Symbolism is for…the birds?

A “Scarlet Ibis” that is.

It’s no secret engaging students in short stories can be a challenge. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easiest to do when the story revolves around some sort of extreme fatality. My students frequently ask me “Why do we always read stories where someone dies?” To which I respond “Do you really want to read a happily ever after story?” They laugh…I wonder silently if I should work some of those utopian-style stories in, and we go about our reading for the day.

Though we read the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare, these stories don’t leave quite as much of an impact as James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis. In this story of two brothers, the heartbreaking end leaves students shocked and silent as they wrap their heads around the events that have unraveled.

Students are immediately hooked on the story on the first day of reading they come into class to see a shocking quote from the story:

It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make my plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow

Once I have their attention, we take a few minutes to discuss their experience with siblings and begin to make some inferences about the story. Through a range of nonfiction activities, reading guides, vocabulary, and assessments, students finish reading “The Scarlet Ibis” with a strong grasp of symbolism and a greater appreciation for their families!

Want full access to all resources and lesson plans? Check them out here!


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