart home.’

During the chat, Georgia posed two questions that should give us all pause for thought.  These questions should also remind us why we need Heart Maps in schools everywhere:



Georgia’s questions reflect the spirit of Heart Maps as a flexible process designed to awaken writers’ hearts from the inside out. And so in celebration of our joyful journey with Georgia as our #G2Great guide, I reflect back on our chat through her eyes with six HEART SIGNPOSTS – from her heart to ours!


Writing from the Heart begins with MODELS

Heart Maps allow us to set the stage for student writing as we show children how to unleash their hopes, dreams and wishes from heart to paper. With an array of Heart Maps at our fingertips, we encourage them to use the one that makes most sense as we offer a powerful reflection tool they can use again and again.


Writing from the Heart is fueled by PASSION

Heart Maps celebrate the amazing stories children brings to the learning table. We honor our writers by helping them breathe new life into those stories using words and images lovingly placed on a Heart map of their choice. Passion helps them rediscover stories and relive them on the wings of writing.


Writing from the Heart extends an INVITATION

Heart maps invite children to capture whatever story they want to tell with room to envision what is possible. We do this by creating a visible forum to record thinking, unfettered by mechanics that thwart their efforts so thinking will become a springboard along a wonderful new path to writing.


Writing from the Heart inspires CURIOSITY

Heart Maps allow children to linger a bit longer in their own thinking and use this as a scaffold to writing. We are inspired by our curiosity about student ideas waiting to be awakened which in turn inspires theirs. It is this shared sense of curiosity that leads us on an exciting combined expedition.


Writing from the Heart celebrates EXPLORATION

Heart Maps give students time to explore matters of the heart, joyfully sifting through the ‘experiences that beg to be written’. We believe deeply that life experiences lead to profound writing if we are willing to take the time to let those life experiences blossom into view in personally relevant and meaningful ways.


Writing from the Heart beckons COLLABORATION

Heart Maps give children a visible tool they can hold in their hands. This concrete reference can then be shared with others as they work together to explore the words and images on their hearts collectively. Collaborative dialogue is a powerful way to transform ideas from heart map to heart writing.


Georgia’s words remind us that we must make time for what matters – and writing from the heart matters deeply. Since we started with Georgia’s question, let’s end with a question and a hope that sums up her message…


We respond to Georgia’s question by creating an atmosphere where kids will “ache with caring” and use Heart Maps to inspire children everywhere. We are so grateful for Georgia’s gift of a “metaphoric heart map as a means to discover stories” and we accept her challenge to awaken writers “most secret, true selves” while in the process awakening our most secret, true personal and professional hearts!


Georgia’s hope is answered as teachers across the world use Heart Maps to give writers a home for their thoughts and dreams as we release the writer that has always resided inside. May Georgia’s images in Heart Maps and #G2Great examples below inspire you as you continue your own joyful heart journey in the company of children.

In Heart Maps Georgia writes, “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).

And so we will Georgia. And so we will!


Bathe your heart in these wonderful images of Heart Maps Georgia posted during our #G2Great chat

Use these links below to get to know Georgia


Heart Maps Facebook Page


Amy Ludwig Vanderwater Heart Maps Post

Heart Maps Book

Two Writing Teachers Heart Maps Review

More books by Georgia Heard

Heinemann Post on #G2Great Chat

Turning Our Schools Around: Moving from Basals to Books

by Amy Brennan


On October 13, 2016 #G2Great welcomed guest Dr. Michael Grimaldi to inspire our conversation around making a critical shift in literacy in our schools.  We were inspired to have this principal join us as we watched him lead his school in the process of moving from basals to books.  Turning a school around is no easy task.  Moving a school from basals to books requires vision, passion, and support for teachers.


