Shifting from Curmudgeons to Readers

7 Sep

In one of her opening lessons on engaging readers, Lucy Calkins writes about how kids have the choice to approach books as “curmudgeons” or to “read like it’s gold.”  One of the great things about Lucy’s approach to reading is how she makes what “good readers do” equivalent to what “good people do,” and this lesson is no exception.  It’s all about how we get to choose the attitude with which we approach the world.

I also love the lesson in part because I love the word “curmudgeon.”  What a great word to start throwing around with kids!  The last few years though, kids haven’t internalized the word and idea like I wanted them to.  They enjoyed the lesson, but for many it was soon forgotten.  Maybe part of it was that they didn’t have the deep seated image of a curmudgeon that I did.

Well, we could fix that.

On the SMARTboard, we started with the phrase – Curmudgeon: a mean tempered or surly person.

Then a slow reveal of the following pictures.  Students could choose to approach every book like it was going to be the best book ever, OR, they could approach it as this guy:


or this woman:


Or this guy:


They laughed.  But then I could see them thinking in their heads, “that’s not really who I want to be.”  When we tried opening our books and reading a few pages “like they were gold,” there was a new stillness to the room.

The next day, a student asked if we could see a video of a curmudgeon.  That stumped me for a bit, but I did find what I thought was a pretty appropriate clip:

Carl, classic curmudgeon.  Russell, trying to turn everything into gold.  Plus it’s from UP, one of the best Pixar movies ever, so that’s an added bonus.

I did regret that all of my curmudgeons were old.  There are certainly a lot of two year old curmudgeons out there, as well as kids and adults of all ages.  Luckily, it didn’t seem to phase the class too much.

A few days later,  we read a section in Stone Fox where Little Willy decides he’ll enter a dogsled race, and the bank manager tells him that he’s being crazy and will fail.  Little Willy insists it will work, while the bank manager insists there’s no hope, the plan is doomed to failure, and Willy should sell the farm.  “Willy is determined and an optimist,” we decided, and the bank manager…”is acting like a curmudgeon!” the class declared.  Ahhh…transfer :).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


A world of film, a house of stuff.

Literacy Changes Everything!

Teaching and Parenting as a Dedicated Reader and Writer

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life

sunday cummins

Experience Nonfiction

Shanahan on Literacy

Literacy in Education


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

Shanker Blog


Free Technology for Teachers

Literacy in Education


Smarter Charts from Marjorie Martinelli & Kristine Mraz

%d bloggers like this: