Introductory activities before reading

Mirrors and mirroring:

Prior to introducing the text, introduce the concept of a mirror. Lead students in a discussion of the function and purpose of a mirror. Especially consider the nature of the reflected image.

  • Lead in with a discussion of mirrors in our culture: what are they used for, where do we find them, what functions do they serve?
  • We often forget that a mirror doesn’t reflect our image accurately, that is, how others see us. Instead, a mirror gives a reversed image. What implications does this have when we consider a reflected image? Draw students into the understanding that while reflected images might look similar to the original, there are subtle differences.
  • You might ask students to look into a mirror (or use the camera function on a laptop or other device) and describe what they see, and use this as an opportunity to introduce the concept of mise-en-scène. Ask them to consider what meaning the other elements in the reflected image (setting, objects in background, lighting, etc.) add to the image of their reflected self.

Cultural context:

  • Explain to students they will be exploring a picture book partly set in Morocco. Brainstorm students’ prior knowledge of Morocco. Locate Morocco on a world map and have the students make predictions about life in Morocco based on its location in the world. Explain that Africa is a large continent and there will be great cultural diversity across the continent and even within individual countries. Tap into the cultural diversity that may exist in your own class, drawing on students who may come from North African or Middle Eastern backgrounds to provide further discussion.
  • Form students into groups of four to conduct some basic research into Morocco. Within each group, assign aspects of life for each student to research: climate and geography, food and drink, clothing and dress, religion and culture. Students conduct their research individually, then report back to the group. Collaboratively, students create a poster, written report or digital presentation to collate and present their information along with images sourced from the internet or other resources, such as travel brochures.

First experience of the text:

Examine the entire cover of Mirror, both front and back. Lay the book flat to examine both covers at once. Ask questions such as:

  • What sorts of cultures seem to be represented here?
  • What is the significance of the title?
  • In what ways does the spine act as a mirror? (Explain how Arabic script reads from right to left.)
  • What similarities and differences are initially apparent between the two settings?
  • What ideas do we think this text is going to explore?
  • How does the Amnesty International endorsement influence our predictions of what this text is about?

Introduce the skill of visual language analysis or reconnect to prior learning through an initial analysis of the symbolic, written and technical codes of the cover.

  • How is attention drawn to the child figure?
  • How is colour used to make a connection between the two protagonists?
  • Where is the child positioned within each image? What does their position near the margins imply about the status of children?
  • What do the settings imply about the nature of each culture?
  • What might the symbol of the full moon represent?
  • What symbols within the images make them recognisable as Sydney and the Valley of the Roses? Compare the covers to the images collected above during the internet search.

Introduce critical literacy concepts through interrogation of the cover. Reflect on such questions as:

  • Does the juxtaposition of each setting encourage a particular reading of each culture, such as Australian culture as more sophisticated or Moroccan culture as less industrialised and more connected to the land?
  • Both boys look out towards the sky. In the Western image, the boy’s window is open whilst the Moroccan boy wears a hood and is further masked behind a screen. Additionally, this image contains a bird flying, traditionally a symbol of freedom. How might these symbols encourage the reader to consider ideas of freedom within each culture?
  • Although this is a reflection of the Arabic practice of reading right to left, the Moroccan culture is depicted on what is, to western readers, the back of the book. What implications are there for a western reader about which culture is privileged or dominant? What implications might exist for an Arabic reader?

Additional activities that could be incorporated if time permits or to provide differentiation:

  • Direct students to conduct an internet image search to locate pictures of Sydney and the Valley of the Roses in Morocco, creating a digital collage of these images to compare to the text.
  • Ask students to map a typical day in their own lives. They may choose to write it down or construct a storyboard or series of sketches. Reserve these for comparison purposes later.
  • If possible, draw on any Arabic speakers to read the Arabic title and explain how Arabic functions as a written language – read from right to left, without capitals, there are only three vowels which are often omitted during writing, and so on. Further facts about the Arabic language can be found here.

Outline of key elements of the text – after initial reading


  • Generate a class discussion about the two boys’ lifestyles. Refer back to the idea of the mirror: Are fundamental similarities evident in their lives? Which aspects of life are similar? Which aspects of life are different? Create a Venn diagram to record these.
  • Students could use the Classtools Timeline template to create a timeline of the events for each of the twin narratives.