When you have a clear vision and can articulate it to others – they want to follow.  When you can explain the why behind your vision others will want to follow.  Articulating the vision of providing our students with authentic literature and real world reading experiences is the beginning of the change process.  Careful and intentional starts like beginning with read-aloud and building classroom libraries allows time to build the energy and opportunity for all stakeholders to watch the excitement of reading begin to build throughout a school.  As teachers, administrators, parents and students begin to see and feel this energy the mental image for the vision begins to formulate in their thinking, creating a shared vision for what could be.

Dr. Michael Grimaldi led his school in creating not only energy and excitement around the vision, but putting the vision into action.   

When you read the tweets below it is clear that Michael has a vision and has shared that vision with all stakeholders in his school.  



People follow you and your vision when they see and believe in your passion.  Once that vision is shared, the energy that is generated by the passion is contagious.  The best part of that is watching kids get excited and passionate about literacy.  Dr. Grimaldi’s energy is evidence of his passion.  He organized efforts with Book Fairies to donate books to his school.  He brought together teachers, staff developers and volunteers for books and pizza, where many hands sharing the vision organized books to be circulated into classroom libraries and directly into students’ hands for reading.  

Those who connect with him on Twitter, Voxer or in-person are sure to see evidence of that passion he has for leading school wide reform that will ensure that all students have access to high quality books and literacy experiences.  



With change and growth comes an uncomfortable feeling that signals that we are on the edge of something great. Unfortunately, that uncomfortable feeling, which can be coupled with a multitude of other demands, can leave educators feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.  Without support this can spread like virus throughout a school system. Visionary leaders with passion know that when educators reach that uncomfortable place they need support more than ever because they recognize that just beyond that uncomfortable stretch is growth.  To sustain this over the long term (because change takes time of course) the support needs to be ongoing.  Setting up collaborative structures where teachers can share in the thinking and learning while they support each other and receive positive support from administrators is critical if change is to begin and take hold.

Teacher resiliency is an important attribute that visionary leaders nurture.  Developing resiliency is critical to surviving and thriving as educators.  Leaders who recognize this and foster this in their educators build healthy learning organizations that continually learn and grow.  Resiliency allows teachers to build capacity over time.  In making the shift from basals to books teachers are building capacity throughout the shift.  Teachers are thinking, growing and learning and this directly correlates to shifts in our students thinking, growing and learning.  When we as educators learn, our students learn.

Leaders like Dr. Michael Grimaldi understand the importance of supporting teachers in way that are resourceful.  Encouraging teachers to share with each other and be resourceful while making space for these practices within the school is an important piece for leaders to plan for.  Being resourceful requires thinking and creativity, skills that we support in the learning process.  Being resourceful requires problem-solving skills, something that was named as a top 21st-century skill for our students.  Receiving resources does not translate into an increase in student learning, however being resourceful can.  Educators who are resourceful model the skills of problem-solving through their actions, these are valuable to students as they prepare for college and careers.  



Sharing your vision and building this into a shared vision is best developed through sharing your passions as you articulate your vision while supporting teachers in the process of change.  Any schoolwide efforts for change and improvement require leadership that has all three ideas that Dr. Michael Grimaldi shares with educators vision, passion, and support.  Join #G2Great and Dr. Michael Grimaldi as we act as “trailblazers” modeling our VISON and PASSION while we SUPPORT fellow educators in building resiliency that will STRETCH and GROW and we build better schools?  

Getting to Know Dr. Michael Grimaldi



Implementing Reading Workshop: Get more books:

Reading Workshop Here We Come

Writing Workshop – A New Approach

Interactive Read Aloud grade 4

Classroom Management with Heart Facilitating Intrinsic Motivation

By Jenn Hayhurst


On October 6, 2016, #G2Great began an important conversation about classroom management; specifically,  classroom management with a heart. What does this mean?  Teachers who embrace classroom management with a heart believe that the classroom ought to be a place that keeps the whole student at the center of all decision making in an effort to support growth in all its forms. Intellectual, social, and emotional growth happens when students have a sense of identity and are part of a caring community .  

