This Stands for What? Explaining Symbolism in The Scarlet Ibis

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SWBAT explain the symbolism in a text by making connections between the story and an informational text. Students will develop a study guide for concepts and ideas by creating a foldable.

Big Idea

Two minds are better than one in this pairing activity to identify symbols; Students create a study buddy in a crafty foldable for keeping track of notes and concepts

Do Now: SSR

20 minutes

As students enter the room, I have on the board: Read your SSR (self-selected) text for 15 minutes.

I chose to move SSR to the beginning of the period because it is so important that students are reading daily, and SSR at the end of the period often gets shortened or doesn't happen at all. Having it at the beginning of the period provides a way for students to practice skills they may have learned previously or to preview what will happen in the lesson today.

According to the Common Core, by the end of grade 9 students should read and comprehend literature on the high end of the 9-10 band proficiently. During their SSR time, I conduct conferences to track the kinds of texts they are reading and the appropriateness of the texts. A great resource for checking reading Lexile levels of texts is to do a search on If student reading Lexiles are available to you, this is a good way to match readers to texts. I use a notebook or a conference sheet to collect information about the conference. The reading conference form developed by Laura Candler is a great way to keep track of individual conferences overall.

At the end of the 15 minutes, I ask my students to respond to the following prompt:

A symbol is an object that stands for something else. How does your author use symbols in the story? What do the symbols stand for? Explain. If you book has NO symbols, think of one that you might add to this story if you were re-writing it.  Explain why.

I am having students write this information in their journals because today's lesson is about symbolism and I can use it as a formative assessment of what they know about it. Also, we are journaling because this journal is almost like a diary of our class time. It allows them to keep track of their reading and they can use these journals to reflect on how much they have learned this year and to remind them of skills/concepts on those forgetful days. If we discuss symbolism again this year, they can go back to their journals to see how they wrote about symbolism earlier in the year.

Building Knowledge

10 minutes

During this part of the lesson I will tell my students that that we are going to explore some of the possible symbols in "The Scarlet Ibis" by reading some non-fiction texts to help us understand why the author may have included these objects and to determine whether or not they symbolize other concepts or ideas in the story.

I always like to pair informational texts with literary texts when possible because this prepares my students for the range of reading and level of text complexity required by the Common Core, I am providing students with 1 of 3 informational articles to read. In this part of the lesson, they have some choice. I am giving them a choice of reading about the doodle bug AKA antlion, the bleeding tree, or the scarlet ibis. These articles have technical vocabulary, so I encourage students to use a Frayer Model diagram, context clues, or another vocabulary strategy in order to comprehend the text. I chose these articles because they would expose students to the types of technical vocabulary that they might encounter in other complex informational texts CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 . This is a chance for them to determine what these words mean and what impact they have on the text.

Based on a question I threw out to the class about symbolism, most students were familiar with the meaning of the term but were a bit unsure of why author's use symbolism, so I am allowing them this time to do a little bit of research (in the form of reading informational texts) to discover why an author might have used the symbols and how the symbolism impacts the meaning of the story.

Keep in mind that the bleeding tree article may be a bit difficult for some students because of the specialized vocabulary, so I provide more support for students reading that one by spending some time working with them in their group and by asking questions to check for their understanding of the text.



30 minutes

For the application part of the lesson, I will release students to read the articles with their groups and to discuss the question about symbolism. I will instruct students to take notes on the articles while they are reading. These notes should be about how the symbol that they are reading about in the article connects to events/ideas in the text. They will use their articles as the note-taking sheets, but they can write information and page numbers from the story on the articles as well to show the connections.

For these groupings, there are no specific roles for each group member. I am expecting them to decide whether they want to read the articles out loud (collaboratively) or read silently (individually) before they discuss as a small group. During this time, I make it a point to circulate to each group to make sure their discussions are productive and to guide them in their discussions about symbolism. I will be constantly referring them back to the question about how and why the author chose the symbol for the story. In other words, I will encourage them to integrate what they now know about these topics to determine how (and why) the object is used as symbol in the story.

The question about symbolism will appear on an assessment next week, so I really want to make sure they understand how authors, specifically James Hurst,  uses symbols in the "The Scarlet Ibis," and I want them to be able to cite evidence from the text that supports the reasons the author may have included the symbol CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1.

At the end of the reading and discussion time, I will ask one member of each group to share a summary of their findings about how and why the symbol that they read about in the article is used in the story. This means that they will need to be able to present their findings about symbolism using what they learned in the articles AND what they read in the story clearly and concisely CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4

Building Knowledge: Study Skills

30 minutes

Next, we will move on to  preparing for a formal assessment of what they have learned, not only in this lesson, but over the last couple of weeks. I will introduce this section of the lesson by telling students that we are at the point where it is time to complete a formal assessment of what they have learned.

Today they will be creating a foldable to help prepare for that assessment.


 Each student gets 3 sheets of multi-colored construction paper.

This  is a way to track what they have learned so far in the course and reinforce skills on which they may need more study. They have the option of including only the concepts and terms that they need to study. I have not used foldables in the past, but I learned of it in a professional development workshop, and I thought it might be a great way for my students to create a a note-taking book that will appeal to visual and kinesthetic learners. We'll see how it goes!

I will show the short video clip linked above because it provides instructions for creating the foldable. I'll also model the creating of the foldable in class.

Sample tabs for their foldable may be:

Tone --include definition and sample tone words

Theme-include definition and sample theme statement

Vocabulary-include words from The Scarlet Ibis with definitions

Author's style-include definition

Sound devices-include definition and examples

imagery-include definitions and example.

I am giving my students 15-20 minutes to work on their foldable in class because I can monitor their use of specific examples to help them remember the terms. I can also check for their understanding of terms/concepts we have learned in class.. Here's a clip of a student working on his foldable, using tone words from our posted list.


5 minutes

At the end of the class, I'll have my students share entries from their foldables.  This can be done as a whole group share or in partnered groupings. I am having students share because it often helps them to hear what other students are studying to see if they may need to reorganize their foldable. It also builds their listening and speaking skills so that they become more comfortable with speaking in front of the class. Part of being college and career ready is being able to present knowledge and ideas clearly and concisely CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4.