Brenda Beyal, Lorna Loy
Literature, English Language Arts, History, Social Studies
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan, Reading
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
  • Bison
  • Coyote
  • Folktale
  • Lesson Plan
  • Native American
  • Trickster Tale
  • Ute
  • Vocabulary
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Audio, eBook, Text/HTML

    Education Standards

    Coyote and the Buffalo

    Coyote and the Buffalo


    The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT) tale, “Coyote and the Buffalo” is read and used to enhance comprehension skills, provide an introduction to the importance of the bison to Native people and gives examples of how choices impact consequences. An activity to explore how Indigenous peoples used different parts of the bison helps students to recognize the ingenuity and creativity of Native Americans.

    The Ute people tell stories about Coyote and other animals to their children. Based on Coyote’s mistakes, the elders teach children about proper behavior and positive attitudes. The lessons learned help them avoid making the same mistakes Coyote did and suffering the consequences in their own lives. According to Ute tradition, Coyote stories should only be told during the winter time. 


    • Time frame: 2 Class periods, 45 minutes each
    • Format (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.): Whole group, face-to-face
    • Cultural Consultants on the writing of the book: Gloria Thompson
    • Adapted by: LeeAnn Parker
    • Illustrated by: Molly Trainor
    • Authors: Orignal lesson by Kathryn Hurst, modified by Brenda Beyal and Lorna Loy

    Goals and Outcomes


    As a result of this lesson, students will accomplish the following: 
    Improve comprehension through reading of the story "Coyote and the Buffalo."

    • Be able to use word analysis skills to decode the meaning of highlighted words in the story. 
    • Write about the importance of the bison to the Ute people and other Native Americans.
    • Through discussion, share how choices can lead to positive or negative consequences.
    • Show where the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation is located.
    • Share two things they learned about the UIT.



    Background Knowledge

    There are two recognized Ute sovereign nations within Utah. Each has its own tribal government by which they are governed. One is the The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (UMUT). The other is The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT) whose reservation lands are in northeastern Utah. It is from this nation that the following tale is shared with the children of Utah. Use the resources provided to learn more about UIT.

    The teacher needs to be familiar with the Uintah/Ouray tale "Coyote and the Buffalo," its theme, the purpose of traditional Native American tales. They should be able to explain to the students that traditional storytellers used these stories not only for entertainment, but also to teach lessons about life through the characters and the consequences of their choices. The resource titled, "Native American Storytelling" gives a summary of storytelling that teachers can use to pick main points that they feel are important to teach to their students. 

    According to Ute tradition, Coyote stories should only be told during the winter time. Please use this lesson during the winter months. 

    The UIT have a lasting connection with the bison. It would be advantageous to read beforehand about this connection by reading the article and viewing the resources shared in the Teacher preparation section.  


    Lesson Preparation

    Initial Preparation

    • Preview the story and become familiar with the characters, their problems and the solutions to those problems. Determine how the students in your class might relate the story to their own experiences; think of an experience of your own that you can share with the class. 
    • Read background information and choose what to share about trickster tales, tribal lands and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. 
    • Gather items for the Day Two activity.
    • Choose what will be shared about the UIT and the bison.
    • Make copies of the handout, Traditional Uses of the Buffalo.

    Materials Needed

    • Group view copy of the Ute traditional tale "Coyote and the Buffalo'' or copies of the story for paired reading (downloadable and printable book format).
    • Day Two activity items
      • Storage container to hold supplies
      • Flyswatter
      • Cup and spoon
      • Pieces of wood or fuel starter
      • Canteen or water bottle
      • Small pillow
      • Stick of beef jerky
      • Small item of clothing
      • Trowel or other digging utensil
      • Game piece or small action figure
      • Individual bison part words cut into strips
      • Bison Part Word List:
        • Hide
        • Tail
        • Horn
        • Bison chip (manure)
        • Bison bladder
        • Bison fur
        • Bison meat
        • Bison scapula (shoulder) bone
        • Bison toe bones
    • Copies of the handout, Traditional Uses of the Buffalo
    • Blank paper for informal assessment

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    • Allow for additional experiences and practice with vocabulary. 
    • Provide visual and kinesthetic experiences with vocabulary. 
    • Provide direct instruction. 
    • Use cooperative grouping to work together.  


    Texas Parks & Wildlife, Learning About Bison Classroom Activities:


    Lesson Procedure


    Vocabulary: hollered, groaned, pierced, yelped

    Before Reading

    • Vocabulary
      • Guide students through the PAVE Procedure for learning vocabulary words, the acronym stands for Prediction, Association, Verification, and Evaluation.
      • Select a target word from the vocabulary list.
      • Have students listen to the sentence or context in which the word appears.
        • hollered, page 1, “They laughed and hollered in happiness. 
        • groaned, page 8, “Woodpecker groaned and fell backwards.”
        • pierced, page 6, He shot his arrows left and right, but not one of his aspen arrows pierced the thick hide of the buffalo.”
        • yelped, page 5, ‘Coyote yelped wildly, “Ay ya a ya!”’
      • Students print the target word and predict the word's meaning from the context.
      • Students write a sentence of their own using the target word's predicted meaning.
      • Students verify the target word's meaning in the dictionary or online.
      • Students write the target word's definition.
      • If the predicted definition is incorrect, the student rewrites the sentence using the correct definition.
      • For example
        • Target Word: Sizzling
        • "Coyote's mouth watered at the thought of a hot, sizzling meal of buffalo meat."
        • Sizzling
        • It is something hot.
        • The steak was sizzling on the grill.
        • Sizzle-(1) to make a hissing sound in or as if in burning or frying, (2) to seethe with deep anger or resentment.
    • Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT)
      • Share with students that today they will be listening to a coyote tale from the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Show students where the reservation lands are located and share at least two things about the tribe using the background information and resources in the Background Knowledge section. 
      • In the story Coyote will hunt buffalo. Buffalo is a common name embedded into American culture but the real name of these animals is “bison”. Bison have been essential to the survival of Native Americans for generations. In history the Ute people are known as mighty bison hunters. Today the UIT has a flourishing bison herd and business that continues to reinforce the importance of the bison to their people. They sell bison meat and products to the public. It has become an enterprise that has brought bison back to the people.

