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Vn104.1 Back to School 10/14/77

During the last days of our project experiments, I promised Miriam
to visit her first grade class as I had visited in kindergarten. I had
the mistaken impression that Miriam had arranged my visit with Ms.
Fieman. The oversight proved to be no problem, for despite my beard
and over-size frame I blended in well with the group of children.

It was “Read me this, read me that. Do you know my name?” David
B. said, “I remember you. Last year you came and we set up that thing
from the ceiling.” His reference was to a 3 string pulley I rigged in
the spring which enable the children to hoist heavy weights, their
desks (!) and each other (!!) a few feet off the floor. One of the
other boys (was it John?) asked if I still had that machine for making
electricity. Curtis brought over a soma cube and the children squabbled
over it. Miriam did not have a chance to work on the puzzle for any time
with 5 classmates each wanting a turn. Meg and Laurie Ann sat with me
and Miriam before the class split into two groups — one headed for the
library, the other for an introduction to the class’ activities for the
day.

The librarian attempted to introduce to the children the distinction
between factual and fictional writing. It is possible my presence, my
sitting on the floor with the children, caused her some unusual confusion.
Nonetheless, it appeared that she neither had articulated for herself
any consistent set of criteria nor had any good language for communicating
her ideas to the children.

Once again in class, Miriam took up the writing activity. Curtis
and I joined her. The task was one of sentence completion: e.g. “With
my eyes I can see ________.” The children’s task is to write a description
and draw a picture of some appropriate object. Miriam chose to spell
and draw flowers. Her other senses led her to taste corn on the cob and
ice cream; to feel fuzzy things (here Scurry was the exemplar); and to
hear a song — which she represented by a person singing the complete
text of “Drive, drive, drive your car, gently down the street” as sung
by Don Music on Sesame Street.

After Miriam’s work was approved, we had a few minutes to play
before I left. She suggested checkers. Lately we have been playing
variations of the standard game. We tried a 4×4 board (played with 2
checkers on each side) and a 6×6 board (played with 6 checkers on each
side). The board fell to the floor while still folded but with squares
showing. I suggested we play ‘half a game’ of checkers. (The board
was thus 4×8 and played with 6 checkers on each side). We played 3
games. Miriam’s friends came crowding around and all wanted their turns.
But I did have to leave and suggested Miriam could play ‘half a game’
with them.

Relevance
These notes try to capture both the continuity and change of Miriam’s
kindergarten and first grade. There is more structure in that the children
cycle through a set of selected activities (of such a sort that they
could be interesting). The children can get some play time by finishing
their work quickly. Ms. Fieman is good with the children and flexible
enough to let a parent visit with insufficient notice. Miriam seems
comfortable in the situation and enjoys school to the extent that she
chooses to attend even if she feels unwell.

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