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Sign of the Beaver Movie: Keeping the Promise

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

How does the intruder, Ben, save Matt's family? Will Matt decide to go with the Indians? As a culminating event for the book unit, it is essential to watch The Sign of the Beaver movie, Keeping the Promise. It will give your students the opportunity to compare and contrast the book with the movie.

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    60001654 Keeping the Promise is the title of the Sign of the Beaver movie and offers many opportunities to compare and contrast the movie with the book.

    Additionally, the DVD of the movie has special features that include a short biography of the author, a brief history of frontier Maine between 1689-1776 and four opportunities for discussion questions.

    The movie viewing time is one hour and thirty-three minutes. Depending on your schedule, you could easily show it in a few sections and allow for time comparing and contrasting discussions after each section.

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    Movie vs. Book

    In the book, the total focus is Matt, the main character, and the Indian boy who teaches him how to survive. There is very little background information about the rest of Matt’s family. In the movie, the scenes shift back and forth from the family’s struggle to get to Matt and Matt’s survival. Your students will see that the decision to leave Matt alone in Maine was not an easy one for his family to make.

    Ben, the intruder who steals the rifle while Matt is sleeping, plays a bigger role in the movie. He even helps Matt’s parents find their way to the cabin. He does this to pay Matt back for saving him from being stuck in a steel trap.

    The Indians are not as friendly to Matt in the movie as they are in the book. Attean shows a lot of bitterness toward all white men. It was disappointing that the movie did not show very much of the survival skills that Attean taught Matt: cooking food, hunting, making the animal traps, fishing, hooks, marking the way as you go through the forest, etc. Though there was a dramatic moment in the movie that formed the bond between the boys, it did not involve the bear. There is no bear in the movie. There are no bees in the movie. When Matt is chasing Ben to get his rifle back, Matt falls in the creek and the Indians save him. That’s how they make their first contact. Matt is not invited to the Indian village but sneaks there himself. He does not save the dog as he did in the book.

    Despite all the differences between the book and the movie, the movie will give the students a visual opportunity to understand how difficult it was to live and travel in the wilderness. The fever that killed the baby and delayed their trip was dealt with in more detail in the movie. So all of these things are important for the students to see to add to their learning about pioneer life.

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    Writing Assignment

    Answer both questions in complete sentences:

    1. I liked the movie because…

    2. I did not like the movie because…

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    Let's Debate

    thumbnail.aspx Divide the class into two teams. Flip a coin to decide which team argues that the movie is better and which team argues that the book is better. Teams meet to brainstorm bullet points for their arguments. Then the team appoints a few spokespeople. Next allow time for each presentation and rebuttal. Then take a written vote to see which is better: the book or the movie.

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    Despite all the differences between the book and the movie, the Sign of the Beaver movie will give the students a visual opportunity to understand how difficult it was to live and travel in the wilderness. The fever that killed the baby, the weather and ship laws all delayed the family's trip and was dealt with in more detail in the movie. So all of these things are important for the students to add to their understanding of pioneer life.

The Sign of the Beaver Lessons and Activities

Use The Sign of the Beaver for cross curriculum activities in English and Social Studies. As you read, students will be drawn in by the adventure, drama and triumphs of main character, Matt. A young Indian befriends Matt and teaches him survival skills. Do journaling, vocabulary work and games!
  1. The Sign of the Beaver Book Chapters: Matt's Journal
  2. Teach New Vocabulary in the Sign of the Beaver Book
  3. Sign of the Beaver Movie: Keeping the Promise