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A Listening Library Study Guide


A. Have the class define and discuss these terms:

banishment, feigned, cowering, brandished, smoldered, mustered, venomous, ricocheted, searing, flailed, grimacing, taunted, turbulent, incessant, rivulets, gluttonous, brazenly, pummeled, acrid, vulnerable, grueling, teemed, venom, skittish, looming, musty, ambled, gibberish, garbled, spasm, haggard, delirium, droned, irked, savoring, gingerly, loped, galvanizing, hovering, dawdled, caulking, ingenuity, sullen, meandered, writhed, charred, hibernate, treacherous, wavered, mesmerize

Touching Spirit Bear

by Ben Mikaelsen

When Cole Matthews severely beats up another student, he is sent to live on a remote Alaskan island for a year, where he learns to cope with nature, face his anger, and heal.

B. Before beginning the story, discuss the following questions with the class:

1. How valuable is it to send wrong-doers to prison? What often happens to people who are sent to prison? Is prison the answer? What alternatives might there be? 2. Why do some people have trouble controlling their anger? How can they learn to better manage their anger? What problems does anger cause us? 3. Do you think you'd be able to live all alone on an island and fend for yourself? What would you learn from this experience? 4. What are some differences in beliefs of Native Americans from what others believe? What is their attitude toward nature and animals?

him? What are the rules this time? What is Cole angry about? Why does Edwin take him to the pond? Why do Garvey and Edwin make him build his own cabin? What does Cole learn from the whale dance? What other dances do they do? 3. Complete the story with Chapters 19 - 28: What does Cole discover on his soak? What does the rock become to him? What does he decide to do with the log he finds? What does he say at the end of his "Dance of Anger"? What does he think will help Peter heal? How does Edwin know Cole has changed? How does Peter act toward Cole? At what point does Peter's attitude begin to change toward him? What does Cole tell Peter about the spirit bear when they see it? What does Cole say when he gives Peter the óow?

B. For Discussion:

1. The book opens with the Japanese proverb: "Fall seven times, stand up eight." How does this relate to the story? 2. At what point does Cole take the first step away from his self-centeredness and anger? 3. Why does Cole throw the clump of white hair away rather than using it to prove he saw the Spirit Bear? 4. Why does Edwin have them dance? How does Cole finally get ready to do his dance of anger? What does he learn? 5. Why does Edwin give the óow to Cole? What does it symbolize when Cole gives it to Peter?


anger management, child abuse, survival, Native American beliefs, responsibility, problem-solving, courage, forgiveness


A. Understanding the Story:

1. Begin with Chapters 1 - 9: How does Cole feel about his punishment? What does he plan to do when he gets to the island? What does Edwin give Cole? What does Cole do to his shack and the supplies? How does the Circle of Justice operate? Why can't Cole swim to the other island? What happens when Cole attacks the bear? Why does Cole keep the clump of fur? What does the bear do to him? What is the first thing he worries about after the storm? 2. Advance to Chapters 10 - 18: How does Cole feel when he finds the baby birds? What does he realize about death? Why does he touch the bear? How is he rescued? What news do Edwin and Garvey bring


Give students the opportunity to work with partners, groups, the whole class, or alone.


A. Language Arts:

1. Have students take five minutes and quickly list everything that makes them angry. Then have them take another five minutes and list everything that pleases them or gives them peace. How can we learn to find peace when we feel anger? 2. Have students watch a sunrise, take a walk in a rain or snow storm, or sit by a stream, then write an essay or poem about the experience.

Middle Grade Unabridged Audio

3. Have students write about trust. What does trust mean to them? Why is it difficult to trust? Why is it difficult to be trusted? 4. When he thinks he might die, Cole wonders how death will come. Have students write about how they envision death.

3. Have students learn about totem poles. Why did Native Americans carve them? What do the carvings represent? 4. Garvey tells Cole, "Forgiving isn't forgetting." Can we truly forgive and forget? Why or why not?

Theme Related Reading and Listening:

Listening Library offers additional titles that explore similar themes and content areas. Use the information below to purchase audiobooks from our extensive list of awardwinning and popular titles to enhance the learning experience for students in every classroom or library. Other titles students may enjoy:

· · · · · · · Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos Holes by Louis Sachar Lord of the Flies by William Golding Monster by Walter Dean Myers Slake's Limbo by Felice Holman

B. Art and Music:

1. Have students select background music that is appropriate to some of the scenes. They might use the song, "The Circle of Life" from Walt Disney's The Lion King, Native American chants, drumming, or the impressionist music of Maurice Ravel. 2. Have students make a bulletin board about the story. They could cover the board with white and brown and draw a perfect circle. In the center, they could put a totem pole and around the circle items like the feather used in the Circle of Justice, the Spirit Bear, the burning cabin, the new cabin, the at.Ûow, the soaking pond, the stick of anger, the ancestor rock, and the broken nest of baby birds, 3. Pass around a basket with pictures of different animals in it and have students close their eyes and take one. Then have them make up a dance for the animal. Finally, hold a class discussion on what they learned about the animal from the dance. Which of these characteristics could they bring into their own lives? 4. Have students spend a day looking for and thinking about circles. What does a circle represent? Follow up by arranging the class in a circle for a sharing discussion. How is sitting in a circle different from sitting in rows? 5. Have students design their own personal totem pole and discuss why they chose each animal to go on it.

D. Science and Math:

1. When he tries to escape the island, Cole is caught by the tide. Have students learn more about tides. What causes them? Where are they strongest? 2. Have students learn more about the birds and animals mentioned in the story, like orcas, whales, eagles, beavers, bears, or seals. 3. The giant oak is brought down during the storm by lightning. Have students learn more about lightning. What causes it? Why does it strike trees and other tall objects? What precautions should we take during a thunderstorm? 4. When he doesn't see the Spirit Bear during the winter, Cole decides it has gone into hibernation. Have students learn about hibernation. How are hibernating animals able to sleep for so long without nourishment?


When it comes to teaching today's students, sometimes books are just not enough. In an increasingly technological and information-savvy world, the ability to read will be critical to every child's success. The value of audiobooks as a learning tool in the education of children is widely recognized by experts. Audiobooks bring written text to life, adding an interactive quality that can ignite a child's imagination. They encourage reading by broadening vocabularies, stretching attention spans, and fostering critical-thinking skills. Listening to audiobooks in the classroom can effectively enrich the reading experience and aid your students in understanding and appreciating literature, history, theatre arts, and more!

For a FREE school and library catalog of Listening Library's unabridged productions: · · · · · Call TOLL FREE 1-800-733-3000 FAX us at 1-800-940-7046 email us at [email protected] visit our website at or write: Books on Tape 1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019

© 2008 Listening Library

C. Social Studies:

1. Going to the island is for Cole a kind of "vision quest." Have students find out about peoples who use the vision quest to help them come to terms with their anger or other things in their lives that are out of balance. Discuss: Would this be a good practice for modern people as a rite of passage into adulthood? 2. Have students find out about "Circle Justice." Is it being used anywhere? What results has it achieved? Would it work for all wrong-doers. Why or why not?


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