Connecting to prior knowledge

Before Reading

Develop an understanding of the word ‘Fashionista’

Partake in a word investigation. Firstly, write the word ‘fashonista’ on a large piece of paper or poster board. Ask students to share their ideas about what this word might mean. Record the students’ ideas on the poster. Highlight the part of the word ‘fashion’ and ask students if this gives clues about the meaning of this word. Then research the meaning of the word ‘fashionista’ online. Discuss and record this word meaning. Students might know other words that end in ‘ista’ such as ‘barista’ or ‘vista’. Some suburbs have streets named as ‘Vista’ instead of street or road. 

To summarise, display the cover of the book Fashionista and read the blurb. Have students predict if the book will define ‘fashionista’ in a similar way or differently to the word investigation they have just completed.
(ACELA1470)   (EN1-7B)

Contextualise the book in relation to other texts

Present students with a range of magazine covers. Discuss the similarities between them and construct a feature list. The list might include such items as:

  • Title of the magazine at the top of the page.
  • Image of a person in the centre of the page or an image relating to a story in the magazine.

Discuss that the images of people are of two sorts: the person is either gazing at the reader (a demand that the reader looks) or the person is not looking at the reader (which instead is an offer the reader to examine the image and wonder about the person in the image). 

  • Titles of articles within the magazine are around the page.
  • Quotes or text.
  • The colours used.
  • Date of issue

Following this, display the cover of Fashionista to the students. Ask students if they notice any similarities between the cover of the book and a magazine cover. Encourage the students to use the technical words of ‘demand’ and ‘offer’ and ‘contrasting colours’. Explain how the layout of the cover replicates the features of a magazine with one major change – the absence of facial features. Discuss why the author Maxine Beneba Clarke might have wanted to make the book look like a magazine.

What do you know about Maxine Beneba Clarke? She’s an African Australian, and as a child loved reading in the library.

Teachers may like to listen to a video produced by the The Book Show with Claire Nichols. In the interview, Maxine Beneba Clark discusses race as a theme in her children’s books and the influences on her writing. The video will provide a good background to guide the conversations in the unit.

Students may connect the high fashion attitude of some magazines to the definition of fashionista, if not, assist students to make this connection. Discuss why the person has no face. This is a point of difference from the other magazines. Consider why the person has a high neckline and long sleeves, but their legs are showing. Record these responses as predictions about the purpose of the text to connect back to later.
(ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)

Read the book Fashionista. After reading the book with students review the predictions about the purpose of the text asking again, ‘Why do you think Maxine Beneba Clarke wrote this book?’ Record student’s reviewed responses.


Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’

Connecting the text to people in the community

As you read through the book a second time, explain that you will stop at each page and ask one or two students to suggest a person they know who reminds them of the character on the page. Write these suggestions on sticky notes and place them on the page demonstrating the connections made between the book and the students. As you complete this activity stop at each page and prompt students to connect to the text by asking questions such as:

  • Do you ever feel like this/ dress like this?
  • Does someone you know like to dress like this?
  • Does this remind you of anyone in your family/community?
    (ACELT1589)   (EN1-4A)

To summarise this activity, take the sticky notes off the pages of the book and place them on the ‘fashionista’ word investigation poster, completed in the previous activity. Explain that the names of the people on the sticky notes could now be defined as fashionistas. Ask students to share their initial reactions to this. Ask students if these people named on the sticky notes are who they would have originally thought of as fashionistas. Then ask students to explain how their thinking has changed.

At this point, encourage lively debate and model for children how to voice disagreement in an appropriate manner.
(ACELY1789)   (EN1-1A)


Rich assessment task

Review the word investigation poster with students. Explain that their individual task will be to define ‘fashionista’ based on the previous activities and the content of the book. Read the book again.

Provide students with the following sentence starters and explain that students can use all, some or create their own for this task.

Sentence starters

  • A fashionista does…
  • A fashionista feels…
  • A fashionista wears…
  • A fashionista makes…
  • A fashionista believes…
  • A fashionista is…

Students can illustrate their fashionista definitions by using magazines to cut out, fabric scraps and collage materials and develop their own fashion designs similar to the artwork of the book.
(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A) 

Responding to the text

Fashion your feelings

Review and reread the page which begins, ‘Fashion your feelings…’ Lead a discussion with the students to discuss the meaning of this quote. The following discussion prompts may help students reflect on their opinions.

