In 5th grade, I read The Sign of the Beaver and loved the story. A few years ago I was reminded of the story and on a whim looked it up to see if there was a movie for our book and a movie night, and found one. We listened to the book and the kids loved it, just like I had. They were intrigued by Matt’s story and how his viewpoint changed over the time he spent with Attean and his tribe. Then we watched the movie…. This is probably the first time I came close to throwing something at our TV during the movie. ALL of us were yelling at the TV, but it did make for a great discussion for the Sign of the Beaver Book Club.
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Sign of the Beaver synopsis
Sign of the Beaver follows the adventures of Matt, a 13-year-old boy left alone in their newly built log cabin in Maine while his father returns to get the rest of the family from Massachusetts. Matt learns how to survive and thrive in the cabin thanks to the help of Attean, a member of the Beaver clan, and his grandfather.
That is a simplistic summary. In reality, it’s a coming of age tale similar to My Side of the Mountain, where both Matt and Attean learn to not judge each other on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. Both get a glimpse into a different world while Attean learns to read and Matt learns how to live in Maine’s forest.
Seriously if you haven’t read this book, you should read it.
Sign of the Beaver Book Club Snacks
We watched the Sign of the Beaver movie on Amazon Prime (if you don’t have it, then you should totally join).
There are not neccessarily lots of great snacks here, but we had fun discussing what types of food to include, and what makes sense.
- Fish- Attean teaches Matt how to fish and how to cook and season it (if you’re not going to make a meal, you could switch it to goldfish)
- cornbread- there are a lot of discussions about cornbread and how proud he is when he learns to cook it
- pumpkin pie- another item he learned how to cook, are you sensing a trend?
- acorn pancakes- much like in My Side of the Mountain
- molasses- he had some precious molasses stored up from earlier, we used some delicious maple syrup
- dogs- Attean had a dog that was an important story point
- deer jerky- Matt learns how to hunt with a bow, and make a bow, but deer jerky seemed like a fun snack to add in
- Robinson Crusoe- This book is an important plot point and to Matt’s change in attitude
Sign of the Beaver book club discussions
This was before we started our awesome book guides, so we just had discussions of the events and things we learned, so let’s look at ideas to discuss
- Robinson Crusoe is a different look at interaction between a native person and a European, how is Attean’s reaction different from Friday in Robinson Crusoe?
- Why does Attean react so strongly to Robinson Crusoe and Friday’s relationship?
- Attean has a coming of age ceremony in the book for his actions. What coming of age ceremonies do we have?
- Matt starts off thinking Attean is primitive and foolish, but over time his opinion changes, what causes his opinion to change?
- Attean starts off thinking all white men are evil and Matt can teach him nothing, what causes his mind to change?
- Imagine what it was like for Matt while he was alone in the cabin, how would you react, what would you do while you waited?
And if you want to turn this from just a Sign of the Beaver Book Club into an amazing Sign of the Beaver unit study:
- School Project Insanity has some ideas
- As does As We Walk Along the Road (hers are my favorites)
- And Life Beyond the Lesson Plans
Okay, I can’t leave it, I have to tell you WHY the Sign of the Beaver movie was terrible
Don’t read this if you don’t want spoilers. Super major spoilers for stupid changes that shouldn’t have happened.
This could be a very long rant, but here are the main points:
- rather than just leave the story as it was, they introduced a “sub plot” that was really the main plot of the movie of his parents traveling to him- this plot was TERRIBLE
- the mother had modern 21st century views, rather than views from 1700s
- the mother was then incredibly stupid in her choices, but blamed the father for every single one of the bad results
- they removed pivotal scenes from the book so they could make a “clean movie,” so no hunting scene, because that would be too scary
- they changed Attean’s hairstyle, which Jeff really did not get why that was a big deal, but since cutting his hair, was one of those big deal signs for his becoming a man, and was a fairly important plot point, it really matters
- they changed/added in a trapper character who saves Matt at the end because he felt bad for stealing from the boy earlier, taking away from other characters to add that scene
- did I mention how truly attrocious the parent plot was? It was AWFUL! If I could vote someone off the island, I would vote his Mom off the island for being an obnoxious know-it-all who is always wrong
More 5th Grade Ideas for Y’all
- Croos the Oobleck Ocean STEM lesson
- Pollyanna Book Club
- Games the Colonists Played, Living History
- Indian in the Cupboard Book Club
- War of the Roses notebooking lesson