The Sign of the Beaver – Study Guide

Please make sure you locate the correct chapters you need by referring to your Prep English Assignment sheet.

The Sign of the Beaver

Chapters 1-5



ruefully –


surveyor –


venturing –


proprietors –


solitary –


vaguely –


expedition –


begrudgingly –


mite –


boggy –





One of the first things we learn about a story is the setting in which it takes place.  The setting includes the time and place of the story.  As we read the story, we can think about how we would act if we were in that time and place.  In The Sign of the Beaver the first few chapters establish the setting.  As you read it, find this information.


1. Where is Matt?  Find words that describe his physical environment.



2.  When does this story take place?  Find the year.



3.  What territory is Matt in?



4. What is Matt expected to do each day? Why?






1.  How does Matt’s father tell him to keep track of time?



2.  What gifts does Matt’s father give him?




3.  What advice does Matt’s father give him about how to treat Indians?




4.  When Matt is visited by Ben, he decides to try to stay awake, but eventually he falls asleep.

When he awakens, what does he discover? How does Matt feel?





5.  How does the bear get into the cabin?  What does the bear do in the cabin?





6.  Why does Matt climb the tree with the bees in it?





7.  What happens to Matt in the tree? What does he do about it?




8.  Who rescues Matt?




Thinking About the Story (Extra Credit for 5th graders)

9.  Matt has never lived alone or in the wilderness.  Do you think he would have made the same mistakes if he had lived in the Maine territory longer before his father left him alone?  Explain.








10. What does the Bible tell us about hospitality?  Read Matthew 22:34-40 and Hebrews 13:2.  In these passes, we are encouraged to serve others without expecting a reward.  Do you feel Matt’s father was right in teaching Matt to treat others respectfully?




The Sign of the Beaver

Chapter 6-11



The synonym of a word is a word with a similar meaning.  The antonym of a word is a word with an opposite meaning.  For each vocabulary word, write a synonym and an antonym.


Synonym                                             Antonym


abruptly                       _________________________          _________________________


nonchalantly                _________________________          _________________________


disdainful                    _________________________          _________________________


incomprehensible        _________________________          _________________________


wary                            _________________________          _________________________


glowered                     _________________________          _________________________


disgruntled                  _________________________          _________________________


dumfounded               _________________________          _________________________


finicky                         _________________________          _________________________


contemptuous              _________________________          _________________________



  1.  In a treaty, both sides agree to do something for the other side. Saknis and Matt make a treaty.  What does Saknis agree to do for Matt, and what does Matt agree to do for Saknis?




  1. Both Matt and Attean teach each other.  What does Matt teach Attean?  Why does Saknis want Attean to learn this?




  1. What does Attean teach Matt?  Why does Matt need to know this?




  1. Why does Attean get upset about Robinson Crusoe?




  1. What does Matt do to hide the truth about Robinson Crusoe?
  2. Matt and Attean begin to develop a friendship.  What things do they do together that they both enjoy doing?





  1. Because they have very different backgrounds, at times they do not get along. Each of them thinks their own way is best.  Name an example of this attitude for each boy.





    6th Graders (Extra Credit for 5th graders)

  1. Matt describes Attean’s eyes as having a “nasty little gleam” (Chapter 6) and Attean’s smile as a “horrid grin” (Chapter 10).  What do you think Attean was feeling at those times?  What was Matt feeling?






  1. Why did Matt lie about what happened in the book Robinson Crusoe?  Do you think this shows a friendship between Matt and Attean?








  1. What else, other than lying, could Matt have done in this situation?







  1. Matt struggles with learning to give respect to other people, and he discovers that historically, people have not always received the respect they deserve.  Look up the following verses and explain what each says about showing respect:

Romans 12:10



Romans 13:7



1 Peter 2:17


The Sign of the Beaver


Chapter 12-15


Circle the word on the right that is closest in meaning to the vocabulary word on the left.


chagrined                               thrilled                         embarrassed                tired


flimsy                                      fragile                          fancy                           powerful


sinew                                       vine                             yarn                             tendon


indignant                                resentful                      happy                          exhausted


goaded                                    injured                         driven                          stopped


shrewdly                                 cleverly                        stupidly                       quickly


mocking                                  restless                         scornful                       modest


tribute                                     gift                             weapon                        recognition