Discussion prompts:

  • How would you dress if you felt happy or sad?
  • Do we change the way we dress depending on the occasion?
  • What colours would you wear if you felt happy/ sad/ angry/ grumpy/ tired?
  • Do you enjoy wearing some clothes and not others? Why?
  • How can fashion represent how you are feeling?

Again, model for the students how to voice disagreement in an appropriate manner. Draw attention to the language that the students use to ‘appreciate’ or ‘denigrate’ the quality of clothes.
(ACELY1789)   (EN1-1A)   (ACELA1462)   (EN1-7B)

The different feelings of a Fashionista

Review each page in Fashionista with students and reflect on the emotions expressed throughout the book. Reflect on the language used to describe each emotion. The use of a student friendly version of an emotion wheel may assist in this discussion. See here for an example. As you turn each page and read the text, pause and note on the emotion wheel which emotion is expressed. As you do this create a chart to record the language used and the emotions described. Your chart may look similar to the following:

Page Language used  Emotions described
1 don’t-care-what-you-wear relaxed,  playful
3 Ugh unhappy, annoyed
5 Boom. Strut it. proud, confident
7 Bold-big-self, brave… brave, happy

(ACELA1462)   (EN1-1A)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Comparing the images of fashion icons

Refer to the author’s note at the end of the book which mentions the use of fashion icons as images in the book. Display images of these fashion icons for students. See the following links for images similar to those used in the book.

Compare the real life images of these fashion icons with those presented in the book. Note the similarities and how Maxine Beneba Clarke interpreted these images. Discuss why each of these people are famous. Finally, use this knowledge to compare the images with the text on each of these pages. Explain that text can add to, contradict or multiply the meaning of the images. With this in mind, re-examine each image and its accompanying text, noting if it adds information, multiplies the message of the image or contradicts the message of the image. This activity can be extended to other pages in the book. Students’ observations could be noted in a table similar to the following example:

Image  Text  Adds, Takes or Multiplies 
Prince Multiplies – it highlights the ruffled shirt in the picture.

(ACELA1469)   (EN1-4A)   (ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)


Rich assessment task

Guess the feelings of my fashion

Challenge students to identify an emotion that they could represent in an outfit and then describe using some language. For students who have difficulty deciding on an emotion refer them to the emotions listed in the ‘feelings of a fashionista’ activity.

Explain that students will design their fashions using collage, similar to the illustrations in Fashionista. Provide students with a range of magazines and images of outfits which they can cut out. Explain that, just like the style used by Maxine Benena Clarke, students wouldn’t be drawing the faces of the fashion models so that the fashions stand-out. Finally, explain that the students will need to write a short piece of text to go with their image to describe the emotion they have chosen. Prompt them to think about the visual design features of the written words.

Once students have completed this task allow them to share their work in small groups and then with the class. To add to this activity, challenge the rest of the class to guess the emotion each student has created in their image and with the accompanying words.
(ACELY1789)   (EN1-1A) 

Examining text structure and organisation

Examining the images of the book

Read through Fashionista again and ask students to pay attention to the images in the book. Explain that once you have finished reading you will ask students to reflect on the features of the images in the book. Once students have had time to examine the images develop a ‘feature list’. This list may include items such as:

  • expressionless figures in neutral tones
  • block-coloured pages
  • bright-coloured clothes
  • background colours

Complementary Colour I-Spy

Focus on the use of colour in the book by examining the colours of the illustrations using a colour wheel. While displaying the colour wheel explain that the colours that are placed diagonally across from each other on the are called complementary colours. These colours assist one another to stand out. Demonstrate this by turning to the page of Fashionista which reads ‘be your bold-big-self…’ Explain that the blue and orange are complementary colours allowing the colours to really stand out. The use of these bright and complementary colours adds a level of excitement to the images.

Provide each student with a colour wheel and as you read through the book once again ask the students to mark on their colour wheels the colours on each of the pages. Tell students that if they notice a complementary colour they can call out or raise their hand. Summarise this activity by allowing students to experiment with primary colours using paints and challenge them to create tertiary colours by mixing these. Finally ask students to create images with complementary colours. This activity could also be done online using an online painting application.
(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Examining the text of Fashionista

