Touching Spirit Bear

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen is about a boy from Minneapolis who is going down the wrong path in life. He beats up a boy from school and has to face a Native American Circle Justice council. They agree that he will be banished to an island in Alaska to think through his behavior and try to find the right path. Within days, he is mauled by a mysterious white bear and through this, he starts to accept responsibility for what he has done in the past. There are many opinions and reviews about this book by Native scholars and culturalists.

Before committing to any lesson plan idea, please be sure to research the literature, resources and any classroom materials you intend to use for accuracy and appropriateness. There is great diversity in Native communities and we cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself, as well as connecting with elders and culturalists in your region for guidance and assistance in curriculum development.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


To introduce book, I read the summary and the first chapter about Cole beating up another kid. This really got the students interested and wanting to read more but I stopped there to get them more motivated for the next chapter.


We began reading the book at the end of January. Once we started to do activities such as the blanket, play-doh, stranded on an island, etc. the students looked forward to hearing more of the story and asked for us to read it during free time that we had.


  1. Journal/Reading Responses (Writing, Language Arts) Students logged entries in a journal.
  2. I Am Poem (Writing, Language Arts, Social-ethics) Students created an "I am" poem. They were given a template to follow and had to insert word, feelings, thoughts, etc.
  3. Spelling activities (Language Arts) The students did various activities with the words throughout the week: word sorts, word finds crossword puzzles, and spelling kickball
  4. Play-doh (Science) (referencing the cake scene of TSB) We used this lesson to teach them about how we can be good at something when we do it ourselves but if we "mix up" our knowledge with someone else's, we might be even better.
  5. Stranded on an Island (Science, Language Arts) They had to think about what they might need in order to survive on an island by themselves. We gave them each a paper bag and told them they had to find at least 3 items they could use for survival.
  6. aa.tow blanket (Math - Community Building) An aa.tow is something that is inherited and passed down from generation to generation. We began by asking students to figure area and perimeter of a given piece of material. They were then asked to create an image from the book that came to mind as they were listening. They then used various art media to transfer their design onto the square they were given. The squares were then sewed together to create an aa.tow.



When the book is finished, I had the students write a review about the book with an emphasis on persuading another reader to read this book. They summarized the ideas within the book, talked about problems and solutions, and the main characters.

Vocabulary Words


Students enjoyed the variety of lessons and were engaged throughout. They also felt a sense of accomplishment and pride, after finishing the at.oow blanket, and expressed honor in having it hang in the school.

Grade Level

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies