Teaching The Scarlet Ibis

Instructor: Shannon Orr
This lesson discusses the story The Scarlet Ibis. It introduces the main characters and summarizes key points from the story. It also discusses how those events can be used to teach students various concepts.

We Are All Different

One of the greatest lessons a teacher can present to their students is that of acceptance. It's mind boggling to think that of all the billions of people in the world, there are no two people who are exactly the same. Even identical twins who may seem the same can quickly point out traits that make them different.

Not only do we look different but we've had different experiences that help to shape the individuals we will become. Teachers should strive to teach students that being different makes us all unique and we should respect and appreciate those differences.

The Scarlet Ibis Summary

The Scarlet Ibis is a story written by James Hurst that discusses differences, pride, and death. The story is about two brothers who are completely different. One brother, who is only referred to as 'Brother', is a healthy, fully functional boy. The other brother, nicknamed Doodle, is a sickly child from birth whose parents do not believe will live and will not accomplish much even if he does.

The oldest brother is embarrassed by Doodle and even considers killing him, but is stopped when Doodle smiles at him. From that moment on, Brother decides to make Doodle normal. This may seem like one brother wanting to help the other, but actually, Brother wants Doodle to be normal so he will no longer be embarrassed.

During the story, Doodle spots a scarlet ibis, which is a red, tropical bird, near a tree in their yard. The bird was sick and tired because it had been blown off course by a storm. The bird eventually died because of its injuries.

Later that day, Brother was determined to teach Doodle to be normal so he could play with the other boys at school. They had been working for weeks to get him ready but Doodle wasn't meeting Brother's goal. It began to storm and Brother had to cut training short. He was so mad at Doodle for not reaching the goal that he started running and left Doodle behind.

After some time, he slowed down and realized that Doodle wasn't coming. When he went back, he found Doodle's lifeless body on the ground and his shirt was covered with blood from his mouth.

Teaching Difference, Pride, Symbolism


Teachers can use The Scarlet Ibis to teach acceptance among students. Many classrooms today include students who may have a disability, issues processing information, or experienced some sort of abuse and/or neglect, as well as self-esteem and family issues.

As the teacher, you can explain that Brother may have seemed normal on the outside but he was dealing with a lot of internal issues that limited him just like the physical delays limited Doodle. Brother couldn't accept that Doodle wasn't just like him and therefore, instead of helping him be the best Doodle, he caused his death trying to make Doodle like him. Students should be taught to accept and respect each other's differences and work to help everyone be their best.


Brother continued to push Doodle beyond the expectations of his doctors, parents, and everyone else. He even taught him how to walk. Unfortunately, Brother refused to accept that Doodle wasn't going to rise up to Brother's standards and pushed him so hard that eventually he was responsible for his death. This can help teachers show how pride can cause terrible results.

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