However many teachers are being mandated to implement school-wide initiatives such as: Class Dojo, and Clip Up/Down systems. Often times, these pose unintentional consequences. We begin to find solutions when we open our whole selves up to what is unfolding before our eyes. When we truly see our students for who they are and we can begin to adjust our approach this is what it means to teach with an open heart.

OPEN YOUR HEART  to Relationships and Respect

Positive relationships are built on a foundation of mutual  respect. Forging meaningful relationships with students begins when we open our hearts to what our students value.

OPEN YOUR HEART to Intrinsic Motivation:

Students who believe their work in the classroom matters are students who have a sense of agency. Teachers who are flexible in their approach understand that learning is an invitation.  We cannot foist learning upon students, but rather we draw it out. When we open our hearts to intrinsic motivation we value  what and how a student thinks and feels.  

OPEN YOUR HEART to an Authentic Vision:

Creating the kind of classroom that reflects who you are as a teacher requires personal vision.  Promoting responsibility, kindness, and empathy happen when we model those traits for our students. Classroom rules become relevant when our actions support our words. Our behaviors encourage students to grow into our high expectations.

OPEN YOUR HEART to Creating Community:

A student’s world grows incrementally over time. When they enter school their worlds open up a little wider. What kind of classroom community will you create? Let’s make a promise to nurture and inspire students so they will take risks and grow into  self confident learners.  Responsive teachers build communities that are consistent, caring, and maintain high expectations for students and teachers alike.

Teaching with heart is not about knowing a quick catch phrase or following a lock step sequence of steps to “deal with” unwanted behaviors. It’s about being present in the moment and responding to student needs keeping dignity and respect at the forefront.  It’s about being flexible and forgiving with students as well as with yourself.  


We are so fortunate to have a robust PLN that can keep us informed and help us to think deeply about this topic. Here are some great resources so we can read more widely and keep the conversation going:

Pernille Ripp: Let’s Discuss Class Dojo for a Moment: Pernille Ripp

Kristi Mraz: Some Thoughts on Clip Charts

Kimberly Davis: A Mountain of Motivation:

Rita Platt: Positive Phone Calls to Parents is Like Money in the Bank!

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Justin Dolci Padlet

Column by Wendy Thomas Russell Hey teachers, please stop using behavior charts. Here’s why


Russ Walsh: A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century

by Mary C. Howard


On September 29, 2016, #G2Great was fortunate to welcome guest host Russ Walsh, author of the incredible new book, A Parents Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century. Russ’ knowledge and passion for teaching and learning preceded him, so we weren’t surprised when he quickly enrolled as an honorary member of the #G2Great educational joy club.


I was a Russ Walsh devotee minutes after happening on his amazing blog, Russ on Reading. Russ lives the words on his front page: Discussing sound literacy instruction, supporting teachers and defending public education. He courageously tackles tough topics sure to elicit ripples of discomfort like 9/19/16; 7/26/16; 3/25/16; 3/9/15; 2/3/14; 9/18/13 to mention a few. My head nods in enthusiastic agreement with every post followed by audible cheers and a healthy dose of Russ gratitude.

In his remarkable book, Russ refers to immutable principles for public education in A Bill of Rights for students. After an inspirational walk down twitter memory lane, I realized that our ability to achieve Russ’ Bill of Rights is dependent upon dedicated teachers who bring his words to life in the trenches by transforming beliefs into actions.

And so I propose immutable principles highlighted in A Bill of Professional Responsibility for teachers that will make those rights a reality. #G2Great tweets from Russ and friends inspired seven principles that ask us to look inward to our own practices as we put those beliefs into action. With this introspective spirit in mind, I begin each principle with the words, “I WILL…”



I WILL create an environment that beckons each child to the learning experience

Our first order of business is to create a warm, nurturing learning environment that is palpable each day our students walk into our rooms. This precursor to learning sets the stage for keeping students at the center of our work. Caring learning spaces demonstrate that we view school as an extension of students’ lives and that we are dedicated to creating a heart home where parents entrust their child into our care each day. As we build this bridge from home to school, we are cognizant that school may well be the only safe haven for some students.



