Learning in Comfort

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 13, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Furniture Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


Should classrooms be comfortable spaces? Students spend many hours sitting at their school desks. In this activity students will research school rooms from the past. They will create a design for a school desk that is tailored to the specific needs of today's students.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level IV. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 1. Prewriting: Uses a variety of prewriting strategies (e.g., develops a focus, plans a sequence of ideas, uses structured overviews, uses speed writing, creates diagrams) 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level IV. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 3. Uses a variety of strategies to enhance listening comprehension (e.g., focuses attention on message, monitors message for clarity and understanding, asks relevant questions, provides verbal and nonverbal feedback, notes cues such as change of pace or particular words that indicate a new point is about to be made; uses abbreviation system to record information quickly; selects and organizes essential information) 4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources) 8. Responds to questions and feedback about own presentations (e.g., clarifies and defends ideas, expands on a topic, uses logical arguments, modifies organization, evaluates effectiveness, sets goals for future presentations)
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 1. Level IV. Benchmark 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts Applies media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that one's intentions are carried out in artworks
Standard 2. Level IV. Understands the historical perspective 10. Understands how the past affects our private lives and society in general

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Students will do the following:
  • conduct Internet research
  • respond to writing prompts
  • create a graphic organizer
  • analyze and evaluate information
  • create a design for a desk
  • evaluate group work
  • conduct surveys
  • create a presentation


  • "Desktop Musings" handout
  • "Learning in Style Contest" handout


  • computer with Internet access
  • clay
  • drawing materials
  • markers, pencils, crayons, etc.


Building Background Seat of Learning

The purpose of this activity is to allow students to explore examples of classroom desks from the past. 1. Divide your class into small groups and ask them to view the following Internet sites, which feature pictures of classroom desks.
  • Indiana Historical Society
http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/P0130&CISOPTR=1109&REC=6 http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/P0129&CISOPTR=198&REC=11 http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/m0399&CISOPTR=54&REC=9 http://images.indianahistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/P0129&CISOPTR=355&REC=20
  • New York State Archives
2. Ask your students to complete the writing prompt activity "Desktop Musings." 3. Invite volunteers to share their "Desktop Musings" responses with the entire class. 4. Create a classroom graphic organizer comparing your classroom desks and the desks students viewed on the Internet. You can use the Read·Write·Think graphic organizer template at http://www.marcopolosearch.org/mpsearch/Search_Results.asp?orgn_id=9&log_type=1&hdnFilter=&hdnPerPage=15&txtSearchFor=graphic+organizers&selUsing=all. (Scroll to number 4 "Compare & Contrast Chart Graphic Organizer.) 5. After the organizer is complete, lead a class discussion based on students' observations and analyses. Use the following questions to guide your discussion:
  • What are the differences in design, construction and materials of the old desks and the new desks?
  • What can we learn about society's view of education from the way the desks were designed?
Teacher Note: The question about society's view of education might be difficult for some students to answer. You may wish to prompt them with clues.

Steps for Learning Learning in Style Design

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to use the steps of the design process to create a new student desk. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the "Learning in Style Design Contest" handout. 2. After the votes have been counted, host a discussion on the winning desk 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 information you used to identify your problem. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the effectiveness of your solution. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Desk Research
1. Have students conduct further research by asking their parents, caregivers, and/or grandparents about the desks they used in their classrooms. Invite students to share what they have learned with the entire class. 2. Investigate desks that are designed for an office and compare those to the desks students designed.
Activity Two: Classroom Seating Arrangements
Ask your students to read the Education World article entitled "Do Seating Arrangements and Assignments = Classroom Management?" at http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr330.shtml and share what they learn with their classmates.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.