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Teaching Touching Spirit Bear

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    Why I love teaching Touching Spirit Bear

    Easy reading level

    Despite the fact that it resembles a more advanced book, Touching Spirit Bear has low reading level metrics.  Teaching Touching Spirit Bear is ideal with developing or resistant readers.  Rigor is great, but we also need to set students up for success.

    Upper-grade interest level

    This book works for my students because the main character is 15 years old and dealing with some serious, real-life problems.  Nothing turns off a developing reader faster than the perception that they are reading a “kids book.”

    Cole’s experiences with abuse, legal trouble, and trauma are certainly not kids’ stuff.

    teaching touching spirit bear quizzes


    Due to the adolescent/adult issues of the novel, students are engaged.  They can relate to facing familial problems, anger issues, trauma, etc.  Many students know how Cole feels.

    Teaching Touching Spirit Bear is a success in part because students are engaged by the “gross-out factor.”  The imagery of Cole smashing Peter’s head or struggling to swallow a live mouse are big hits with my students.

    After severely injuring Peter Driscal in an empty parking lot, mischief-maker Cole Matthews is in major trouble. But instead of jail time, Cole is given another option: attend Circle Justice, an alternative program that sends juvenile offenders to a remote Alaskan Island to focus on changing their ways. Desperate to avoid prison, Cole fakes humility and agrees to go.

    While there, Cole is mauled by a mysterious white bear and left for dead. Thoughts of his abusive parents, helpless Peter, and his own anger cause him to examine his actions and seek redemption—from the spirit bear that attacked him, from his victims, and from himself.


    Suggestions for teaching Touching Spirit Bear

    I have experience teaching Touching Spirit Bear in two modes: literature circles and whole-class.  Each mode has its advantages.

    Touching Spirit Bear in literature circles

    The chapters are short and divide easily into weekly readings.  I divide the novel into five (weekly) readings.  (My lit. circles cycle is typically five weeks.) Each reading is just under fifty pages, and students have plenty of time to follow a schedule that works for them and/or receive additional support.

    Although student choice is important for literature circles,  I usually expect students to choose from my pre-selected stable of books. I try to steer developing readers into an appropriate choice like Touching Spirit Bear.

    Suggested reading schedule:


    Chapters Pages (ISBN 13: 9780439401845)
    1 1-5 3-46
    2 6-11 47-92
    3 12-17 93-146
    4 18-23 147-194
    5 24-28 195-240

    Whole-group instruction

    Depending on your teaching assignment, it might make sense to assign Touching Spirit Bear to an entire class or group.  When this is the case, the novel offers opportunities for some interesting lessons and activities:

    • Exploration of Native American culture (justice systems, art, Haida nation, Tlingit nation)
    • Analyzing and/or using imagery
    • Point of view (third-person)
    • Researching and comparing systems of justice
    • Symbolism (Spirit Bear, the at.oow, the circle, the totem, the ancestor/anger rock, Cole’s injuries, the cake, the hot dog, etc.)
    • Writing dialogue
    • Researching and presenting on (positive) coping strategies for anger
    • Identifying and analyzing theme

    touching spirit bear tlingit artwork

    Teaching Touching Spirit Bear with reading quizzes

    Teaching Touching Spirit Bear can lead to some great classroom discussions, but students cannot engage if they have not read the assignment.

    Getting students to read can be tough.  There are so many distractions in our daily lives.  Students can often use the internet or their peers to fake it. Furthermore, some students would rather stare at the wall than read.

    I find that neither the honor system, reading questions, nor fear of missing out on the discussion are enough to ensure that students read the assignment.  For me, Touching Spirit Bear reading quizzes are a must.

    I create reading quizzes to ensure that students read with fidelity.  My Touching Spirit Bear reading quizzes hold students accountable so that they arrive ready to engage in the lesson.  These quizzes are administered first thing (without fail) on the assigned day.

    Touching Spirit Bear quizzes printable visual

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    TeachNovels Touching Spirit Bear reading quizzes

    My reading quizzes do not assess Language Arts standards.  The quizzes are simple, multiple-choice, comprehension-level questions that motivate students to complete assigned readings. 

    Product Contents:

    • 5 ten-question quizzes based on a recommended reading schedule. (Print format and standard format.
    • An expansive list of multiple-choice questions (4-5 per chapter) to meet your specific needs. 
    • Two file types: PDF and DOCX (MS Word)

    Suggested reading schedule:

    Reading Chapters Pages (ISBN 13: 9780439401845)
    1 1-5 3-46
    2 6-11 47-92
    3 12-17 93-146
    4 18-23 147-194
    5 24-28 195-240

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    Touching Spirit Bear Reading Quizzes Preview

    Touching Spirit Bear Reading Quiz 1

    Chapters 1-5

    1. Cole assaulted Peter Driscal because…
      • Peter insulted him.
      • Peter told on him.
      • Peter beat him in a contest.
      • Peter was close by when Cole lost his temper.
      • He felt threatened.
    2. Cole hates that Garvey keeps calling him…
      • Inmate.
      • Champ.
      • Son.
      • Mr. Matthews.
      • Butterball.
    3. At the end of chapter 2, Cole flies into a rage and…
      • Attacks one of the guards.
      • Burns down a building.
      • Kills a dog.
      • Crashes a car.
    4. Which character has a problem with substance abuse (drugs or alcohol)?
      • Cole
      • Mr. Crittenden
      • Cole’s Father
      • Garvey
      • Peter Driscal
    5. Cole’s parole officer tries to teach Cole a lesson using…
      • Bicycle parts.
      • Musical instruments.
      • Hats and costumes.
      • Cake ingredients.
    6. Who is the only person from Cole’s school to attend Circle Justice?
      • Ms. Avalos (school nurse)
      • Mr. Parquette (principal)
      • Peter Driscal (student)
      • Mrs. Hernandez (Cole’s coach)
      • Trick question! No one from the school attends.
    7. At Circle Justice you are only allowed to speak…
      • When you are holding the feather.
      • When you are holding the turtle shell.
      • When your number is called.
      • Three times (when it is your turn).
    8. What is an at.óow?
      • A special type of shelter.
      • A special type of meal.
      • A special type of blanket.
      • A special dance.
    9. What is Cole’s first impulse when he sees the Spirit Bear?
      • He wants to kill it.
      • He wants to follow it.
      • He wants to run and hide from it.
      • Trick question! He has not yet seen Spirit Bear.
    10. Cole does not speak to his father at Circle Justice because…
      • He is afraid of him.
      • His father does not show up.
      • He decides he is not worth the effort.
      • Trick question! He does speak to his father.

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    Conclusions on teaching Touching Spirit Bear

    I enjoy teaching Touching Spirit Bear because of its accessibility and its high engagement.  Regardless of whether I am using literature circles or whole-class instruction, Touching Spirit Bear reading quizzes are a must to ensure that students are reading regularly, developing as readers, and engaging in the lessons.