Elizabeth George Speare's best-selling novel "The Sign of the Beaver" explores some important themes, ranging from survival to friendship. Incorporate elements from the story into your daily interdisciplinary lesson plans; this should allow you to emphasize important concepts from the story while teaching several subjects. Plan games and activities to align with the theme for an entertaining change of pace that will hold students' attention.
In the novel, Matthew relies on using notched sticks to keep track of the time. Incorporate this aspect of the story into your daily math lesson plans; have students practice telling time using old-fashioned methods like the notched stick technique, or by looking at a sundial. You could also create math problems based on various parts of the story. For instance, you could invent a problem based on things like the supposed dimensions of Matthew's log cabin.
Many elements of nature are seen throughout the book, so use these as inspiration for some life science lesson plans. For instance, discuss some of the living creatures that appear in the story such as the bear that wanders into the cabin or the bees that attack Matthew. You could also focus on the plants and herbs that were commonly used by Native Americans for healing practices and dietary needs. Ask the students to do a report on the anatomy and habitat of a prevalent organism in the novel.
Oral storytelling is featured in the book, so focus on this aspect by having students take some time to develop a story to share aloud with the class. The story also presents young readers with new vocabulary words, so have the students keep track of words that are unfamiliar; compile these words into a trivia review game or challenge the students to use the words in everyday speech each week. You can also focus on the Penobscot tribe's language used throughout the book by having the students make their own small dictionaries with English definitions.
Use the novel as an opportunity for the students to investigate some of New England's Native American peoples. Have the students compare and contrast a tribe of their choice against the Penobscot people featured in the book. You could also have the students practice their geography skills by investigating maps of New England, focusing on the state of Maine in particular. Take a look at historic maps versus modern ones, and compare and contrast the two.
Get the students moving by doping some of the exercise activities featured in the book. For instance, give a lesson on how to play the Native American sport of lacrosse, and then have a class scrimmage to practice and understand the sport.
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