June 4, 2012

Hello 4th grade teachers (and Heidi),

I have sent the PowerPoint we discussed to Pat and Heidi via sendbigfiles.com. You will receive an email with instructions on how to download it. It should be very simple. The rest of this email contains information that will be important for the person who will be operating the computer (a Mac) from which the file will be projected. Please be sure to read it in advance and do a little practicing with it because I'm not going to have you simply click through the slides. I'll divide my comments into sections.

1) Do not mirror displays. This has to do with what happens when the computer is connected to the projector. The image projected should not be identical to what is on the computer display. I want the computer display to show the "presenter view" (formerly called "presenter tools," I think) while the screen will show only the slide being projected. This will automatically happen if you turn off the "mirror displays" option. (It's possible that it is already turned off.) Here's how you do it, if you don't already know:

After connecting the projector to the computer, with everything up and running, go to System Preferences, select "Displays," then choose the tab for "Arrangement." In the lower left corner of the screen there should be a checkbox next to the words "Mirror Displays." Uncheck that box and wait a few seconds for the computer to do whatever it needs to do (screen may go blank for a little while). Usually, once you've done that, you don't have to do it again if you're using the same projector and computer.

2) Use Presenter View All the special instructions I'll be giving are dependent on the computer showing the "Presenter View" (thus enabling the operator to perform operations otherwise not available). The students will see only the slide being projected, not the Presenter View screen. This should automatically happen as soon as you start running a PP slide show if the computer is connected to a projector and "mirror displays" is unchecked. Please confirm that this is the case.

NOTE: Even when the computer is not connected to a projector, it is possible to see and work in the Presenter View mode. Here's how: with a Power Point file open in either "Normal" mode (for editing) or "Slide Sorter" mode (thumbnails) go to the Slide Show menu at the top and select Presenter View. This will enable you to practice what I'm going to write below without having to connect to a projector. (Again, Presenter View should start up automatically as soon as you start running a slide show if you're connected to a projector, provided you've turned off mirroring.)

2) Skip around, showing slides in non-consecutive order You should be able to select any slide if you're in Presenter View. If you're on Slide #2 and you want to go to Slide #10, that should be easy to do without showing any of the slides in between. In the latest version of Power Point for Mac (2011), the gallery of slides runs across the bottom of the screen, but it disappears if you move your cursor away, so you might have to put your cursor on the bottom of the screen to get it to reappear. And you might have to use the scroll bar to find a slide that is beyond the edge of the viewing area.

3) Practice with slides that have animation. I have a few slides in the PP file that are animated. The most important one is #6. Please open that slide in Presenter View (see NOTE above). Start clicking through the sequence, using the space bar or forward arrow. (The back arrow should take you back a step.) Going forward from the top on slide #6, you should get something that looks like this:
blank (blue) screen
"How the Professor Counts"
then the next click should put "=10 X 10" after the "100"
then "=10 to the 2nd power" (but written with an exponent, which I can't do on this wiki (or don't know how!))
and so forth.
(When you click through the animation after 1,000 appears, it should involve an erasure of the number 100 and replacement of it with 10 X 10.)

Please make surre all of that works the way I am describing. When we do this with the students, I will make a hand motion, using a remote control unit that I will snap forward in front of the camera, and you should be able to see me do that. But if that doesn't work, I'll just say, "next...next."

One additional complication. There is one point where I will have you part-way through that slide and then I will have you skip to another slide (#7). This should be easy to do. Go partway through the animations of slide #6 (in the presentation it will be after 10,000 but you don't have to worry about when to do it because I'll tell you when we get there). Then I will want you, when I say so, to skip to slide #7. You do that using the slide gallery and clicking on the thumbnail of #7. Then we will go back to the animated slide and it should pick up where we left off in the animation sequence.

Can you please practice what I'm describing and make sure everything is working as it should?

I guess I want to ask something else: have you found the resolution of my image on your TV to be adequate to see what I'll be holding up and showing to the students (bags of popcorn that get ten times bigger each time)? My view of your students (and teachers, etc.) is so highly pixellated that I can't say I would be able to tell that there's a bag of popcorn on the screen. I'm hoping you can see me better than I can see you!

Looking forward to seeing you on Friday as 12:30 Eastern.


May 30,

Hi Marissa and Julie,

I look forward to speaking to your students tomorrow (Thurs.). I am hoping you'll have a little time before our meeting to do two things with them:

1) Have them read the long bio on my website, davidschwartz.com. It answers some of their questions about me. Maybe they will then think of others.

2) Give them an overview of many or most (or all!) of my books, even briefly. Maybe Heidi can help. Many of them seem to think my books are limited to poetry or to animals and nature. They may not have seen any of my books other than the In the Wild? books.

I used to be a prof. journalist. I interviewed people all the time. One of the most important lessons was that you can't be rigid in your questioning. As soon as you learn something that answers a question you were going to ask, you must adapt your question to the new knowledge you now have. You change the question! This often happens on the fly. During the interview, the person may say something that answers a question I was planning to ask next. I don't just drop the question but if I possibly can, I think of a new question that takes into account the new information I now have. Chances are, it will be a better question and it will get me to a deeper place.

So, if you can spend the time tomorrow, prior to our session, just showing them my other books (or some of them, especially the math books, which they don't seem to know about) and if you can get them a little more familiar with who I am from the website, then they can adapt their questions. I won't see the new questions in advance but that's OK. So, let's suppose I call on Robbie, who said "why do you write (about) poetry and not any other type of writing?" and he now knows that I have written only three books that contain poetry out of fifty books, he might want to adapt his question. I won't tell him what to ask but it could be something like, "How come, after writing over 45 books that had absolutely no poetry, you decided to write three books that feature poems?" [ASIDE: I am a literal, left-brained person and when I read Robbie's question "Why do you write about poetry..." at first I took it to mean that he thinks I write about poetry, as a critic would do. The answer would be, "I have never written about poetry." I assume that he meant to ask "Why do I write poetry?" and my question to him would be why he used the word "about." Please ask him if he really meant to include the word "about" and why he used it. Students should know that a simple word in the wrong place can change the meaning of a question or a statement. In fact, a simple comma in the wrong place can change everything. You may be familiar with the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves which is about punctuation. (There is a young reader edition.) Your students would enjoy it. (With the comma, it's about a burglar; without the comma, it's about a panda.)

I have to say (pet peeve time) that one of the things I often see in schools, which tells me that the teachers often do not give much thought to the question-and-answer process, is students sticking with previously formed questions even if they have already been addressed, sometimes quite thoroughly. I think it's a great learning skill and helpful in developing a flexible mind, to not only think of good questions (i.e., not obvious or boring questions irrelevant to anything of import) but to think on your feet and adapt your questions on the spot.

Another thing is follow-up questions. After I answer a student's question, he/she should immediately think about what it is they now want to know -- a new question that my answer sparked in their mind. The ideal scenario is not QA QA QA. It's QAQA QAQAQA QAQQQA, etc.

So... see if you can do anything with my comments in the scant time you have between the start of school and our session at 12:30.


On May 30, 2012, at 9:31 AM, Marissa Lembersky wrote:

Hi David,

My students have had the opportunity to read through your book and write down questions for you...

Nicholas I:

-Where do you go or what do you feel when you write?

-Is there anything I can do to improve my writing?


-Why do you write about poetry and not any other type of writing?

-What is your favorite poetry book you wrote?


-What inspired you to write?

-Why did you choose to write about nature and animals?


-Who inspired you to start writing poetry? (Who is your favorite author other than yourself?)

-Why did you pick the path of poetry?

-What was your first poem?


-What inspires you to write about animals?

-At what age did you start writing poems?


-Why did you choose to write about animals and nature?

-What inspired you to start writing?

-What is your favorite poem you've written?


-What inspired you to write about nature?

-Why did you become a writer?


-What inspired you to write about animals and nature?


-Where do you write most of your books?

-WHy do you like to write about animals?


-What inspires you to write about animals

-What age did you get interested in poems?


-What inspired you to write?

-Do you like I-spy books?

Nick C:

-What inspired you to write about wild life and nature?

-Do you like animals? Why?


-What inspires you to write?

-What thing do you think about when you are writing?


-What inspired you to write about nature?

-Are you the one taking the pictures?


-How do you get your information?

-Where do you write?

-How do you get your best ideas?

-What is your favorite topic to write about?


-Where do you write?

-How do you retrieve information?

-When you were a child had you always wanted to be some sort of writer?


-What inspired your writing?

-Where do you write most of your poems?

-How do you get our facts?

-When you were younger, was it your dream to be a writer?


-Was it hard to use fact, not opinion to write?

-What made you want to write about camo animals?


-Did you want to be an another when you were younger?

-What is your inspiration?

-Why do you like to write about nature?


-How do you get your best ideas?

-How do you get your information to write poetry?


-I notice you write a lot of nature poems, how does it inspire you to write?

-Are nature image poem ideas endless?


-Where do you get your inspiration for all of your poems?

-About how long does it take for you to publish a poem book?

As you can see some of them are repetitive, but I wanted to make sure you had enough time to read over them and choose the ones you felt would be most beneficial for them. Please feel free to take the discussion into any direction you'd like. The students and I are looking forward to conferencing with you!



May 26

Hello, Marissa and Julie,

I am sending a PP presentation to Marissa via sendbigfiles.com. You will receive instructions on how to download it. It should work fine. The important thing is that you put it in a viewing mode "normal view," I think it's called that lets you read the notes I wrote for most of the slides. (If you are using a Mac and you project the slides, the computer should put your own display in "presenter tools" mode, which will also include the notes. But whether you're projecting or not, and whether you're on a Mac or a PC, you should be able to read my notes in normal mode.) It is in the notes that I made my comments, mostly about rhyming patterns and meter.

But here is what's even more important, I think. I am a non-fiction author of books mostly about science and math. In these three books, I dabbled in poetry (they were my first published poems). I think it's great that your students are doing a unit in poetry but I do not want to lose sight of the science and the non-fiction writing. Please read what I wrote on May 24th (my first post that day --"Hello everyone!") and also think about how your students can use what they learned in your habitats unit, and what they can find from research (using their best research skills -- more than copy and paste from the internet) to get the content that they will use in their poems. Here is a link to an INK blog post I wrote about research in 2009. It may be of interest:

OK, I'm signing off now and I guess I'll look for questions from your kids some time before Thursday.

Have a great weekend (or I hope you had a great weekend, depending on when you read this),


May 26

First, Hi Catherine, Yes, thanks for pointing me to the "styles" button. I had thought it should say "fonts" so my mind wasn't open -- despite what I often tell the children: "keep your eyes open, your ears open and your mind open." We'll be in touch next week.


May 25

Hello David!

I was so sorry to miss our first Skype session on Tuesday, but I'm glad that you and Pat got a chance to connect. I'm looking forward to perusing the PowerPoint slides that you sent, thank you for that! We'll touch base early next week after Emily and I have gotten a chance to look at the slides and discuss with Pat what we might want to do.

By the way, did you find the font button? On my screen, it's a button with a "T" with an artist's palette behind it in the upper left-hand corner. :)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!


May 24 (my second post of the day!)

Dear Pat, Catherine and Emily,

I am (as I write this) in the process of sending four Power Point files to Pat (and she will forward to Catherine and Emily) through sendbigfiles.com. It takes a while to upload them (upload speeds are about a tenth of download speeds so it won't take very long on your end) and the files have to be uploaded separately, so if you happen to be checking right now and there is only a notice for one or two, just wait and the fourth one will eventually arrive. I will probably do other things while they are uploading and then I'll get back to the next upload, perhaps with lag time in between.

I will just say a few general things about them. I use these PowerPoint slide shows (and others) in my conference appearances, where I speak to teachers about how to use my books. Of course, people attending have the advantage of my commentary as they watch the slides, and you are not getting that. But to do that would take hours. So I am going to just ask you to look at them and not worry too much about what is going on. If you see something especially intriguing, you can ask me in our next session. A lot (not all) of what's in these slide shows is student work, and I think that's what will be of the most interest to you. BTW, you will see lots of repeats -- there are some slides used in more than one show. Here is a bit of an overview:

"Wondering" is my slide show about the wonders of the natural world, and how to find them in (among other places) books. You might find some of the animal pictures and numerical facts at the beginning (be sure to read my notes on those, but there aren't notes for most slides) to be interesting and it might spark an idea for something you could do, but most of the rest of the presentation might not be of such interest, or be repetitive from the other two.

"Million Show for int grades" is a collection of many activities, projects, letters, etc., related to my "million" books. Have a look to see if anything looks interesting

"Kathy Reed's IYM Challenges" is one of my favorites. Kathy was a 2nd/3rd grade teacher (now retired) in Oregon who did some marvelous projects with my books. (In some cases it's hard to believe she was teaching 2nd and 3rd graders.) I met her when I saw she was giving a presentation on my books at an NCTM conference where I was also speaking. Anyway this entire slide show is from one assignement she gave, a very open ended assignment as you'll see. Some of the results are wonderful and my favorites are where the students tried to disprove things I wrote (in one case with success). Kathy also has a wonderful rubric for assessment (S = student; T = teacher; P = parent or peer -- she said she does it both way).

"Challenges to an Author" includes other efforts at proving the author wrong (not repeating the ones above), drawing on a number of my books, as well as other student endeavors that didn't necessarily challenge me. I think some of these are just wonderful. One comes from the same Kathy Reed (different year, I think).

