Chairs, Chairs, Everywhere…

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 4, 2006

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Furniture Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


Design allows us to both respond and invent. This activity is designed to help students become aware of the multitude of design variations in everyday objects. Students will conduct surveys, collect information, and create a catalog of chairs. They will learn about the diverse ways we use design in daily living.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level III. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)
Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 3. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, phone directories, globes, atlases, almanacs, technological sources) Standard 7. Level III. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1.  Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs, technical directions, procedures, and bus routes) 
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Thinking & Reasoning
Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques
Visual Arts: Artistic Expression & Communication
Standard 2. Level III. Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art 3. Knows how the qualities of structures and functions of art are used to improve communication of one's ideas

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Text Types and Purposes:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.A Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.C Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.C Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


Students will do the following:
  • respond to writing prompts
  • draw artistic renderings
  • conduct Internet research
  • compare, contrast, and evaluate diverse sources of information
  • respond to aesthetic elements of chair design
  • write captions and create a catalog presentation


  • computer with Internet Access
  • "The Chair: A Catalog of Design" handout


  • drawing or construction paper
  • markers, crayons, pencils
  • stapler
  • scissors
  • glue


Building Background My Favorite Chair

The purpose of this activity is to help students activate their background knowledge on the activity topic.

1. Ask each student to respond to the following prompts:
  • Write a brief description of your favorite chair.
  • Draw a picture of your favorite chair.
  Ask for volunteers to share their responses with their classmates. Post students' drawings so they are visible to the entire class. Lead a group discussion based on the following questions:
  • How are the chairs different from each other?
  • How are the chairs similar to each other?
  • What are some of the words you would use to describe the chairs?

Steps for Learning Cataloging the Chair

The purpose of this activity is to help students become aware of the diversity of design in everyday life. 1. Divide the class into small groups and tell them that they are going to create a catalog that contains different kinds of chairs. Give each group a copy of the "The Chair: A Catalog of Design" handout, and provide the students with construction paper, scissors, glue, pens, markers, and crayons to use in constructing the catalogs. 2. After each group has constructed its catalog, have the students present their work to their classmates. 3. Host a mock design award show using the students' catalog selections. First, as a class, decide what categories you will use for the awards. The following is a list of suggestions:
  • Best Design
  • Worst Design
  • Best Use of Color
  • Most Original Design
  • Worst Pattern
  • Strangest Design
  • Most Uncomfortable
  Teacher Note: These are simply suggestions. Encourage your students to be creative as they think of design award categories. 4. Discuss the results of the award show with your students. Ask them to share what they learned about chairs and design.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.  -How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how effectively you analyzed the varied information sources you used. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how effectively you included a diverse range of chair styles in your catalog. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how well you described each item in your catalog. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the overall quality of your catalog. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Furniture Design
Encourage your students to continue exploring furniture design. Ask your students to create a catalog of tables, sofas, or desks.

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