Sonny Jim and Grump

story by Wendy Graham , illustrated by Amy Golbach

Learning intention

I am learning to explore the personal reasons behind the acceptance or rejection of opinions during discussions so that I can reflect on the reasons behind my opinions.

Success criteria

  • I can discuss my perception of a character based on their behavior.
  • I can consider reasons for the way a character acts.
  • I can consider how my experiences influence my perception of characters.
  • I can reflect on how texts help us to understand each other.


Focus question:

How do texts help us to understand each other?


Prior to reading Sonny Jim and Grump, discuss the question,

  • What is your perception of a grandparent who:

goes for a long walk rather than sitting with the family at Christmas dinner, doesn’t join in at family gatherings, never talks, smiles or laughs.

Most likely students will conclude, someone who behaves in this way is grumpy, aloof, unfriendly and perhaps unkind.

Read Sonny Jim and Grump, or listen to the audio recording, up to the end of the paragraph that finishes with,

Sonny Jim, Pa doesn’t even use my name.

Inform students that the description of a grandparent shared earlier is of Pa. Discuss students’ perception of his Pa by posing the following questions:

  • How does Flynn feel about Pa? (He thinks he is a grump)
  • Do you agree with the character’s perception about Pa? (Most likely students will conclude that they agree with Flynn at this stage and that they think he is a grump)
  • What possible explanations might there be for the way Pa behaves? (For example, he might be unwell, he could be tired, he may not like children)

Continue reading the remainder of the story. Discuss the explanation for Pa’s behaviour (that he is suffering from PTSD). Emphasise that before readers knew about Pa’s past, they most likely misjudge Pa, based on his behaviour.

Place students in groups. Tell them that they will be exploring questions about Pa. Discuss how students think they should approach the group’s conversation and compose a brief procedure for them to follow based on the students’ ideas. For example:

  • Discussion should be respectful, and students should listen to each other’s opinions without interrupting
  • Each person should have a chance to share their initial thoughts.
  • Ask follow-up questions to discover reasons behind opinions, for example:

Does this remind you of something you have experienced in your own life? How did you react? Were you happy with your reaction or would you do something differently next time?

  • Look for similarities and differences between the opinions of the students.

Display the following questions for students to discuss with their group:

  • Has your perspective of Pa changed now that we know more about the reasons, he acts the way he does? (Understanding why Pa is grumpy provides insight into his reasons and creates empathy towards him)
  • What does this story teach us? (That we shouldn’t judge people just by their behaviour and instead we should look beyond the way they behave to see if we can gain a deeper understanding of who they are)
  • Have you ever experienced a time when you have formed an opinion about someone only to discover an explanation for their actions later? Does this impact your interpretation of Flynn’s behaviour? (For example, I originally thought someone was aloof and unfriendly until I discovered they were actually just shy)
  • How does your experience shape your perception of the ideas presented in a text? (For example, I knew not to judge Pa before I understood the reasons for his behaviour as I have been misjudged in the past)
  • Has this text helped you understand anyone in your life more? (For example, my grandfather is grumpy, and I never thought to consider why he is like this, but this story has made me think about my perception of him)

Once students have had a chance to share their ideas with their group, inform them that they will be sharing them with the whole class. Discuss each of the questions in turn, ensuring each group has an opportunity to share what they discussed. Emphasise examples where students’ personal experiences have influenced their perception of the character.

Instruct students to complete an exit slip, by responding to the following question in their workbooks:

  • How do texts help us to understand each other? (For example, texts provide an insight into the possible reasons behind people’s actions, they provide insight into what makes people tick, they encourage us to question our pre-conceived ideas)


The exit slip provides an opportunity for assessing students understanding of the focus question.