  • In pairs, students could conduct a role play of a meeting between the two protagonists. The emphasis should be on creating a sense of character that is clearly based on textual evidence and their conversation should focus on exploring each other’s context.
  • Use the Classtools Fakebook template to create mock social networking profiles for the two characters. Students must draw on textual evidence to create an appropriate profile for each protagonist that reveals elements of their daily lives and relationships through posts, ‘friends’ and the inclusion of personal details.


  • The carpet acts as a thematic motif that connects the two storylines. Students could design and colour in a carpet of their own after researching traditional Moroccan patterns. On their Moroccan carpet, they could write words or statements that identify the themes within Mirror, such as family, culture, belonging, trade, commerce, connection, etc. These could then be displayed around the classroom.
  • After reading some reviews of Mirror (and/or other picture books – see links for several review sites) students should compose a book review. In their review, students should aim to not only recount enough of the plot to intrigue a reader, but should also comment on the importance of the themes of the book.
  • Explore the information provided in both the back of Mirror and on Baker’s website that explains her inspiration for Mirror. How does this statement of purpose help the reader to understand the themes of the novel?


Personal response

  • The Moroccan boy has a computer: students might compose an email they would send to him to ask any questions they might have about his life as depicted in the text.
  • Ask students to compare the life of the Moroccan boy to their own. This might form the basis of a small group discussion. Additionally, they might compare their own family life and daily experiences with that of the Australian boy in the text. They might record their responses in the form of a Venn diagram.

Additional activities that could be incorporated if time permits or to provide differentiation:

  • As this is a wordless text, students could write the text that might accompany each page to suit an audience of their peers. Students need to carefully develop their text to reflect the nuances of the narrative as constructed by the images. Develop stronger awareness of audience in students by setting them different target audiences for their written narrative, such as junior primary or young adult.
  • Students could design a postcard that might be purchased from the Valley of the Roses, either drawing a picture that represents this setting or using an image from their prior image search. Pretending they have been on holiday to the Valley, students could write home describing their experiences and responses to their travels.
  • Typically, westerners read from left to right. Baker has constructed the Moroccan narrative in Arabic fashion, to be read from right to left. Ask students how they found the reading process: was it a challenge? Is this an effective strategy to encourage readers to engage in a different cultural practice or does it alienate western readers?
  • Question students about the possible audience of Mirror. How does the fact that it is wordless open up the text to a range of audiences?


Synthesising task/activity

  • Mirror won the Children’s Book Council of Australia award for Picture Book of the Year in 2011. Students are to write and perform a 2–3 minute acceptance speech for Baker, explaining what she aimed to achieve with Mirror. In their speeches, students should make reference to the themes and ideas, purposes, audience and context of the book and the significance of receiving this award.
  • As a method of reflecting on the skills of effective speaking, students peer assess each others’ performances.
    (ACELT1806)   (ACELT1627)   (ACELT1628)   (ACELT1807)   (ACELY1808)   (EN4-8D)   (EN4-5C)   (EN4-3B)

The writer’s craft


  • Explore Baker’s use of the size of her panels to create focus; for example, in the small panels that highlight different steps in the making of bread or the larger pictures such as of the family eating breakfast. Compare this to the use of close-up and long shots in camera work.

Approach to characterisation

  • Without words, we need to rely on visual codes and conventions to develop an understanding of character. Have students brainstorm five adjectives or qualities they would use to describe each of the protagonists. For each quality, students should write a one-sentence explanation or provide a specific piece of evidence from the text to justify their description.
  • Create a dual character template where students identify elements of each protagonist’s character, focusing on appearance, actions, relationships with others and symbols. See this suggested template (PDF, 136KB). Traditionally, characterisation also involves speech. Class discussion could be used to explore the impact of the absence of this element of characterisation.
  • Explore how visual codes are used to construct subtle information about each character. For example, compare the power relations of each of the protagonists by examining the positioning of either character within the wider image, the distance between the protagonist and other characters, the direction of the gaze between the protagonist and other characters, their relative size compared to other characters, and facial expressions and body language.


