"Left Foot, Right Foot": The History of Shoes

"Left Foot, Right Foot": The History of Shoes
Letitia Tyler: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: 2-3 class periods

Required Documents
Graphic Organizer: The History of Shoes


Letitia Tyler was born in 1790 and died of a stroke in 1842.  She was the wife of the tenth President of the United States, John Tyler.  She lived in a time of great invention and the beginning of industrialization.  Many things we take for granted today did not exist when she was a child.  One example of this is the process for making shoes.  Today most people have multiple pairs of shoes that we buy based on attractiveness, fashion and comfort.  When Letitia Tyler was a child, shoes were made by hand by craftsmen known as cobblers.  It wasn't until she was 10 years old that a Philadelphia cobbler named William Young perfected a process for making different shoes for the right and left foot. Before that, shoes for each foot were made exactly the same.  This lesson will look at the development of shoes over the centuries.


Students will use the internet to research the development of shoes through history; will use a graphic organizer to trace the development of shoes through history; and will create a multimedia presentation that shows the development of shoes throughout history.

Materials Required:

Computers with internet access or computer lab; multimedia projector and screen or interactive board; Graphic Organizer “The History of Shoes” (Included with this lesson); a multimedia presentation such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote.


1.    1.  The teacher will have the students make a list of all the pairs of shoes they have in a notebook, journal or on a scrap piece of paper. This would be an excellent bell work or journal activity. When the lesson begins, briefly discuss with the class how many pairs of shoes they have, you might also want to discuss how many shoes their family members have, or how many pairs belong to everyone in their household. The idea is to establish that today we have multiple pairs of shoes for multiple purposes.

2.    2.  The second step is to break the class into partners or small groups. Explain that the students will be using the computer to research the history of shoes. Each group will be required to complete a graphic organizer by listing three facts regarding the making or use of shoes in several historical time periods. These eras will include ancient times, the middle ages, the colonial period and modern shoes. Pass out the graphic and have the students search for and write down 3 facts from each historical period about shoes. The teacher may want to increase or decrease this number based on preference. This can be done in a computer lab, on shifts using classroom computers or even broken up as a homework assignment. If computers are not available at school the teacher could create groups of 4 and assign each member a specific era.

3.    3.  Once the research is complete the students will be required to create a multimedia presentation using a presentation program such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote. The teacher can set up a rubric to assess this project. This can be done easily and free at rubistar.org. The URL is listed below under sources and resources. One of the options is for a multimedia project. This way each teacher can set the rubric up to assess whatever elements they deem necessary for the project such as flying text, transitions, background, sound, images etc. If either the students or teacher is not familiar or confident using PowerPoint there is an online tutorial listed as the last URL in the sources and resources section of this lesson plan.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by having the students design their own shoes. This could be done with paper and pencil or there are some design your own shoes websites on the Internet. One for women’s shoes is listed below. Nike and Adidas have design options on their websites as well. 

Sources & Resources:

Learning Standards

Preparing America's Students for Success


Riello, Giorgio and McNeil, Peter. Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers. Berg Publishers, 2011.

Yue, Charlotte and Yue, David. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures. HMS Books for Young Readers, 1997.


The History of Shoes 1

The History of Shoes 2


The History of Your Shoes

Ten Facts About the History of  Shoes



This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 


PowerPoint 2007