    During the Reading

    • This book can be read as a whole group or in pairs. 
    • Ask recall questions to gauge students’ reading comprehension such as:
      • What do you think will happen next?
      • How would you describe Coyote?
      • Does this story remind you of anything?
      • What do you want to tell Coyote? 

    After Reading

    • Have a discussion about the book.
      • What surprised you the most? 
      • What lessons can be learned from this story? 
      • How did Coyote change throughout the story?  What caused that change?
      • Do you think life was different for Coyote after this experience?  Why or why not?
      • What can you learn from this tale about the Ute and the buffalo/bison?

    Day Two

    • Explain that the Ute were known as great bison hunters. The cultural note from the book states, “The buffalo was a giver of life to the Ute people. It is a sacred animal and part of the circle of life. Every part of the buffalo was used; nothing was wasted. For example, the hides were used for blankets and for covering the teepee and sweat lodge. The hooves were used for making utensils.” 
    • Do the following modified activity developed by Texas Parks & Wildlife. This activity is a part of the Learning About Bison Classroom Activities lessons. 
    • Background
      • Think about the many different items you purchase and use every day.  Where can you find these items all in one place?  For many of us, it’s a supercenter.  That’s just what the bison became for Native Americans!  Native Americans looked to the bison to provide them with everything they needed for survival.  In fact, the bison could not only provide the most basic of needs, but also much more!  It is estimated that the Ute and many other tribes had more than 150 uses for the parts of the bison!
    • Materials
      • Storage container to hold supplies
      • Flyswatter
      • Cup and spoon
      • Pieces of wood or fuel starter
      • Canteen or water bottle
      • Small pillow
      • Stick of beef jerky
      • Small item of clothing
      • Trowel or other digging utensil
      • Game piece or small action figure
      • Individual bison part words cut into strips
      • Bison Part Word List:
        • Hide
        • Tail
        • Horn
        • Bison chip (manure)
        • Bison bladder
        • Bison fur
        • Bison meat
        • Bison scapula (shoulder) bone
        • Bison toe bones
    • Procedure
      • Write or type the individual bison part words and cut them out into individual pieces of paper.
      • Distribute a bison part word to each student.
      • Ask the students to think about the bison part word and what it may have been used for.  
      • Ask the students to come up to the table individually and choose an item that they think is a match to the bison part word. Explain why or why not.
      • Have students get into groups and brainstorm some additional items that bison parts could have provided for people. Then have individual groups explain their reasoning to the rest of the class.
      • Ask students to list some items that they recently purchased at the local supercenter. Are any of these items similar to those provided by the bison? What parts of the bison would students use to correspond to these items?
    • Share information from the National Park Service, NK 360 and Native America Travel to enlarge the understanding for students in regards to bison and its importance to the Ute and other Native tribes. You may want to read, Bison Bellows: A day to thank the bison to your students.
    • Pass out the hand out, Traditional uses of the buffalo and discuss the many ways the bison was used. 
    • Have students write a paragraph or essay about the many uses of the bison.  


    • The arts, especially the visual arts and performance arts, provide excellent potential for lesson plan extensions. Have students create puppets and then have them tell the story through puppetry to a younger grade.  
    • Have students through creative movement embody the meaning of each of the vocabulary words. 
    • Read the story again and focus on what Coyote did and didn’t do and what caused him problems. Have the students draw pictures or write a different version of the story to illustrate how the story would have changed if Coyote would have made different choices. For older students, have them look at other literature they are reading and ask them to write about a situation/s in the stories where connections can be made.


    Zitkála-Šá: Lakota, The Red Bird Activist




    Have students summarize important concepts in paragraphs, short essays or mind mapping. You may also consider having the summary done orally, visually, or otherwise. 

    Use an exit ticket strategy that asks students to write down 3 new things they learned about bison, 2 things they learned about the Ute Indian Tribe and 1 thing they wonder about.

    Additional Resources

    • Circle of Stories- Learn about storytelling and listen to stories told by Native storytellers. 
    • The Great American Bison- This arts-integrated lesson plan was created by the BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative. The lesson helps students understand the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on the American bison herds, share different perspectives and create art using found materials.  
    • Contact a local storyteller and invite them to your class. Contact can be made through the tribe, your district's Title VI Indian Education program, connections within your school community or through the Utah Division of Arts and Museum Cultural presenter/Teaching artist roster. Give yourself plenty of time to arrange for a storyteller.
    • Give students an opportunity to listen to a book written by an Indigenous author, Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac. It is a great book to read and discuss as a class.