  • Consider the materials Baker has used to construct each setting.
  • Consider how the protagonists’ daily activities are a product of (or informed by) the nature of their setting. Students might write a brief narrative focusing on how each boy might react if their settings were reversed; for example, if they undertook a home-stay holiday in the other’s country.

Point of view 

  • In both narratives the reader is frequently positioned as an observer of the daily lives of the two boys. Have students locate examples of where this point of view is made apparent.
  • Compare the opening images of the twin narratives. The Sydney narrative positions the reader within the boy’s house, whilst the Moroccan one positions the reader at some distance away. Even as the distance is closed, we are separated from the room by the screen until the fourth image on the page. Compare the fourth image of both narratives: we are positioned much closer to the Sydney boy’s mother than the Moroccan boy’s mother, whose face is also hidden in this image. What effects does this use of perspective have on the reader? Why might Baker have structured these images in this way? Is it a way of drawing the reader into an unfamiliar context or does it actually work to reinforce a sense of distance or difference from this culture?

Language and style

  • Reinforce the metalanguage of visual analysis by conducting a ‘treasure hunt’ for examples of various visual language codes. Provide students with ten of the following codes to search for examples of within Mirror. You may wish to use the worksheet below for students to record their findings.
Code  Examples
Symbolic Costume
Facial expression
Written Titles
Written props
Technical Angle
Shot size
Vectors/leading lines


Tell students: Find an example of each of the codes your teacher calls out. Next to your example, explain what this code suggests.

Code My Example What this code suggests
E.g. Facial 
The Moroccan boy 
on the second page
It is early morning and 
he is peacefully asleep
  • Baker uses the technique of collage to create her images, which are then photographed. The textural nature of this process allows for a sense of depth and perspective to be created. On Baker’s website, Baker explains a little about her process. Students might enjoy experimenting with collage to create scenes of their own. Using local found materials, invite students to create a collage of a scene from their local environment.
  • Ask students to consider how the constructed appearance of Baker’s images, as opposed to a photographic representation, has implications for the reader’s acceptance of their accuracy.
  • Examine how visual language has been used to invite comparison between the two narratives through close analysis of a pair of pages. A good example might be the third double-page spread: the arrival at the market/hardware store. You might like to photocopy these individual pages to allow for convenient annotation. Guide students’ annotations of these pages, noting features such as:
    • The trees on the left correlate to the archway on the right.
    • The organic shapes of the branches and leaves mimic the scroll-work on the arch.
    • The positioning of the cars and donkeys correlates them as modes of transport.
    • The lack of vegetation in both images creates a similar arid environment.
    • Processes of commercial transaction exist in both images.
    • The yellow van in the Moroccan image creates a link with the yellow van of the Sydney boy.
    • While the above elements create similarity, the contrast between urban and natural environments highlights difference.
    • The child is foregrounded in both images, highlighting their focus in the text. However, the size of the child figure is small relative to the rest of the image, suggesting that to a child, the world is large and possibly overwhelming.
    • The angle, set above the child but below the horizon line, provides a sense of perspective.
  • Explore how visual language constructs themes within the text, continuing the guided annotation of the above image. Consider:
    • The child is foregrounded in both images, highlighting their importance. However, the child in the Moroccan image is larger than his western counterpart. What might this suggest?
    • The only text in the image, ‘Hardware Planet’, plus the commercial transactions taking place in each image and the presence of the carpet shop in the background (note how the vectors within this image direct the eye to this shop), suggest the globalised nature of commercial economics. However, the size of the hardware store in the western image along with its power suggest that consumerism dominates western thinking (it is our whole world/’planet’). This idea might be further reinforced by the fact that a number of characters appear to be struggling with bulky purchases.
    • The clear skies and positive facial expressions of the male protagonists suggest endorsement of the commercial transactions in which they participate.
    • Both images involve interactions between fathers and sons, suggesting the significance of this relationship. Both fathers are implicated in the processes of inculcation of their sons into their respective cultural practices.
    • There are elements in each image that reinforce stereotypes about each culture, as well as those that challenge.
    • Baker uses the technique of ‘mirroring’ to highlight similarities between the cultures despite their obvious cultural and geographic differences.
  • Model the construction of effective paragraphs explaining how Baker uses visual language codes and conventions to create meaning. Focus on aspects such as effective paragraph structure, making connections between conventions and meaning, and using textual evidence effectively.
  • Provide students with a copy of another page, with particular examples of visual language conventions identified. Have students add the appropriate annotations using the ‘think, pair, share’ strategy.
  • Conduct a visual comprehension quiz on a given image, such as this example (PDF, 106KB).