  1.  How does Attean help Matt to make a better bow?







  1. What does Attean do about the fox that the boys find in a metal trap?  Why?







  1. Although Attean does not like his reading lessons, he is learning from Matt.  How can Matt tell?







  1. What stories does Matt decide to tell Attean after they have finished Robinson Crusoe?




  1. When the bear threatens Matt and Attean’s life, what does Matt do to help save them?







  1. What does Attean do to save them from the bear?







  1. Why do the boys leave the bear?







6th Graders: (Extra Credit for 5th graders)

  1. When Matt tells Attean the story of Noah and the great flood, Attean tells Matt the Native Americans also tell a story about a world-wide flood that is very similar.  The attached chart shows several stories from different cultures that tell of a great flood.  Fill in the blanks for the Biblical story using Genesis 6-8, and fill in the Native American story based on what Attean tells Matt.  Leave blank parts that Attean does not tell Matt.



Cause and Effect:


The events that occur in Matt’s life are connected.  One event leads to another event.  That is, one event causes the next event, which is called the effect.  The cause occurs first, then the event follows.  For each of the sets of events, write C for cause, and E for effect.


  1. As he stepped into the woods, a bluejay screeched a warning.  So it was some time before he spotted anything to shoot at.


_____  A bluejay screeched a warning.

_____  It was some time before he spotted anything to shoot at.


  1. But he couldn’t sleep.  He lay staring at the long roof, even after the last flickers of firelight had died away and the cabin was in darkness.  He couldn’t quiet his uneasy thoughts.  Bragging about his adventures by the fire, Ben had seemed harmless, just a fat, tired old man grateful for a good meal.  To be honest, Matt had enjoyed the company.  Now he began to worry.


_____  But he couldn’t sleep.

_____  He couldn’t quiet his uneasy thoughts.


  1. Abruptly he swung his feet to the floor, and winced as a sharp pain ran up his leg.


_____  He swung his feet to the floor.

_____  A sharp pain ran up his leg.


  1. Matt looked up from the page.  There was not a flicker of interest in the boy’s face.  Had he understood a single word?  Discouraged, he laid down the book.  What did a storm at sea mean to a savage who had lived all his life in a forest.

_____  There was no interest on Attean’s face.

_____  Discouraged, Matt laid down the book.


  1. Matt was in fine spirits that day, because he had managed by a magnificent stroke of luck to hit a rabbit with his bow and arrow.


_____  Matt was in fine spirits.

_____  He had hit a rabbit with his bow and arrow.




The Sign of the Beaver

Chapter 16-19



boisterous –


bounty –


clamor –


genial –


gleeful –


mortar –


nimbly –


pungent –


sober –


wielded –




  1.  Where does Matt go with Attean?





  1. Why is Matt nervous when they first arrive?





  1. Why is Matt curious when they first arrive?





  1. What story does Attean tell?





  1. At night the village had seemed exciting to Matt.  In the morning, he sees that the village is poor.  What does he notice that tells him that?


  1. What happened to Attean’s father and mother?





  1. Why does Matt begin to worry about his family?





  1. Why does Matt return uninvited to Attean’s village?





  1. What do Matt and Marie do to save the dog?





  1. On his third visit to the village Matt must give his shirt to another boy.  Why?





  1. What would Matt’s father have said about losing his shirt?






6th Graders: (Extra Credit for 5th graders)

  1. What emotion is Matt feeling when he feels cold inside?







  1. Attean’s grandmother does not trust or like white people.  Do you feel she had good reason to resent white people?







  1. Do you feel that it is fair of her to not want Matt at the village because he is white?

The Sign of the Beaver

Chapter 20-25



Resolved –


scorn –


unhampered –


scarce –


chinked –


meager –


gaping –


feat –


prowess –


floundered –



  1.  What does Attean’s tribe do every fall?




  1. According to his beliefs, Attean must find his Manitou to become a man.  How does he live while he is waiting?




  1. How would Attean be treated differently once he found his Manitou?




  1. When Matt sees Attean, he can tell that Attean has found his Manitou.  How does he know?




  1. What offer does Saknis make to Matt?  How does Matt answer?  Why?





  1. Why is Saknis concerned for Matt?


  1. How does Matt earn Attean’s respect?





  1. What does Saknis give Matt?





  1. How does Attean view land ownership?





  1. Where is the tribe going?





  1. What does Attean give Matt?  What does Matt give Attean?





  1. How does Matt prepare for winter?





  1. What does Matt make for members of his family?





  1. Why was Matt’s family so late in coming?





6th Graders (Extra Credit for 5th Graders)

  1.  In The Sign of the Beaver, Attean seeks his Manitou.  What spirit does 2 Corinthians 3:17,18 and Ephesians 5:18 say we should want?


