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Connecting Your Narrative (activity)

The Character of Characters, 2012

The Character of Characters, 2012, by Xu Bing (Chinese, born 1955). Five-channel video animation installation. Acquisition made possible by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, R2012.54.

Square Word Calligraphy Alphabet

Square Word Calligraphy Alphabet, adapted from Square Word Calligraphy by Xu Bing (

The Character of Characters, 2012
Square Word Calligraphy Alphabet

Common Core Standards: W4-8.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. SL 4-5.4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. SL 6-12.4: Present claims and findings (e.g., argument, narrative, informative, response to literature presentations), sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details and nonverbal elements to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Content Standards (California): Communication Stage 2.0: Students use created language (sentences and strings of sentences).

Materials: 4” x 17” receipt paper, or prepare long strips by cutting legal or ledger paper in half. Pencils.


  1. To create your storyboard, use one strip of 4” x 17” receipt paper, or prepare long strips by cutting legal or ledger paper in half. Divide your strip of paper into five cells.
  2.  Watch an excerpt of The Character of Characters, 2012, by Xu Bing.
  3. Sketch a storyboard of three cells recalling one sequence that you observed from The Character of Characters.
  4. Leave the last cell blank. What did this sequence remind you of in your own life? Design your fourth cell to add this connection to your storyboard sequence.
  5. Design your fifth cell by making a connection between your fourth cell and either the past or the future.
  6. Sign your name using the principles of Xu Bing’s Square Word Calligraphy. (See: Square Word Calligraphy Alphabet (above)).
  7. Paint a square. Use How to Hold a Brush as a reference
  8. Inside the square, going from top to bottom and left to right, paint the letters in your name in any size and orientation.
  9. Share your completed narrative during a gallery or classroom discussion. Be prepared to explain your connections.

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