OK, let me know what you think. Perhaps we shoudl schedule another David with the teachers session after you've spent some time with these. Oh, I'll also attach a document of possible interest. You might want to download The Magic of a Million Activity Book from my website but frankly, once Scholastic got hold of it, I don't think it was very creative. They cut out all the activities I liked best -- i.e., the ones that inspired creativity -- and kept those that were carefully prescribed. "Here's what you want to do and here's how to get there." The opposite of creativity. (Hey, my font changed and I don't see a way to change it back. Anyone know? There doesn't seem to be a font icon on the toolbar.)


May 24,

Hello, everyone!

I am going to write some comments in response to my session with the 3rd graders on Tuesday, but I actually think they could be useful for teachers of any grade (well, 3rd and up) wrt students writing non-fiction (often known as "reports" -- or at least that's what they were called when I was in school; is there a new way the student writing is described nowadays? please educate me). The first part is a single paragraph about math connections, which also can apply to anyone but specifically it's addressed to the 3rd grades using my book Where In the Wild? Since 5th graders are also using that book (and sequels), I hope they will also look for math connections.

OK, here goes:

I was disappointed that so much of our time at the first 3rd grade Skype session was taken up by technical difficulties but we have to work with the technology we have (and hope for better next year!), so I’d like to use the wiki to discuss a few things I didn’t have a chance to say to everyone on Tuesday.

First, you may recall that I showed a graph based on my book Where In the Wild? I can send (by email) a copy if anyone wants to review it. The graph showed the number of legs the different animals had, from 0 to 8. I am really hoping that the Bogert 3rd grade will find some math connection with the In the Wild books. It could be a graph but it doesn’t have to. Read the non-fiction prose sections and think about how math could be used to better appreciate and understand the animals or the environment in which they live. You might want to do some further research. For example, in my book, I tell you how fast a coyote runs. How does that compare with other members of the dog family, including the fastest domestic dogs? Or other mammals? Or other animals in general (which could include those that fly or swim)? You could collect some data and find an appropriate way to display it. Years ago, I saw and loved a book (probably out of print but possibly found in a local library) called Comparisons. If you can get it, do. The coyote's speed is just one example of a fact in my book that can be extended and better understood with a mathematical approach, and I encourage students to find their own.

Now, about writing non-fiction. I'm going to give a title to this section of my diatribe:


What I see as the problem with most student “reports” is that they take a bunch of dry facts from a dry textbook or encyclopedia or website and just spit them back out. The result is... surprise! ... boring. So what does a professional author do to create a work that is not only informative but interesting? Here’s what I do

First I figure out what my subject is. My subject is not animals, or even a particular kind of animal – say, a moth. If I were to write about moths without any further narrowing of the topic, the amount of material would be overwhelming. Even if I picked one species of moth, it would still be way too broad. I need to home in (did you know the phrase is "home in," not "hone in," as many people say?) on one thing about the moth. In the case of my book, camouflage was the overall topic, so I knew I was going to write about something related to a moth's camouflage. (I would stick with one kind of moth. One is enough.) Does that mean I iwould gnore everything else there is to know about the moth? Hardly. To understand and describe something about the moth's camouflage, I might need to know a lot of other facts about a moth’s life history or anatomy or population status or all of the above and more. So the research has to be more far –reaching than just camouflage. I had to become a mini-expert in moths, but the goal would not be to simply churn out a bunch of unrelated, dry facts about moths.

Here is the critical part, the part I'd love for you to communicate with your students. Once I have a finely tuned topic, I go about looking for just one really interesting fact about the moth’s camouflage. One thing that, when I learn it, makes makes me say “Wow!” Or “Cool!” Or whatever kids say these days. (Do tell me, so I will be able to use it!) It might take a long time to identify this one interesting thing. I spend a lot of time just browsing through books or surfing the web looking for interesting facts that I can use as the focus of my piece. That's what I did with moths. I read a lot, and there were quite a few fascinating things to lean about moths, but I had to ind one that related to camouflage. (Some of the other information might prove useful, so I didn't ignore it, but I kept pursuing the one great fact or set of facts that spoke to me.) And I knew I had found it when I read how, several hundred years ago in Europe, moths changed their color after factories appeared. This period of history was known as the Industrial Revolution. It marked a huge change in society and economy and how people lived their daily lives, and it also marked a huge change for moths because pollution from the new factories' smokestacks discolored the tree trunk upon which moths rested during the daylight hours. Prior to the appearance of factories, the light-colored moths had been nicely camouflaged when they slept during the day on trees with light-colored bark, but when coal dust from factory smokestacks settled on trees and caused them to turn a dark shade of gray or even black, the light-colored moths were easily seen by birds. No more moths! Except for a few darker ones that survived and passed their genes (for darker colors) on to the next generation. Through many moth generations, their color gradually got darker and darker. (The process is evolution by natural selection -- see my book Q Is for Quark under the letter "N.") By becoming dark-colored, moths could remain camouflaged and therefore gained protection from being easily seen (and eaten) by birds. I thought that was a really great connection between biology and human history. Cool, eh?

