1968: BE THE THING!

Making It Strange #4 (1968)

Two exercises from Making It Strange #4, a workbook for elementary school students published by Harper & Row in 1968:

[1] BE ZERO AND SEE THE WORLD

Simple things often seem dull
until you get inside them and think the way they do….
In this lesson you will use BEING THE THING
to see the number ZERO in a new way.
As ZERO you have specific uses and a unique shape.
Here are some of the ways you are used:

In the number “101” you are a place holder.
In the problem “One minus one equals?”
you are the answer, “ZERO.”
In the problem “ZERO times ZERO equals?”
you are the answer, “ZERO.”
Even when you are an important answer,
you still amount to nothing

On the lines below, describe yourself as ZERO. BE ZERO and see the world.

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In this lesson,
the best way to get to know ZERO is to BE it.
Close your eyes and imagine
that your whole body is in the shape of ZERO.
You have leaned over backwards
and grabbed your feet with your hands.

How do the muscles of your body feel in this position?

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What are your Zero-muscles doing?

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As ZERO, you have your own idea about how you should look.Zero
A clumsy person writes you in a messy way.
After he finishes, you look like this:

 

 

How do you feel about that?

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What parts of your body
work hardest to get you back to your proper shape?

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A student has answered the problem of “7 times 3” with “20.”
He sees that you don’t belong there and erases you.
What does this experience feel like?

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Where do you go after you are erased?

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Write a story about being ZERO.
ZERO times 100 equals ZERO.
ZERO plus 100 equals 100.
By sneaking yourself into places, you can play arithmetic jokes.
Tell about the jokes you play.
BE THE THING! Be ZERO!

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[2] FIGHTING BACK

Write a story about a small boat in a big storm.
The wind is wild,
and the waves knock about the small boat.
Try to imagine that you are the small boat
and explain how you feel.
Use comparisons in your story
to tell how it feels to BE a small boat in a big storm.

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In this lesson you will be making comparisons
and BEING THE THING.

The wind shrieks and whines
as it tries to sink the tiny boat.
The boat fights back.

Think of some kind of struggle in the animal world
that is like the boat-storm situation.
Write it here:

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Describe why this animal struggle
is like the boat-storm situation.

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Imagine that you are the tiny boat.
Tell what the different parts of your body
must do to fight the storm.

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How do the different parts of your body
tell you whether you are winning or losing the fight?

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Suddenly the wind makes one last attack on the little boat;
then the wind dies.
The boat has won!

What real-life experience have you had
that is like the wind dying
and the little boat winning the fight?

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Imagine that you are the little boat
who has just beaten the storm.
How do you feel toward the storm?

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Imagine that you are the great storm
who can’t even sink a tiny boat.
How do you feel toward the boat?

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On the next page, write a new story
about the fight between the little boat
and the great storm.
Remember that you are the boat.
Good writing mixes BE THE THING descriptions
with comparisons.
In this story, use the comparisons and feelings
you have already thought of, to get you started.
Then, build on them with new ideas.

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