The Sign of the Beaver


Summary Questions



Every story has a conflict, or problem to be resolved by the main character.  The main character is the person around who the action occurs.


  1. Who is the main character in The Sign of the Beaver?


  1. The conflict is introduced at the beginning of the story.  What is the main character’s largest challenge, or problem?




  1. A conflict is heightened by complications.  What things happen that complicate the main character’s problem and make it more difficult to resolve?






  1. The rest of the story tells about the character’s attempts to resolve the conflict, and problems the character faces in solving the problem.  List three things that the main character does to take care of his main problem, or conflict.





  1. How is the conflict finally resolved?





6th Graders (Extra credit for 5th graders)


A theme is an important message or idea of a book.  It is not the specific examples given in the book, but rather a more generalized lesson to be learned about life from reading the book.  Most books have more than one theme.  In The Sign of the Beaver, the themes include:


  1. We should have respect for, and give fair treatment to, people of other cultures.
  2. Passage into adulthood is an important time of change in a person’s life.
  3. We should have an awareness of an appreciation for the natural world.
  4. Friendship is of great value.


Read the following passages.  Identify which theme is apparent by writing A, B, C, or D.


  1. _____  Standing in the snow, his father reached to put a hand on Matt’s shoulder. “You’ve done a grown man’s job, son,” he said. “I’m right proud of you.
  2. _____  Just as the last light was glinting above the treetops, they reached a river bank.  Drawn up at its edge was a small birch canoe.  Attean motioned him to step into it.  Then he gave a push and leaped nimbly into the stern.  His paddle moved soundlessly.  Grateful to sit still, Matt was entranced by the speed, the silence, the gliding shadows on the silver river.


  1. _____  “I give you a gift,” he said. “Dog like you.  I tell him stay with you.”

“You mean you’re not taking him with you?”

No good for hunt,” Attean said. “Walk slow now. Good for stay here with medabe – with white brother.”



  1. _____  Then, startled, Matt turned toward Attean.  He did not dare to ask a question, but he saw at once that there was no need to ask.  No doubt about it, Attean had found his Manitou.  He had changed.  He stood straighter and taller.  He looked older, and Matt suddenly realized why. The black hair, which had always hung straight down almost to his shoulders, was shaved away.  His scalp, like his grandfather’s,  was bare, except for a single patch running back from his forehead and braided into a topknot fastened with red string.  Like the fresh bear grease that glistened on his skin, pride glistened all over him.


  1. _____  “White man came more and more to Indian land.  White man not make treaty with pipe.  White man make signs on paper, signs Indian not know.  Indian put mark on paper to show him friend of white man.  Then white man take land.  Tell Indian cannot hunt on land.”



  1. _____  Turtle tribe or no, he was not going to walk away from Attean’s dog.  Somehow he had to get that dog out of the trap.


  1. _____  He only deeded to look about him.  The maple trees circling the clearing flamed scarlet.  The birches and aspens glowed yellow, holding a sunlight of their own even on misty days.  The woods had become quieter.  Jays still screamed at him, and chickadees twittered softly in the trees, but songbirds had disappeared.


Often, more than one them can be found in a particular passage.  Three of the above them can be found in this last passage. Can you identify all three of them?


  1. _____  Matt knew he ought to feel grateful for Attean’s teaching.  Every day Attean taught him some new thing – a plant like onion that he could drop into his cooking pot to make his stew more tasty – a weed with a small orange flower and a milky juice in its stem that took away the sting of insect bites or poison ivy – a plant with brownish flowers and roots bearing a string of nutlike bulbs that thickened his stew and made it more nourishing.  He had pointed out plants that Matt must never eat, no matter how hungry he might be.  He had even shown Matt how to improvise a rain cape in a sudden rain by quickly punching a hole through the center of a wide strip of birchbark and making a cone of bark for his head.

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