Text and meaning

Exploration of themes and ideas

  • Explore the different functions of the carpet as a motif throughout the text:
  • Take the theme words generated in the optional introductory activity, such as family, culture, belonging, trade, commerce and connection. Students can mind-map these in small groups to develop their conceptual understanding themes. For each word, students should come up with a series of bullet point ideas that flesh out the meanings generated within Mirror that relate to each theme. Divide the various themes amongst the class. Each student is to identify one image from the text that represents this theme and justify their choice via a brief small-group or class discussion.

Exploration of the Cross-Curriculum Priority: Sustainability

  • Explore the idea of appreciating where our goods come from. In the text, the western boy develops an awareness of the origins of his family’s rug. Students might like to take a common product within their own house, such as their Nike sneakers or their iPod, and investigate where it was designed, manufactured, warehoused and sold. Plot these sites on a map or create a flow chart to highlight the process. Revisit the text, encouraging students to focus solely on the way commerce is represented between the two cultures. Note such ideas as:
    • western culture as predominantly one of consumption vs Moroccan culture as one of production
    • cash vs barter economy
    • images of conspicuous consumption vs subsistence consumption
    • evidence of manufactured vs organic consumables
    • evidence of mass manufacturing vs locally and seemingly sustainably sourced consumables; students might debate as to which culture seems a) sustainable or b) preferable.

Meaning in context

  • The Amnesty International endorsement states that the book contributes ‘to a better understanding of human rights and the values that underpin them’. In a written response, students should comment on how this book generates such understanding. Possible areas of focus could include:
    • using twin narratives to show the similarities between the lives of both protagonists, highlighting values such as family and belonging
    • using collages to create evocative images of Moroccan culture, highlighting values such as culture, tradition and diversity
    • the innovative physical structure of the book to expose readers to the practice of reading right to left as per Arabic texts, highlighting values such as culture and understanding
    • the motif of the rug to highlight the value of intercultural connection.

Additional activities that could be incorporated if time permits or to provide differentiation:


  • Ask students to explain the ways in which the text physically differs from the structure of a traditional picture book. How easy was it to navigate the twin narratives simultaneously?


  • Have students construct a collage representation of themselves. In small groups, they could discuss their choices in the selection of materials and how they considered them in constructing a representation of themselves.
  • Revisit students’ earlier comparisons of the daily lives of each boy. Identify those practices which unite the boys as similar, such as eating dinner with the family, and those that reveal social and cultural differences, such as their modes of travel to their respective markets. Debate whether the two protagonists are more similar than different.
  • Consider the significance of the final images in developing the character of each boy. In particular, consider the role each boy plays within the family in regards to educating them about others in the world.


  • Use Google Earth or similar to locate Sydney and the Valley of the Roses. Have students evaluate the ‘accuracy’ of Baker’s images. How many landmarks (especially from Sydney) can they identify?
  • Investigate why the Valley of the Roses is so called.

Point of view

  • Another example where the point of view of the image creates a close proximity to the reader is the page where we see the Qantas jet. In the second image on this page, the reader is positioned within the car with the boy and his father, creating a very intimate correlation with the reader. Ask students to see if there is ever an equivalent sense of close proximity in the Moroccan narrative. How does this position readers in regards to their ‘closeness’ to one culture and distance from the other?


  • The final images of each narrative invite a number of interpretations. Students could write a monologue or dialogue to accompany these images to explain what each boy is thinking and feeling as they talk with their respective parents.
  • Students could take one of the themes from Mirror and compose a brief recounting of an incident in their own lives that also reflects this theme. Alternatively, students may wish to compose a poem or short story.
  • Pin up a world map in the classroom. Use coloured push-pins or flag-pins with students’ names to identify connections with other cultures, such as through ancestry, marriage or migration. Use this as the basis of a class discussion of the cultural interconnectedness that already exists within the classroom.


