Whose Shoes?

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 19, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Fashion Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


In this activity students explore the meaning of objects. Objects tell a story about us and the perpetual process of design that is central to human existence. Students will conduct research on the history of shoes, and write an imaginary story about a pair of shoes. They will host a group presentation to share their stories.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level II.  Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 1. Prewriting: Uses prewriting strategies to plan written work (e.g., discusses ideas with peers, draws pictures to generate ideas, writes key thoughts and questions, rehearses ideas, records reactions and observations) 2. Drafting and Revising: Uses strategies to draft and revise written work (e.g., rereads; rearranges words, sentences, and paragraphs to improve or clarify meaning; varies sentence type; adds descriptive words and details; deletes extraneous information; incorporates suggestions from peers and teachers; sharpens the focus) 3. Editing and Publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., proofreads using a dictionary and other resources; edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; incorporates illustrations or photos; uses available, appropriate technology to compose and publish work; shares finished product) 4. Evaluates own and others' writing (e.g., asks questions and makes comments about writing, helps classmates apply grammatical and mechanical conventions) 5. Uses strategies to organize written work (e.g., includes a beginning, middle, and ending; uses a sequence of events) 6. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas)
Standard 4. Level II. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 4. Uses electronic media to gather information (e.g., databases, Internet, CD-ROM, television shows, cassette recordings, videos, pull-down menus, word searches) Standard 7. Level II. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Reads a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines) 6. Uses prior knowledge and experience to understand and respond to new information
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level II. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 1. Contributes to group discussions 7. Makes basic oral presentations to class (e.g., uses subject-related information and vocabulary; includes content appropriate to the audience; relates ideas and observations; incorporates visual aids or props; incorporates several sources of information) 10. Organizes ideas for oral presentations (e.g., uses an introduction and conclusion; uses notes or other memory aids; organizes ideas around major points, in sequence, or chronologically; uses traditional structures, such as cause-and-effect, similarity and difference, posing and answering a question; uses details, examples, and anecdotes to clarify information)
Working With Others


Students will do the following:
  • brainstorm ideas
  • conduct Internet research
  • analyze and evaluate information
  • write a story
  • illustrate a story
  • analyze and evaluate group work
  • create a presentation
  • create a class book


  • "The Shoe Story" handout


  • computer with Internet access


Building Background All About Shoes

The purpose of this activity is to help students brainstorm ideas about shoe design. 1. Tell the students that they are going to create a graphic organizer on the topic of shoes. Teacher Note: A graphic organizer is a visual/spatial representation of information. Visit the following website to construct your graphic organizer at https://interactives.mped.org/view_interactive.aspx?id=127&title=. 2. As a class, visit the website at https://www.shoeinfonet.com/ to learn about the history and variety of shoes. You can read the information on this website aloud with your class. After you complete the article, ask your students to add further examples of shoe types to the graphic organizer. 3. Ask students to bring in varied pictures of shoes or further examples of different shoe types as a homework assignment. You may also provide them with a variety of magazines to complete this assignment. Add students' examples to the class graphic organizer.

Steps for Learning The Shoe Story

The purpose of this activity is to help students understand the concept that objects have history and meaning in daily life experiences. 1. Tell the students that everyday objects have a story to tell. Share the picture of Vincent Van Gogh's painting of a pair of boots with your class: Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/Works_Of_Art/viewOne.asp?dep=11&viewmode=1&item=1992.374 Ask them to imagine who might have owned the boots Van Gogh painted. Encourage students' creative responses. 2. Share the following Van Gogh quotations with the students:
  • I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.'
  • The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.
Source: https://www.artquotes.net/masters/vangogh/ Ask the students what they imagine Van Gogh might have been feeling as he painted this picture. 3. Visit the following website which contains poems that students have written about Van Gogh's painting at https://www.poetryzone.ndirect.co.uk/challenge5.htm#boots Read the poems aloud and discuss students' responses. 4. Divide the class into small groups and tell the students that they are going to work in small groups to write an imaginary story about a pair of shoes. Give the students the option of writing about the boots in Van Gogh's picture, or selecting any kind of shoes they would like. 5. Give each group a copy of "The Shoe Story" handout. 6. Tell the groups that after they have finished a first draft of their story, they must share it with another group to receive feedback. Have the groups use the following questions as they share their drafts:
  • Was our story meaning clear?
  • Does our story make sense?
  • Do you understand the plot sequence?
  • Describe our main character. Did the words we chose match our ideas about the main character?
  • Is our story interesting? What could we do to make it more interesting?
  • Is our story creative?
  • What do you suggest we change or add to our story?
  • Do our illustrations enhance our story?
  7. Have each group incorporate the feedback they received to revise their story. 8. After each group has finished, stage an oral reading of all the stories in sequence. 9. Create a class book of the individual shoe stories. Share the book with students in a younger grade by hosting a book reading.



Create a class rubric with your students that will help them assess their stories. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. 1. How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor 2. How effective was your revising? Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor 3. Rate your creativity. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor 4. How well did your group work together? Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor 5. How well did you incorporate the idea that objects have a story? Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Shoe Research & Inquiry

Have your students conduct research on fashion and shoes by exploring some of the following museums:
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Bata Shoe Museum, Canada
  • The Cornell Costume Collection - Highlights of the Collection
  • The Kent State University Museum
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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