Ali Brown

 “The Perfect Fit” or alt. title “Sole-Mates”

Intended Age Group: Grades 4-6 on school tours

Note: This lesson plan can be approached in two ways. 

  1. Bring your students to the Bata Shoe Museum for the Critical Analysis and Think Pair Share activity, and complete the Studio Activity at your home school. 

  2. Complete all steps at your home school prior to a Bata Shoe Museum visit. Bring completed studio activities to the museum and share with your guide prior to commencement of tour, so they can get to know your students better.

💬NOTE: You can find additional facts, activity ideas for each part of the process, as well as modifications, within the teachers resource.

Teacher Resource

Brief Description:

Although the most basic definition of a “perfect fit” may be its size, there are other criteria which make a person and a shoe “sole-mates”. This lesson is intended to aid understanding of and engagement with the creative process for students in Grades 4-6. Shoes within the Bata Shoe Museum Current Exhibits (November 2022): Obsessed and Future Now, will be used to provoke critical thinking about how shoes do, can and will serve and represent the students in both practical and aesthetic ways. Provided with this inspiration and a challenge of adhering to basic criteria influenced by the sample shoes, students will then participate in a studio activity prompting them to “Draw (make) a shoe that represents you”. After completing the activity, students will present their creations in small groups, sharing details about how (and/or why) they got to this final design, circling back to questioning how their imagined shoe would serve and represent them in both practical and aesthetic ways.

Desired Results, Learning Outcomes, Curriculum Expectations:

Derived from:

All Grades: Students are expected to learn and use the creative process to help them acquire and apply knowledge and skills in the arts. Use of the creative process is to be integrated with use of the critical analysis process...(pg 19)

Grade 4

Grade 5

Grade 6

  • create two- and three-dimensional works of art that express feelings and ideas inspired by their interests and experiences

  • demonstrate an awareness of a variety of art forms, styles, and traditions, and describe how they reflect the diverse cultures, times, and places in which they were made

  • use a variety of materials, tools, and techniques to determine solutions to design challenges

  • describe how forms and styles of visual and media arts represent various messages and contexts in the past and present

  • identify and describe some of the ways in which art forms and styles reflect the beliefs and traditions of a variety of communities, times, and places

  • use elements of design in artworks to communicate ideas, messages, and understandings

Student Grouping: Whole Class

1. Begin the lesson with an announcement of the exciting big idea or prompt that students will respond to in the studio activity, “Today, you will draw a shoe that represents you!”.

2. Explain the following

  • First, we will generate ideas by looking at and critically analyzing two shoes. The first shoe will involve a whole class discussion. The second shoe, the class will be divided into small groups for discussion. 
  • Students may want to jot down ideas throughout the class and pair discussions so they can refer to them later (provide them with a blank sheet of paper and writing utensil to do so)
  • Then, we will work on our activity individually and finally, return to small groups for reflection.

Step 1: Showing personal interests through shoes: Critical Analysis 
Student grouping: Whole class, led by teacher 

Beth Levine, Car Shoe. (American, c.1965-68). Part of Obsessed exhibit.
Making use of Beth Levine's "Car Shoe", guide students through a critical analysis.
  • What does this shoe remind you of? (Students should come to the conclusion that the shoe is a car before proceeding.)
  • What emotions do you feel while looking at this shoe?
  • Have a closer look. What elements or qualities of the shoe design help you understand that it is a car?
  • Why do you think Beth Levine chose to create a car shoe?
  • Who do you think would wear this shoe?
  • How effective is Beth Levine's design in resembling a car? Is there anything you might add?
  • Can you name something you love and give me two examples of how you might express that visually?
  • When asked about this design Beth Levine said "Once seen, never forgotten." What do you think about this?
  • Is it possible that different audiences (e.g., kids, teenagers, young adults, older adults) may view this work in a way that is different from the artists intentions? Why or why not?

Step 2: Shoes as Tools + Designs to serve communities - Think, Pair, Share
Student grouping: Small groups of approx. 4 students

Nike GoFlyEase, 2021 - Future Now exhibit.

