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A Pharaoh's Sandals

Long ago in ancient Egypt Pharaohs wore a unique message on the soles of their shoes. This lesson is a modern slant on the ancients, combining language, symbols and some engineering “feets”!

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Shoes tell a lot about the people wearing them. They have more to them than just the obvious task of protecting our feet. They may represent fashion, comfort, status, or position. Archaeologists have found that in Ancient Egypt, Tutankhamun was buried with his royal footwear, some of which were so elaborate they were obviously not made for walking. Further analysis of the Pharaoh’s shoes depicts the enemies of the Egyptian nation on the soles so they could be tread upon. The enemies are depicted as prisoners all lying on their stomachs with their arms bound behind their backs.
    2. This is not intended to be a lesson about enemies, but instead gives students the opportunity to envision and represent words with positive messages about honor and friendship. Students will examine vocabulary words and their antonyms. Begin this lesson by having your class create a wordlist made up of age appropriate vocabulary. Terms having to do with friendship, loyalty, perseverance and the like will be the goal. You may choose first to read Martin Luther King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech or “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem” By Dr. Maya Angelou” see:
    3. Using the whiteboard, record words as students generate them. Once you determine that the word list is complete, assign teams to work together to look up the antonyms for each of the words on the list. For example, one group may have the first five words in the list; the next group finds the next 5 words, etc. Students will write the antonyms on the whiteboard. Ask students to make a copy of these words in their journals or notebooks.
    4. To display the understanding of words and their antonyms, students will create a model of footwear based on the style of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s sandals. However, instead of treading on an enemy, the students will make a striking piece of art promoting the positive meaning of words from their class list.
    5. Ask students to trace around either their right or left foot. Use one recycled manila file folder for each student. With the folder closed (doubled) students complete the tracing. Cut out around the tracing. Keep the folder closed so when finished there will be two traced foot shapes.
    6. Using the remaining, unused portion of the file folder, students will measure with a ruler a 4” (10.16 cm) wide strip. The length of this strip should be no less than 8” (20.32 cm). This strip will be used as the strap of the sandal. This strap, or upper portion of the shoe, is also the portion of the footwear that exhibits the artwork for the project. Because the footwear is not meant to be worn, the proportions of this project purposely do not accommodate a foot. Encourage students to think about elaborating on the shape of the strap. It does not have to be a plain band.
    7. Before assembling the three pieces, students should have researched a word from the word list and found its antonym. The antonym will be sketched on the bottom of the sole while the selected word for emphasizing peace or friendship will be sketched into the center section of the 4 x 8” band. Using pencil, students will make their first drawings and make corrections as needed.
    8. Color and design the positive and negative areas of the paper shoe. For the sandal construction, use Crayola Washable Markers, Metallic Markers, Construction Paper Crayons and a permanent marker for outlining. Crayola Gold Tempera Paint can be used to give the finished piece a golden glow. Name the sections by calling the bottom of the sole “section 1; upper portion or insole “section 2”; and the band “section 3”.
    9. Images and symbols may be worked into the design on any and all of the three sections. Consider how color can also represent symbolic meaning. For example if the word chosen for the top of the shoe is peace and its antonym is chaos, peace might be represented in rainbow colors while chaos may be black and gray.
    10. After all coloring and designing is complete, bend the strap (section 3) around the widest part of the insole (section 2). Staple in place. Spread Crayola No-Run Washable Glue between the inside areas of sections 1 and 2; press these together. Use binder clips or large paper clips to hold the sections together until dried.
    11. Have students present their ‘shoes’ as part of a culminating activity for the study of Ancient Egypt.
  • Standards

    LA: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

    LA: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

    LA: Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.

    LA: Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., synonym/antonym, analogy) to better understand each of the words.

    MATH: Generate measurement data by measuring the lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in appropriate units – whole numbers, halves, or quarters.

    SCI: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

    SS: Describe how people create places that reflect ideas, personality, culture, and wants and needs as they design homes, playgrounds, classrooms, and the like.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    VA: Develop criteria to guide making a work of art or design to meet an identified goal.

    VA: Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.

    VA: Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme-based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.

  • Adaptations

    Instead of creating the shoe from cardboard, paper and tape, students can create using air dry clay. The final product should be large enough for the message to be readable. Cover the painted, dried shoe with a shiny gel medium.

    Give students enough materials and class time to make a pair of shoes that exhibit two messages using antonyms.

    Mix up the media being used for shoes, use real, recycled shoes from a thrift store or cast offs that students will not ever wear again. Use gesso to paint a first layer, then decorate and paint the shoe to exhibit the “sole-full” message of opposites.

    Make two shoes rather than one. On one shoe use a word and it’s antonym in English, on the other use a foreign language, this would be great for International Day of Peace Connect the two shoes together with string, or a shoe lace, and exhibit by hanging over a wire.


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