Here is the alphabet information: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8256103 Alphabet
Use you browser to see this page and scroll down for the tips and notes: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/ru/Plurals
http://www.memrise.com/course/78454/learn-basic-russian/4/ See the video in lesson 4 about soft and hard consonants.
If you turn your phone sideways, you do have access to Tips & Notes.
The soft sign, мягкий знак, Ь, is not punctuation. It palatalizes the preceding consonant, but it does sometimes separate the next vowel. For example in пять ("five") the я already palatalizes the п so it sounds similar to "пьать," but пьяный ("drunk"), the ь separates the "пь" from the "яный" in pronunciation. Other wise "пяный" without a ь would sound like "пять."
"бер" means "one" in Tatar and more importantly "eye" in Avar. The Avar empire is what systematized Common Slavic. Its destruction is when the various Slavic languages drifted apart to what they are today.
медведь is the original term, and in general the closer to Proto-Indo-European you get, the more euphemistic the names for predatory animals get. Possibly out of some fear of naming them directly, or because their attributes are their most important identifier.
Медведев is the archaic possessive "Bear's." So a man called "Bear," Медведь, had a son and a daughter.
Bear's son = Медведев сын
Bear's daughter = Медведева дочь
That's how the son and daughter got their family name. And same with all "-ов" and "-ев" names. And same in Ukrainian "-ів" names, Czech "-ov," Polish "-ów," etc.