Explain that in the next task students will play the role of detectives. Half the class will be detectives looking for rhyme in the book and half will be looking for repetition. For revision of rhyming words see The Rhyming Game on YouTube. Provide students with either the repetition detectives sheet (PDF, 118KB) or the rhyme detectives sheet (PDF, 118KB). As you read through Fashionista allow students to record any instances of rhyme or repetition. At the conclusion of this activity ask the students to share any examples they found. Create two columns on the board or on a large sheet of paper. Title one repetition and one rhyme. Record the students’ discoveries in these columns.
(ACELT1592)   (EN1-1A)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Noun groups to add detail

Begin by explaining the order of a nominal (noun) group. As you do this construct a chart or table similar to the one below to illustrate. Explain that this order of words does not change when constructing noun groups. Highlight that not all noun groups will have all these elements. They are:

Article Number Adjectives that describe Adjectives that classify Thing
Usually either ‘the’ or ‘a’, this points to the head noun. The amount of the head noun Words to describe the head noun Words that classify it as a specific type The head noun or main noun

Once students have an understanding of these elements demonstrate how noun groups are used in Fasionista by placing them in this table. For example:

Pointer  Number  Adjectives that describe
Adjectives that classify
bright brilliant blue hair
a ruby-red dress
hot pop pink leggings
an elegant afro

From this exercise allow the students to summarise what they notice about the completed chart and relate this to the style of poetry in Fashionista. Record these as ‘noun group observations’. For example, students may notice that Maxine Beneba Clarke mostly uses multiple describers.
(ACELA1468)   (EN1-4A)


Rich assessment task

Using the knowledge developed from the previous activities, in this rich assessment task students will be challenged to use their knowledge of complementary colours and noun groups. Firstly provide students with a range of fashion magazines and coloured paper. Explain that students will need to find a bright outfit in one of the fashion magazines. They then will need to select a piece of paper that is a complementary colour to their outfit. Students are to glue their outfit onto this coloured paper. Secondly, ask students to describe their chosen outfit using a noun group with multiple descriptors. Students could write this noun group on their coloured paper for display.
(ACELA1468)   (EN1-4A)

Patterned Writing Poetry

In this final stage of this unit students are encouraged to create their own piece of poetry based on the style of Fashionista.

Once again read Fashionista to the class. After reading encourage students to notice the opposites that are used to pattern the text. For example,

  • ‘Some dress-days…don’t-care-what-you-wear…’ is opposed with ‘but on other days…You’re a fashionista!’

Focus on the pattern of writing used in these pages, the functions of the phrases and the similarities between them. This will allow a patterned writing chart to be created. This could be structured for the development of patterned writing like so:


Some dozy days  are who-cares-what-you-wear.  You stay lazy in pyjamas, and don’t comb your hair.  But  on other days  Chic-a-bam  you’re the fashion king. 


describing the day describing the attitude to fashion (usually relaxed) what ‘you’ do and what you wear beginning with the word ‘but’  to show a contrast an onomatopoeia contrast to the previous sentence, describing ‘you’ as being fashionable.

Continue this chart, focusing on other excerpts from the book. Following this, assist students to create their own opposite poetry based on the style of Fashionista. Firstly, brainstorm alternative phrases to fit within this pattern. Place these suggestions in a further row below on the patterned writing chart. This may scaffold students who are still developing vocabulary knowledge. Once there are a number of suggestions encourage students to create their own pieces of poetry.
(ACELY1671)   (EN1-2A)   (ACELT1833)   (EN1-1A)


Rich assessment task

As a final rich assessment task explain that students will be performing their new verses of opposites poetry as an original piece of slam poetry. Allow students time to develop their written verses for performance. As a class develop a method of annotating the verses to signal changes in pacing, expression, volume and phrasing. For inspiration for these annotations, read through Fashionista and note the changes in colour, size and font in the written text. Explain that these changes indicate a change in pitch, pace, expression and volume. Read the text using these changes as cues for changes in reading style and ask the students to reflect on what was different about this read-aloud compared to if the book was read without attention to these cues. Finally make a key for annotation based on the text style of the book, for example, that bold text will indicate reading loudly.

It can be helpful for students to watch videos of slam poetry performances to understand this unique style of performance. See this example of the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam. Note that the winner Solli Raphael wrote his own book called Limelight in 2018 after he won that award. Allow students time to rehearse their slam poetry performances. Suggest students record and review their rehearsals to develop their performance pieces. Finally, allow students to present their slam poetry performances, this may become a community event in which other students or parents are invited for the poetry slam. For more on slam poetry and the steps involved in creating a poetry slam see this video.
(ACELY1667)   (EN1-6B)   (ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)