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Increasing Student Engagement Through Heartbreak Mapping

Increasing Student Engagement Through Heartbreak Mapping is an online micro-course for practicing teachers who want to motivate students and increase student engagement in their classrooms. This course explores specific teaching strategies as well as project based learning including the concept of Genius Hour. The Heartbreak Mapping activity is designed for use with students in grades 4-12, and can be utilized in just about any subject. Further reading on topics covered and specific examples of use are provided within the course.

Low Student Engagement is a Modern Day Classroom Problem

Dwindling student engagement is top-of-mind for a lot of teachers these days. At every grade level, teachers wonder how they can keep their students motivated and engaged in their learning. How do you know which teaching strategies or student engagement strategies are the right ones to deploy in your classroom?

What Teaching Strategies Will Help Me Motivate My Students?

Project-Based Learning teaching strategies – like Genius Hour and Heartbreak Mapping – tap into student passions while helping educators find what really motivates them. This allows teachers to focus lessons around those interests, passions, and heartaches – increasing student engagement in their own learning.

Three Steps to Boost Student Engagement in Your Classroom.

This course outlines a three step process that uses a visual mapping technique to direct student learning and keep them focused on what matters to them. This heartbreak mapping technique motivates students by keeping them invested in their learning and boosting student engagement in your classroom.

Meet Your Instructor – Joy Kirr

Joy Kirr has been teaching for over 25 years and is currently teaching 7th grade English Language Arts in a suburb of Chicago. She is a National Board Certified teacher with expertise in Special Education and Reading. Joy has embraced student directed learning, as well as project based learning, and is happy to be identified as a “Genius Hour Evangelist”. You can follow Joy online on her blog – She has also published two instructional strategy books: Shift This (2017) and Word Shift (2019).


Meet Joy Kirr

Joy Kirr - a suburban public school teacher of 25 years and author of instructional strategy bestsellers "Shift This" and "Word Shift" - introduces herself and provides some insight into her professional background.

Our Student Engagement Problem

Joy details the problem with low student engagement in the classroom, reviewing the reasons why it may occur, and explores the possibility of building better learners by getting to know her students better.

Directed Student Learning as a Solution

Joy proposes using visual mapping techniques to help direct student learning and keep them focused on what matters. This heartbreak mapping technique helps keep students invested in their learning and boost their classroom engagement.

Heartbreak Mapping Process

An Introduction to Genius Hour

Joy provides an overview of a student directed learning strategy called Genius Hour and thinks about how to apply it in the socially distanced times of Covid-19.

Step One: Creating a Heart Map

Joy shares more information about Genius thinking and habitudes before asking the questions that define the first step of how to create a heartbreak map.

Step Two: Mapping the Heartbreak

Joy expands on the process of mapping heartbreak by exploring the concept of passion and asking one simple question to direct attention on what matters.

Step Three: Defining Action Steps

Joy asks a final question to focus on the action steps of the process providing purpose and hope to the student while increasing their classroom engagement.

Heartbreak Mapping Review

Joy asks you to reflect on what you have learnt from applying the process to yourself while reviewing the three simple steps of heartbreak mapping.

The Outcome

Joy reflects on what she has experienced from applying the heartbreak mapping technique in her own classroom using real-world student examples.

Supplementary Information

Implementation Tips

Joy shares her bounty of experience and provides some simple tips on implementing the heartbreak mapping technique effectively in your classroom.


Joy offers some modifications in how to deliver the heartbreak mapping technique to help increase student engagement in your classroom.


Joy concludes this course by sharing some insights from her experiences and encourages everybody to use passion in their classroom to drive student investment and engagement.

Additional Materials

Joy provides additional materials about genius hour, classroom habitudes, and heartbreak mapping for use in your classroom.

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