09 10 11 12
Blogging tips

July 2, 2013

Author, Jack Gantos' Neighborhood Map

I originally started this as a Collaboration Cuites Must Read Mentor Text post, then I decided it fit better into Jivey's Workshop Wednesday linky. Then I went back and reread the July topic for Workshop Wednesday,   it doesn't fit exactly, but I am justifying it, because you would need to prep your map before your students arrive. Close enough? 

I'm also posting it a day early, so I can host my PMA Wednesday linky party tomorrow. 

Last week, I was reading blogs and saw someone had read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos. It reminded me about when Jack Gantos visited my former school. My takeaway from his talk was his neighborhood map. He shared a slide of his map and spoke about how he got writing ideas from his map. Here is a link to his page of secret tips for writing.

Jack Gantos (at another school) speaking about his map.

Jack Gantos' Neighborhood Map

I took this idea back to my classroom and had my students create their neighborhood maps. I made one, too. [Management Note: The first time I did this, we drew our maps into our journals. Some maps ended up being 3 journal pages. I think it is much easier to draw them on copy paper or maybe even graph paper, then glue them into the journal. Then, they will take up just one page and can be unfolded.]

If you use Lucy Calkins, I do this as part of Launching the Writing Workshop: Session 2: Generating More Writing. I would suggest starting it in class, but then sending it home to finish. When they come back, glue or tape it into your writing journal. Students can create a list of ideas to write about from the map. Later, in the year, they can turn back to their map for inspiration, when they are staring at a blank page wondering what to write about. 

I, also, model making a list of writing ideas using my map.
1. My bike accident in front of the Poole's house.
2. The time little Jimmy painted a swastika on our house, but did it backwards. We don't know why he did it
     or why he chose a swastika. Let's just say he was a little juvenile delinquent. (Note: Name changed to
     protect his true identity.)
3. Playing Chinese jump rope with the girls next door.
4. Visiting the new kittens across the street.
5. The "No-no" house. Every neighborhood has one. Ours had a lady that didn't like kids. Too bad she moved onto a street full of kids. We knew NOT to trick-or-treat at her house.
6. Jumping on the trampoline and petting the bunnies at the house at the end of the street.
7. Riding our bikes to the neighborhood park (6 blocks from home) and going in the back entrance.
8. The time the house 2 blocks away burned down.

Later on, I use ideas from the list and turn them into stories.

Frequently Asked Questions: You will most likely have to answer if you do this activity.
1.) Which neighborhood should I draw? I live with my mom, but I spend weekends with my dad. OR I just moved here. I don't know anyone in my neighborhood.

My answer: Draw what you know. [This will frustrate some students, but it requires them to think and make their own decision.]

2.) What should I draw? Nothing ever happens in my neighborhood.

My answer: Sit and think. [Again, this answer will frustrate some of your students. However, it sends the message that you are not getting out of this assignment.]

3.) Will you draw it for me? I'm not good at drawing.

My answer: No! I offer them a ruler to do the lines of the street. This assignment is not for a grade. It is meant to be inspirational.

Happy reading and writing! Check back next week, and I will show you how I set my journals up last year!


  1. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing. I could even use this with my bigger guys. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

    1. I did this when I was in 4th grade. I won't get to do it this year. I'll be making Math and Science journals, instead of Reading and Writing journals.

      The kids love doing them.

  2. I love the map idea!!! I saw a presenter at a staff development talk about doing this as well. Soooo doing it next year!
    Thanks for linking up!
    ideas by jivey
    Follow me on Facebook!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing the map idea. I can see that many ideas would from this for the kids...

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Interesting Read! Thanks for sharing! I will have to give it a try!

    (I deleted my last post because I was trying out how to add my link! I'm not sure if I succeeded this time or not!)


  6. I love the map idea! Will definitely have to try that out.
    Tropical Teacher