I WILL celebrate the uniqueness each child brings to the learning table

This nurturing environment supports our instructional efforts on a day-to-day basis. We welcome the children who walk through our doors and are determined to design experiences that will enrich the learning lives of those children. We know that each child is unique so we create flexible opportunities with specific learners in mind. We view the learning process as a journey and recognize that it is often a messy process of risk taking. We demonstrate in our words and actions that the bumpy road is as important as the final destination and celebrate each step along the way.



I WILL bring my best self to every learning day and ensure high success for all

We know that we can only give children the classrooms they deserve when we see our own professional learning as high priority. We embrace our role as both teacher and learner and seek to understand through the research that will guide us on an exploratory quest leading to success for every child. We reject one-size-fits-all scripts, opting instead for instructional experiences that take the child into account. We trust our growing knowledge of best practices more than publishers because we know that professional decision-making is central to the success of those practices.



I WILL use day-to-day assessments and on the spot interactions to know each child

We know that the high quality flexible instruction we are committed to will only be possible if we truly know students at that specific instructional moment in time. We use our knowledge of students to continuously craft and adjust our learning goals over time. We refuse to define children as a score or number, rather using daily formative assessment to open a window on children as learners. We are resolute in our commitment to communicate in positive ways with parents and use our understandings to support each child’s ongoing pathway to learning.



I WILL offer a wide range of opportunities designed to promote meaning-making

We ensure that there is a variety of instructional settings and experiences in place to create a learning day designed to grow our learners. We know that students need differentiated targeted support so we make room in each day for experiences that will intensify learning. We ground these experiences in authentic purposes, making sure that word work will not overshadow our higher purpose of reading as a meaningful pursuit. We honor each of our readers as we offer inviting books and engaging instructional experiences with comprehension always in our sights.



I WILL coordinate my efforts with others in a collaborative spirit of excellence

We believe that coordination of efforts is a critical factor in achieving success. We build in regular opportunities for thoughtful dialogue to engage in deeper discussions that explore a thoughtfully responsive way to meet students’ needs. Our collaborations energize us because they are driven by our curiosity about children and our determination to collectively support their success. We know that our strength resides in merging our efforts so we are willing to work side-by-side to that end. We continuously work to achieve instructional excellence together because we know that it can quickly spread across an entire school building.



I WILL create a classroom where joyful reading is a gift we give every day

Words like joy, love of reading and motivation came up time and time again during our #G2Great chat. Making time for independent reading and read-aloud in every day with a focus on intrinsic motivation was a common theme. There were countless tweets about reading for the sake of reading with books as the heart and soul of those events. The passion for these joyful experiences was high – and the energy could be felt across the #G2Great Twittersphere.

#G2Great is grateful for the honor of spending an hour soaking in Russ’ wisdom and dedication to public education and I am particularly grateful to him for inspiring this blog post. His wonderful new book opens a door from school to home and we happily walked through those doors with our own curiosity about teaching and learning leading the way. We know that our work is never done and that the best way to do it is surrounded by curious others.

There is no question in my mind that teachers are and always have been our greatest hope for the future. What we choose to do on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day, and year-to-year basis will always be the difference in our success and ultimately students’. We can say what we believe children deserve but the truth is that until we dig our heels in and do the hard work, those words will remain but an empty promise. In the end, it is only when our actions mirror our beliefs that we can truly demonstrate our deep commitment to children. Thank you for reminding us that dedicated and knowledgeable teachers play the most powerful role of all, Russ!screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-1-57-52-pm

Learn More About Russ Walsh Here

Russ’s Book: A Parent’s Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century

Book: Youtube interview at Garn Press

Book Group Discussion Guide

FaceBook Page


Twitter @ruswalsh