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Dream Bed

Grades/Level: Upper Elementary (3–5)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: Long–Term Unit
Eight class periods
Author: Lara Cohen, Teacher, Pio Pico Span School, Los Angeles Unified School District

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Lesson Plans

Lesson Overview

After viewing and discussing two beds in the Getty's collection, students design and write descriptions of imaginary beds. Students will understand that everyday objects can be works of art, and that artists can design functional items that reflect their ideals of beauty.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• describe and compare/contrast works of art, orally and in writing.
• write descriptions of an imagined object and its owner.
• create two-and three-dimensional representations of their imagined objects.


• various art materials such as: shoeboxes, wood scraps, cardboard, chipboard, rolls of thick masking tape, acrylic paint, fabric, tissue paper, felt, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, yarn, string, glue, low-heat glue guns, scissors, gel markers, sequins, colored pencils or fine-tipped markers
• drawing and writing paper, chart paper
• small objects supplied by students
• selected Getty works of art listed below. Click on thumbnails for information and images.

Lesson Steps

Day 1: Discuss (30–40 minutes)
1. In pairs or small groups, students describe their own beds and beds they have seen. Begin charting vocabulary (parts of a bed, descriptive words, building materials, etc.).

2. Display images of the two beds in the Getty collection. Discuss each bed. (Sample questions: What do you see? What materials did the designer use to make the bed? Who might have slept in the bed? Why do you think the bed's designer made the choices he did?) Chart additional vocabulary.

Day 2: Draw (60–90 minutes)
3. Each student draws a bed for a person of his or her choice. Three-dimensional drawing techniques can be taught, such as perspective, to create atmospheric perspective (horizon/line placement; using foreground, middle ground, and background to show space; creating recession using shadows, varying line sizes, and varying object size; and using directional lines).

4. Students add color to the drawings using colored pencils or fine-tipped markers.

Day 3: Write (30–60 minutes)
5. Each student writes two paragraphs describing his or her bed. The first paragraph describes the bed's owner. The second paragraph describes the bed.

Day 4: Build (60–90 minutes)
6. Using a variety of materials (such as boxes, wood, cardboard, and tape), each student will create a three-dimensional model of his or her bed. Adults can use glue guns to secure heavier pieces. Mount the bed on heavy chipboard. Emphasize that the design of the bed should resemble the drawing, and reflect the interests of its owner.

Day 5: Paint (60–120 minutes)
7. Students paint their beds a solid color. Bases might be coated with a contrasting color (such as black). Acrylic paint is recommended if glossy materials were used for building. If so, paint in small groups with adult supervision. This step could be done over two days.

Day 6: Write (30–60 minutes)
8. Students progress through the stages of the writing process. Encourage them to use computers to draft and revise their work. Peer editing can be used.

Day 7: Decorate (At least 120 minutes)
9. Using various items provided by the teacher and student, each student covers the bed in a way that suits its owner.

10. Hold a "gallery walk" and discussion to evaluate the effectiveness of the beds.

Days 7-8: Write (30–60 minutes)
11. Based on the editing process their writing has undergone, student will write a final draft on the computer.

Bed / Unknown
Bed (Lit à Polonaise), 1775


Each student can write a persuasive letter to the bed's proposed owner convincing him or her of the need to own the bed.

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 4

Artistic Perception
2.2 Describe and analyze the elements of art as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.

Historical and Cultural Context
1.1 Describe how art plays a role in reflecting life.

Language Arts Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 3

1.2 Create a single paragraph.

Grade 4
1.3 Create multiple paragraph compositions.

Grade 5
2.1 Write persuasive letters or compositions.

"Students were fascinated by the opulence of something so familiar to them. In the beginning, however, they had difficulty classifying beds as "art." They enjoyed the chance to design their own model of something functional. In doing so, some of the children experienced the realistic challenges of form vs. function. Students were encouraged to bring items from home to use when creating their beds. The teacher should start collecting items early so there are plenty of materials available. It was helpful to have at least one other adult present when the beds were built, painted, and decorated." —Lara Cohen

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