You can call this the “Cool!” approach to non-fiction writing. I know it’s a tall order for 3rd graders (or even 5th graders) but if you could get them to try to look for just one cool fact about whatever they’re writing about, they will have made a huge advancement in their writing and research skills. This would apply whether they are writing non-fiction or poetry, using my books as a model.

Let me know how it goes.

May 19,
Hi C, P and E,

That should be fine. You're giving me the time in the Eastern time zone, right? You are on my calendar for Tuesday, May 22nd at 2:45pm Eastern. David

May 18, 2012

Hello David,

We'd like to Skype with you on Tuesday, May 22nd at 2:45. Are you available at that time? We're looking forward to meeting you!

Catherine, Pat, and Emily

May 17, 2012
Hi David,
How is the 22nd 11:00-11:20?
Julie and Marissa

May 16

Hi Catherine, Pat and Emily,

Are first names OK?

I will be generally available next week and from then to through end of the school year, with a few exceptions. Next Monday and Thursday would not be good; all other days are, I think. The week after is also clear. Let's try to get it all done during those two weeks if possible but we could go into the following week if necessary. I'd rather not to too late into June and you probably don't either. How does that sound?


May 15, 2012

Hello Mr. Schwartz,

We are so happy to finally be connecting with you! We can see that you're busily working with some other teachers and students at our school and we are looking forward to joining you! As fourth grade teachers, our focus will be on your math books. Some of our favorites are: On Beyond a Million, How Much is a Million?, and Millions to Measure. Our students have already been exploring and enjoying your books and we've worked them into some of our math lessons already.

We'd like to set up a time to brainstorm with you via Skype. We are generally available after 2:35pm EST.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Catherine Conetta, Pat Jareck, and Emily Whitman
Fourth Grade Teachers

May 11, 2012

Hi Julie and Marissa,

It turns out I got booked to speak at schools in Georgia next week, and that will be the end of my speaking engagements for the school year except for May 24th. Can you pick some times during the week oif May 21st?


May 8, 2012

Hello David,
We would love to Skype with you to discuss our plans for the unit. We will also be using the book Where in the Wild? that the third grade classes are using. We will probably only need about 20 minutes to have our introductions and begin our discussions. Here are some timespans we are available, let us know which of theses dates and which 20 min span would work best for you during these free times.
Thursday May 10 ~ 11:00am-11:30am
Tuesday May 15 ~ 2:30pm-3:30pm
Wednesday May 16 ~ 11:00am-11:30am
Thursday May 17 ~ 2:45pm-4:00pm

Hope to hear from you soon :)
Julie & Marissa

April 26, 2012
Hello Julie, Hello Marissa (two of my favorite names),

I look forward to working with you. How would you like to begin? Perhaps we should do a Skype visit together. I'm a little confused about who is doing what in terms of my books. I thought the 3rd grade teachers (whom I met in March when I was in your area) were doing Where In the Wild? (and/or the other Wild books) and that the other grades were doing my math books. Of course there's math everywhere and one of my goals is to get students (and teachers) to find math in non-math books. Just the same, I did think that your classes were doing either the Million books or If You Hopped Like a Frog, which would be a great way to combine math with animal studies, in my view. I have a lot of ideas about using that book. Let me know what you think.

Can you do me a favor and ask the 4th grade teachers to contact me.

BTW, I'm a wiki newbie and I'm not sure if I will happen to check when someone writes on the wiki, so it's always a good idea to shoot me an email (david@davidschwartz.com) to let me know you've posted something on my wiki page.


Hello David!
We are the two teachers who will be working with you from Bogert's fifth grade: Julie Spirko and Marissa Lembersky. Our classes will be working with you to explore and learn about your book Where else in the Wild?. We just completed our Animal Studies unit in Science and will be beginning our Poetry Unit in language arts in May. We would love to hear from you to begin planning our work together. Please feel free to contact us via Wiki or via e-mail at jspirko@usrschoolsk8.com and mlembersky@usrschoolsk8.com .

We look forward to hearing from you,
Julie & Marissa

I am really looking forward to our time together. I visit many schools in person to share my love for math, science and writing, and to encourage children to wonder about their world. Through this new medium of videoconferencing, I will be able to reach many more students and teachers, and I think it will be very exciting.

So... until I "see" you, a million good wishes for a great start to the new school year.