Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

It's Never Too Late to Apologize

Character Development and Theme in "The Scarlet Ibis"

Daniel Schwarz, Brandy Hackett | Published: August 19th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course American Literature, Composition
  • Time Frame Time Frame 150 minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 class periods


This lesson has students connect the theme of regret across poems, songs, nonfiction, and short stories to explore how social-emotional factors can affect character development and theme. Students will work independently to write their own apology note as well as write an apology from the perspective of a character from “The Scarlet Ibis.” This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning.

Essential Question(s)

How do characters' states of mind affect their development and the development of the theme in a text?



Students analyze a poem to determine the author’s purpose in apologizing and discuss this topic with an Elbow Partner.


Students examine poems in rotating groups to determine what the speaker regrets in each text.


Students interpret key scenes in a short story to determine how the character’s development affects the theme of regret.


Students adapt their own version of the poem from the beginning of the lesson, creating a poem that is also an apology.


Students imagine themselves as the main character in the short story "The Scarlet Ibis" and create an apology note, supporting their writing with textual evidence.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Student devices or writing paper

  • "This Is Just to Say" poem (one per student)

  • "The Scarlet Ibis" (one per student)

  • SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer (attached, one per student)

  • Songs/poems for analysis (one per student/group)

  • Text Analysis Chart (attached, one per student)

  • Apology Note Rubric (attached, one per student)


Open the Lesson Slides and introduce students to the essential question on slide 3 and the lesson objective on slide 4.

Give students a few minutes to read the poem "This Is Just To Say" by William Carlos Williams. Display the poem from the website or provide students with the link or a printed copy.

Display slide 5. Have students discuss the questions with an Elbow Partner:

  • What is the speaker apologizing for?

  • What is his tone?

  • Does he mean it?

Ask for volunteers to share out their thoughts with the whole class.


Tell students that sometimes our regrets can be a little more serious than eating someone else’s plums. The poems and songs they are going to analyze deal with deeper regrets. They will look at the figurative language in the text to figure out what regret the speaker discusses in each.

Organize students into groups of four. Display slide 6 and pass out copies of the SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer. Briefly preview the SOAPSTone acronym with students.

Assign each group a poem or song. Ask students to use the SOAPSTone prompts to analyze the lyrics in order to figure out what the speaker regrets.

Use the Three Stray, One Stays strategy to rotate groups so that one group member stays behind to share what was discussed as different people rotate through the group.


Display slide 7. Distribute copies of "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst to students, or provide access to the story online, such as via Actively Learn. Distribute copies of the Text Analysis Chart. Tell students that as they read the story they will be analyzing key scenes to draw inferences about when the character feels regret and making notes in their charts. Consider pairing students with their Elbow Partner from earlier in the lesson to read the story and complete the chart.

After students have read the text, review students' Text Analysis Chart responses as a whole class. During the discussion, pose the following question: What does the author say about regret in the text?


Display slide 8. Come back to the poem "This Is Just to Say." Ask students to write an apology from their own perspective or based on their own life experiences using the poem as a model.

If there is time, ask for volunteers to share their apology poems with the class.


Display slide 9. Ask students to write another apology. This one will pertain to the characters in "The Scarlet Ibis." The apology should be written to Doodle from the perspective of Brother, using the evidence from the text to support what Brother might say to Doodle, if he could.

Pass out copies of the Apology Note Rubric so that students can review the guidelines used to evaluate their work.

When students have finished writing, ask for volunteers to share their apologies with the class.