A Matter of Style: 19th Century Furniture: Language Activity: The Story of an Old
Purpose : students will practice writing from different points of view; that of an inanimate object.
Objective : After reading the excerpts from The Story of an Old Piano and going through the informa-
tion and images about the Classical Revival style piano and its owner, the students will choose a per-
sonal object important in their lives and write a paragraph or more from the point of view of that object
and its relationship to its owner.
Grade Level: 5-8
Time Required: one to two class periods
Materials : pencil, writing paper
print out of The Story of a Piano (excerpts)
Illinois State Museum Web site used:
http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/ms_classic.html for information about piano
Motivation : Read aloud the excerpts from The Story of a Piano, discussing the topics and ideas
involved, and the literary concept of "point-of-view." In material culture, researchers want to know the
physical use of an object, and also want to know about the personal, social, economic, cultural and
psychological functions. Discuss what the piano may have meant to Helen:
an opportunity to learn a musical skill to use all her life
a memory of her schooling in New York
the status of being the first piano in her Illinois county
the prestige of the expensive-looking piano
an opportunity to show off her talent
a way to entertain at family and friends at parties
a tool for teaching her children to play piano
a role in the expansion of musical culture in Illinois
Then explain that the student should choose an object that has a lot of meaning to him/her, list the
feelings and topics s/he could tell about in writing, then start writing.
Procedure : Using The Story of an Old Piano as a model, students will write an outline and then
a long paragraph (or very short story) of their relationship with their object from the point of view of the
object. They should include a description of the object, a description of themselves using the object, and
hints as to the meaning of the object in their lives.
Publication and Closure: Students can volunteer to read their stories aloud. Stories can be posted or
bound for the class library.
Assessment: It should be clear that the object is telling the story. Descriptions and relationships should
be included.
Illinois State Board of Education Standards and Goals addressed:
Language Arts: Goal 3.B: Compose well-organized and choerent writing for specific purposes.
A Matter of Style Activity: Language: Piano Story , page 1of 2