1. Think
  • Provide some information about special Nike GoFlyEase characteristics:
Hinged sole and tensioner band - allow the wearer to insert their foot directly into the shoe and then, by pushing down into the sole, lock it into position.
Back heel protrusion - allows the shoe to be stabilized by one foot while the other is pulled out of the shoe.

  • Pose the following questions to your class:
- Who might require the features of the GoFlyEase shoe?
- Think of an activity that you enjoy participating in. If you were designing a shoe specifically for this activity, what special features might you include? Remind students they will be utilizing these ideas for a personal design later! (They may want to jot this down on a blank sheet of paper).
  • Encourage students to use their wildest imagination, and provide an example. Say a student loves walking in the rain but they (and their parents) hate that their shoes get all muddy. Perhaps a shoe where you could remove the outer layer and machine wash it may be helpful.  

2. Pair

Pair students into small groups of approximately 4 to discuss responses.

3. Share

Return to a whole-class discussion.
Ask each group who they thought might benefit from the Nike GoFlyEase features.

Then, provide information: Nike GoFlyEase was created for people with low mobility. The design is a "tool" to help these folks get their shoes on easier.

Remind them of other examples of shoes used as "tools" or "speciality shoes"- dance shoes, winter boots, etc...

Step 3: Activity: Design & Create a shoe that represents you
Student Grouping: Independent > Share in small groups

Mr. Bailey, Octopus, 2018. Collection of Mr. Bailey. Part of Future Now exhibit.

Suggested Materials: 
  • A few sheets of blank paper per student
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Playdoh
  • Clay tools or Appropriate kitchen tools to use with Playdoh
  • Coloured Pencils 
  • Oil Pastels
  • Markers 
  • Poster paints
  • Cardstock (sturdier paper) for students who chose to create 2D designs
Fun additions:
  • Googly eyes
  • 3D stickers
  • Glitter glue
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue
  • Construction paper 
  • Many more possibilities...!

1. Explain the criteria students must consider when designing and making their shoe.

"As prompted earlier, you will be creating a shoe that represents and serves you, in both aesthetic and practical ways. We looked at a car shoe, a shoe that can help folks with limited mobility, and now (show image of octopus) we are looking at a shoe that has a crazy design, but is completely wearable! Isn't that cool!"

"You can make your shoe as crazy or as simple as you'd like. But you must incorporate.."

- A Hobby or something you enjoy in the visual (flowers, cars, a tv character, books, music etc...)
- Something about the shoe design that will serve as a tool for you to do something you love to do, easily! (recall example you gave earlier in Nike GoFlyEase activity/remind students of their notes)
-Again it can be as crazy as you want, but it must be wearable! 

2. Outline, then engage in, Studio Activity Steps!

Individually _______________

1. Considering the criteria think of 3 ideas or combinations and make preliminary sketches 
2. From these 3 sketches, choose the one you think is most effective in representing you and use the provided materials to create a drawing, painting, or small sculpture of your shoe.

In small groups____________

When the activity is complete assign students to small groups of 4 (preferably different from previous group) to discuss their creations. Provide them with questions such as:

- Describe the visual design choice you made in relation to your hobby or personal interest
- Describe the favourite activity you're trying to make easier. What are the features of your shoe that make this happen?
- Share your sketches with your group and reflect on one of the following 
  •   why you didn't proceed with the other ideas
  •   if there's anything you would do differently engaging in this activity a second time 
  •   how hearing about and seeing the aesthetic and practical purposes of shoes in the BATA exhibits helped shape your studio activity

You can walk around classroom/group area to listen to student's reflections, see their creations, and re-direct any wayward discussion.


  1. Hi Ali, your ideas are well grounded in theory. They address specific curriculum learning goals as well, which is perfect as a pre-visit lesson for teachers to use. Great choice of shoes for inspiring the students on their project! My only suggestion would be to maybe simplify the language on how you frame the questions in the critical analysis portion. Instead of "what might people assume" you could say "who do you think wears this shoe?" so that it invites more open discussion.


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