Synthesising task/activity

  • Students should demonstrate their skills of visual analysis by analysing a given page or pages of the text. Students should follow a three-step process: annotating the image, making notes and constructing effective paragraphs explaining their interpretation. Annotation and note-making could be completed in one lesson or as homework preparation, whilst the writing of the series of paragraphs should take place in class under timed conditions.
  • A visual analysis template such as the one below may be useful.
Description of image & page number
Codes Descriptions/Examples Meaning
Symbolic E.g. costume, facialexpression, colour, bodylanguage, setting, props
Written E.g. text, written props
Technical E.g. angle, focus,foreground, size
  • It may be beneficial to use a focus question to frame the students’ responses, such as:
    • Explain how this image has been constructed to reveal ideas about family.
    • Explain how visual language conventions have been used to suggest similarities between these two cultures.

Ways of reading the text

  • Gender reading:
    • Using a table, students could compare the role of women as represented by the two mothers. Afterwards, students should write a paragraph to explain whether the mothers conform to typical gender stereotypes as they understand them.
    • Ask students to consider why Baker has chosen male protagonists. How might the story differ if she had chosen female protagonists? Students could investigate the status of women in Morocco and create a storyboard for an alternative version ofMirror with female protagonists.
  • Resistant reading:
    • Baker has constructed Mirror to overtly highlight the similarities between the two protagonists to create a greater appreciation of cultural acceptance and understanding, further reinforced by the endorsement from Amnesty International. However, a resistant reading might suggest that Baker’s illustrations further codify stereotypes about Moroccan (and metonymically, African and/or Islamic) cultures as unsophisticated and less advanced than western cultures.
      • Ask students whether they feel it is ‘fair’ to compare an Australian city, particularly Sydney, Australia’s largest city, with a rural Moroccan setting.
      • Students might like to search for images of Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, and compare this modern metropolis with Sydney.
      • Consider the implications of Baker using an identifiable city, Sydney, with a generic or at least less easily identifiable town in Morocco.
      • The use of the magic carpet allusion might be seen as reducing an important Moroccan cultural practice and industry to a fairytale cliché.Many images throughout the text, such as the technology in the Moroccan market place, are what westerners would consider grossly outdated.
      • Other choices of Baker’s, such as focusing on a family that uses donkeys as their mode of transportation, also reinforce stereotypes of this culture as unsophisticated. Ask students to locate other examples of such choices. The inclusion of the flat-screen computer and the use of the internet in the final Moroccan image go some way to mitigating this reading; question students as to whether it is enough.
      • Readers are invited to see the two cultures as different but equal. Does the obviously unfinished nature of the western home (as it is undergoing renovations) suggest that a Moroccan home is only comparable to an unfinished or incomplete western one? Furthermore, the fact that the western family is seen to make home improvements to their abode might be seen as evidence of agency, implying the Moroccan family’s inability to enact similar development.


Comparison with other texts

  • Aspects of genre:
    • Using both Baker’s website and hard copies of her other picture books, allow students the opportunity to become familiar with her style of using collages to create (essentially) wordless narratives. Take a class poll to see who believes her wordless narratives still clearly evoke a rich narrative. Use this as the basis for a discussion of the value of text versus image in creating meaning.
  • Other texts using similar approaches or dealing with similar ideas:
    • Have students locate another picture book that also deals with themes of family and/or cultural difference. Students could give a brief talk or presentation on their chosen text, drawing comparisons with the style and subject matter of Mirror.


Evaluation of the text

  • Representative of Australian culture:
    • Although the bulk of Australia’s population lives in urban centres, a significant number of Australians live in rural areas. Is the life of the Australian boy in the text representative of Australians as a whole? To whose experience might a rural Australian child most closely relate? Conduct a small group or class debate to evaluate how accurately the text represents ‘typical’ Australian experience.
  • Significant to literature/the world of texts:
    • Mirror won the Children’s Book Council of Australia award for Picture Book of the Year in 2011. Investigate the criteria for this award on the CBCA website. Students could write the judges’ evaluation of Mirror justifying its win.


