Fairy Floss from a Dentist?

article by Mina , illustrated by Fifi Colston

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to identify language and visual features of texts written or set in earlier times so that I can compose a short work of historical fiction.

Success Criteria:

  • I can see how the experiences described in texts compare and contrast to my own life experiences.
  • I can define the term historical context.
  • I can make connections between a text and its historical context.
  • I can use details of historical context in my own writing.


Essential Knowledge:

More information about how audiences can expect certain patterns in a text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Genre.

More information about the relationship between texts and contexts can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Context.

Prior to reading the text, ask students a series of prediction questions about the subject of the article, fairy floss. Questions may include:

  • Have you had fairy floss before?
  • Where did you buy it from?
  • What flavours were available?
  • Was it an exciting treat, or nothing special?
  • Would you be allowed to eat it regularly? Why or why not?

Collect and display the class answers to these questions on interactive presentation software such as Mentimeter. Explain that the answers given reflect aspects of our modern Australian context (purchasing fairy floss at events like carnivals and shows, the wide range of flavours available, its relatively low cost and the common belief that it is really unhealthy).

Define the term historical context: what life was like for people who lived at a certain time. It might include considerations of the social structure, politics, economics and cultural factors. It also includes geography, such as where in the world events took place. Explain to students that they have considered their own context when it comes to fairy floss. They will now read an article on the same topic, but with a very different historical context.

As you read the article, ask students to locate and record five amazing facts about fairy floss at the St Louis World Fair of 1904. (Suggested resource: they can collate this information on the Five Amazing Facts Worksheet). Compile a class list of these facts.

Next, outline the students’ creative task. They will imagine that they are a young person travelling to the World Fair in 1904. They will describe their experience seeing, purchasing and tasting fairy floss for the first time. They will write in the historical fiction genre, using details from the article and their research.

Provide students with a list of the patterns in the historical fiction genre. Then instruct students to view the clip St Louis World Fair 1904, paying close attention to clothing, exhibits, attractions, attitudes and customs of the time. Students can use the table below to plan their story. Some examples are below:

Historical Fiction Genre

Pattern Will it appear in your story? Example
Characters act appropriate for the time period Yes Attend a variety of exhibits in the world fair. Sense of wonder and awe at the attractions.
Specific vocabulary from the time period is included Yes Electrical machine, candy manufacturer, prototype
Set in a specific place during a specific time in history Yes April 1904, St Louis World Fair
Includes details, traditions and societal norms of the time period Yes Girls wore long dresses with large collars and ribbons in their hair.
Combines real details with fictional characters and events Yes Inventors: William Morrison and John Wharton. The cost was 25c, which was half the price of the ticket to the fair.

Prior to writing their narrative, you may like to show students examples of historical novels. Some text suggestions appear on the Readings Recommended Australian History Picture Books list.

Provide students with time to write their historical narrative, before they share it with peers, the class or publish it on a digital platform.

Assessment as/of learning:

After students have written their own historical narrative, you may wish to read the novel "Meet Me at the Fair!" Fairy Floss: The Sweet Story of Cotton Candy by Ann Ingalls, a picture book with the same premise as the writing task.

Students can construct a success criteria based on the features of this book. They can then use the success criteria to self-assess their work.