Brenda Beyal
Literature, Theater, Health Science Education, Elementary English Language Arts, Social Studies
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
  • Lesson Plan
  • Native American
  • Oral Health
  • Reading
  • Story
  • Ute
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Audio, Text/HTML

    Education Standards

    Why Buzzard Is a Loner

    Why Buzzard Is a Loner


    This lesson utilizes the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT) tale, “Why Buzzard Is a Loner” to enhance comprehension skills, provide an introduction to the importance of personal hygiene and drama. Although some Native American Indian stories can only be told during the winter time, this story can be told any time of the year. The tale will be read aloud to the students who will then dramatize the story as it is read again. Then students will have a presentation from a health practitioner, school counselor or the school nurse on healthy teeth maintenance (i.e., brushing, flossing, rinsing, etc.)

    Extensions include learning more about birds in Utah and lessons that give more information about the Ute people. The cultural note states, “Just as the birds in this story held a council meeting to decide how to deal with Buzzard. Ute people, to this day, have council meetings to discuss problems and solutions for their people. At these meetings, everyone has the right to express his or her opinion and be heard and listened to.”


    • Time frame: 1 Class period, 45 minutes 
    • Format (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.): Whole group
    • Cultural Consultants on the writing of the book: Gloria Thompson
    • Adapted by:LeeAnn Parker
    • Illustrated by:Molly Trainor
    • Authors: Orignal lesson by Julie Lee, 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 "Why Buzzard Is a Loner."
    • Be able to answer questions about the story’s characters, plot, setting and lesson. 
    • Act out the story as the story is read aloud.
    • Show where the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation is located.
    • Share information learned about dental hygiene. 



    Background for Teachers


    Teacher Background Knowledge
    Ute Tribal Group in Utah

    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). They have several isolated sections of lands in Utah, one community is the White Mesa community between Bluff and Blanding, Utah. 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.

    The teacher needs to be familiar with the Uintah/Ouray tale "Why Buzzard Is a Loner," theme of the story, purpose of traditional Native American tales, and 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. Specifically, with “Why Buzzard Is a Loner”, students can discuss the importance of personal oral hygiene. 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. Native American stories, especially trickster tales are almost always told only in the winter. However this story can be told any time of the year.

    Student Background Knowledge

    There are two types of buzzards that live in Utah. One is the turkey vulture and the other is the California Condor. Turkey vultures feed on carrion. They can be found on roadsides and can be seen in the open countryside. 


    Lesson Preparation


    Initial Preparation

    • Preview the story and become familiar with the characters, their problems and the solutions to those problems. 
    • Read background information and choose what to share about trickster tales and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. 
    • Two days before the lesson, bring an apple or pear and a stick to class. See lesson procedure, before reading section of the lesson. 
    • Ask a health practitioner, school counselor or the school nurse to do a presentation about healthy teeth maintenance (i.e., brushing, flossing, rinsing, etc.)

    Materials Needed

    • Group view copy of the Ute traditional tale "Why Buzzard Is a Loner'' or copies of the story for paired reading (downloadable and printable book format).
    • An apple or pear
    • A stick to puncture the fruit

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    • Students who struggle can be paired or grouped with other students.
    • Students can be challenged by creating puppet plays or storytelling sessions, using props, puppets, music, etc. 
    • Challenge students to find out what kind birds are in the story and do some detailed research. 

    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: burst, frantically, perch, spiraling, wobbled 

    • Arrange for a health practitioner, school counselor or the school nurse to do a presentation about healthy teeth maintenance (i.e., brushing, flossing, rinsing, etc.)
    • Two days before reading the book. Show students an apple or pear and ask them to pretend it is a tooth. Poke a hole in the fruit and explain that the hole represents a cavity and the class will be observing it for the next couple of days. Every day, have a short discussion with students about the fruit and write down their observations. 

    Before Reading

    • Teach vocabulary words. 
    • Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT)
      • Share with students that today they will be listening to a tale from the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Show students where the reservation lands are located. 
      • Explain that many Native American stories such as Coyote tales can only be told in the winter, however “Why Buzzard Is a Loner” can be told anytime of the year. 

    During the Reading

    • Ask recall questions to gauge students’ reading comprehension such as:
      • What do you think will happen next?
      • How would you describe Buzzard?
      • Does this story remind you of anything?
      • What do you want to tell Buzzard? 
      • What surprised you the most? 

    After reading

    • Help students to summarize the text by having them describe the characters, setting or events.
    • Ask students questions about key details in the story. 
    • Reread the story again but this time, choose students to act out the story while you read. 
      • Characters- Buzzard, bluebird, hummingbird, magpie
    • Have the health practitioner, school counselor or the school nurse do a presentation about healthy teeth maintenance (i.e., brushing, flossing, rinsing, etc.)
    • Share final observations about the fruit with the hole in it and make predictions on what will eventually happen if left to decay. Reiterate to students the ways to prevent tooth decay. 
    • Help students to make goals and explain how good decisions can affect self and others. 


    • 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.  
    • Use the story as an introduction to an explanation about the importance of personal hygiene.
    • Learn more about the birds in the story and have students draw pictures of each of them after seeing pictures of each of the birds.

    Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte- first Native American doctor



    Hand out a blank paper and have students:

    • draw the key details of the story, and  
    • on the back of the paper draw or write a goal for their oral hygiene.  



    • Get your students involved in birding with simple activities provided by the Audubon organization. 
    • The BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative in partnership has created arts-integrated lesson plans to help students learn more about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah’s cultural ways and history. The lessons are approved by the PITU tribal council.   
    • 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 modern day story by reading the book, Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? By Bernelda Wheeler. A young child explains to his classmates how his moccasins were made.