Rich assessment task

  • Conduct panel discussions with groups of four students to discuss their understanding of the text. For this task, it is better to group students of similar ability. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy (see digital resources) as the basis on which to set topics as per the following suggestions:
    • For very low ability students: the groups could recount the story and highlight the similarities between the two boys’ lives, referring to some specific images as evidence (Understanding). The teacher could provide further support or scaffolding by asking questions of the panel to elicit their discussion.
    • For low to average ability students: the groups could explain how the text has been constructed to promote a particular theme, such as cultural understanding (Analysing).
    • For average to high ability students: the groups could evaluate the effectiveness of the text at promoting intercultural understanding (Evaluating).
    • For high to very high ability students: the groups should critique the representation of cultures and how the conventions used by Baker encourage readers to respond to them in particular ways. Students should then draw on their own analysis, research and/or context to give an informed and individual reading of the text, identifying whether it resists or conforms to the dominant reading (Synthesising/Creating).

Download a sample assessment rubric (PDF, 119KB).

(ACELA1548)   (ACELT1626)   (ACELT1627)   (ACELT1628)   (ACELT1807)   (ACELY1730)   (ACELY1731)   (ACELY1808)   (EN4-6C)   (EN4-5C)   (EN4-8D)   (EN4-1A)   (EN4-4B)   (EN4-3B)

Synthesise core ideas

  • Address and justify any revisions to the initial response:
    • Return to the email the students drafted to the Moroccan boy in the introductory activities. Having now studied the text, students should write the reply from the perspective of the Moroccan boy answering their initial questions.
    • Return to the initial activity exploring the nature of reflected images. Ask students to consider whether the images of these cultures offer a true reflection of each other or whether there is ‘distortion’.
  • Develop a coherent, conclusive statement of understanding regarding the text and its themes, structures and/or techniques, as applicable:
    • Students could script and role-play an interview with Jeannie Baker. The student who takes on the role of interviewer will need to construct a series of thoughtful and appropriate, rather than generic, questions to ask Baker in relation to her aims, ideas and techniques. The student playing Baker will obviously need to be able to discuss the text and its construction in detail. In this way, both students will be able to demonstrate their close understanding of the text.
  • Reflect on awareness of the text’s wider cultural value:
    • Conduct a class discussion on the issue of multiculturalism and the value of texts such as this to help promote intercultural understandings. Have students identify other well-received texts that also contribute effectively to the project of multiculturalism in Australia.
  • Reflect on one’s own processes of responding to and creating texts:
    • Ask students to reflect on the structure of Baker’s twin narratives to encourage a reading that promotes intercultural understanding. For example, if they had only read the Moroccan narrative in isolation, would they have made any connections between their own context and that of the Moroccan boy? Use this to introduce the concept of intertextuality.

Additional activities that could be incorporated if time permits or to provide differentiation:

  • Students could construct a KWL chart (what I Know, what I Want to know, what I Learned) about Morocco. They should fill in the first two columns prior to reading the complete text and the final column post-study in order to map their increased understanding.
  • Students might write an essay explaining how a particular theme has been constructed within the text through the use of visual language, and outline their response to that theme.

Students might create a poster to promote this book to others.


Rich assessment task

  • Students can design and create the cover of their own picture book aiming to promote intercultural understanding. They will present this as a pitch to a publishing company, allowing students the opportunity to explain the function and purpose of their picture book.
    • Students might choose to explore their own cultural background or research a culture that is different to their own. Stronger students might like to frame this within a particular context, such as refugees or so-called ‘boat people’, multiculturalism or the ongoing process of reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
    • Students should incorporate one (or more) of the techniques employed by Baker inMirror to promote intercultural understanding, such as the use of a central motif, juxtaposition or multiple points of view.
    • As part of the task, students need to write a 500-word pitch to the publisher, where they explain the ideas behind their picture book, its intended audience and how they have used visual language and narrative conventions to promote intercultural understanding.
    • Students should submit a portfolio that includes research, drafts showing their experimentation with visual language for effect, notes and draft of their pitch.
    • The focus for assessment should be the use of visual language codes and conventions to create ideas about culture and to promote intercultural understanding, as well as the processes of planning, drafting and editing. The written ‘pitch’ should be considered the students’ opportunity to explain the understanding which should be evident in their creative work.

Download a sample assessment rubric (PDF, 108KB).

(ACELT1628)   (ACELT1767)   (ACELT1632)   (ACELT1768)   (EN4-8D)   (EN4-3B)   (EN4-4B)