Brenda Beyal, Lorna Loy
Theater, Elementary English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
  • Coyote Stories
  • Drama - Tableau(x)
  • Lesson Plan
  • Native American Culture
  • Native American Heritage Month
  • Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    Tableaux Using "Coyote and the Rock"

    Tableaux Using "Coyote and the Rock"


    "Coyote and the Rock" is a Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation tale. Many Native American tribes have "Coyote Stories." Coyote stories are traditionally only told in the winter season. Coyote stories are meant to entertain or instruct, or both. 

    After reading the story students will create a "living picture" called a Tableau. A tableau is a representation of a dramatic scene by a person or group, posing silently without moving. In art, tableaus can be seen in the theater when a stage picute shows silent, still, costumed actor in poses creating a scene. Tableaus allows teachers to engage students with multiple learning styles. It can serve as an assessment tool when students "show what they know" as a frozen picture.  Tableau can support literacy when used to comprehend text and analyze literary elements such as character, plot, them, conflict and resolution. Tableaus also supports cooperative learning environments. 


    Time Frame:

    45 minute lesson


    Whole group lessons with small group activity

    Authors: Remix by Lorna Loy & Brenda Beyal

    Lesson Summary: 

    Special thanks to Patty Timbimboo, member of the Northwestern Shoshone tribe, who served as the cultural consultant for this lesson and story.

    After reading the story "Coyote and the Rock" students will be placed in smaller groups to create tableaux (snapshots: a silent, motionless depiction of a scene created by actors, often from a picture or story scene) using significant events from the story.

    • Time frame: 1 Class period of 45 minutes 
    • Format (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.): Face-to-face
    • Authors -  Orignal lesson by LeeAnn Parker & Brenda Beyal, modified by Brenda Beyal and Lorna Loy


    Goals and Outcomes

    Goals and Outcomes

    What students will learn and achieve by the end of this lesson are: 

    1. Read the story "Coyote and the Rock" a Northwestern Shoshone tale to comprehend important events in the story, recount the story and determine it's central message, lesson or moral. 

    2. Collaborate in groups to create a "living picture" known as a Tableaux.

    3. Create a tableaux - use body to communicate a still picture, without talking, to capture and communicate the meaning of a story or concept. 

    4. Share and perform created tableaux within the class or with invited guests. 

    5. Become familiar with and comprehend important events in the story. They will be able to learn and use acting strategies as outlined in the State Core Curriculum.


    Background for Teachers

    Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation

    The Shoshone, Paiute, Bannock and Ute people are related, and call themselves Newe or Neme (the People). Prior to contact with Europeans, the Newe groups formed small extended-family groupings that traveled extensively as semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers to survive in the harsh environment of the Great Basin desert. The Northwestern Shoshone traveled with the changing season. In the early autumn, the Northwestern Shoshone moved into the region near what is now Salmon, Idaho to fish. In the spring and summer, the Northwestern band traveled around southern Idaho and throughout Utah. During these months, they spent their time gathering seeds, roots, and berries and socializing with each other. Late summer was root digging time and smaller-game hunting time. Around late October, the band moved into western Utah and parts of Nevada for the annual gathering of pine nuts. The nutrient-rich nuts were an important part of the Shoshone diet. The area around what is now called Franklin and Preston, Idaho, was a permanent wintering home of the Northwestern Shoshone. It was known as Moson Kahni, which means Home of the Lungs. The rocks in the area looked sponge-like and made the Shoshone think of lungs. In this area and the rest of Cache Valley were natural places for the shoshone make their homes. More information about the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation can be accessed in the resources below. 

    The teacher needs to be familiar with the Shoshone tale, "Coyote and the Rock." Teachers need to be familiar with the theme of the story and the purpose of traditional Native American tales. Teachers need to be able to explain to students that Native American traditional storytellers used legends, folktales and fables for many reasons. These stories recount the history of the people, they are used to entertain children, to educate children about morals and values, to teach life lessons through the characters and the consequences of thier choices. The resource, "Native American Storytelling" gives a summary of storytelling for teachers to use in picking main points that they feel are important to teach to thier students. 

    Tableau - Tableaux

    Teachers should become familiar with what a tabluau is and how to use tableaux. In a tableau, participants make still images with their bodies to represent a scene. A tableau can be used to quickly establish a scene that involves a large number of characters. Because there is no movement, a tableau is easier to manage than a whole-group improvisation – yet can easily lead into extended drama activities. It can be used to explore a particular moment in a story or drama, or to replicate a photograph or artwork for deeper analysis.

    The name of this strategy comes from the term tableau vivant which means “living picture.”  In this activity, students create a still picture, without talking, to capture and communicate the meaning of a concept. Students must truly understand the meaning of a concept or idea in order to communicate it using physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions rather than words. This collaborative strategy is appealing to kinesthetic learners and allows all students to be creative while strengthening their comprehension of a concept.

    How do you use tableaux? Students stand in a circle, or around the performance area and a theme is given.  One by one, they step into the space and establish freeze frames in relation to one another until the tableau is complete. At this point, thought tracking can be used to find out more about each of the characters.  The scene can also be brought to life through improvisation, with the teacher clapping her hands to signal the beginning and end of the action.

    Related Resources:



    Lesson Preparation

    Initial Preparation

    • Do you know the eight tribal nations of Utah?

    • Read "Coyote and the Rock" a Northwester Band of Shoshone tale. Coyote's experience teaches us about how to behave in the world. Coyote asks for help from his animal friends who are unsuccessful at stopping a rock from crushing Coyote. He finally asks Man to help and steals his beaded necklace that holds great power. Coyote does not benefit from stealing. We learn that stealing is wrong. 

    • Teachers need to be able to explain to students that Native American traditional storytellers used legends, folktales and fables for many reasons. These stories recount the history of the people, they are used to entertain children, to educate children about morals and values, to teach life lessons through the characters and the consequences of thier choices. The resource, "Native American Storytelling" gives a summary of storytelling for teachers to use in picking main points that they feel are important to teach to thier students. 

    Student Background Knowledge

    • Vocabulary - tablueau, actor, character, convey, action, freeze, exaggeration, communication, facial expression, gesture, body shape, expressive, statue. See story vocabulary list. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    This is an excellent activity for diverse learners because it utilizes skills such as group collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, dramatic play. For example, a gifted child with dramatic talent could be assigned to be the director and lead the different groups to present their tableaux. A struggling child who prefers not to read aloud might shine in this small group activity where he/she isn't singled out as a solo performer. The three children work together to plan who plays what part and support one another with ideas and encouragement. Each student brings something to the task.

    Materials Needed

    Coyote and the Rock - adapted by LeeAnn Parker, Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, Brenda Beyal
    Coyote and the Rock (Print Version)


    Lesson Procedure

    Lesson Procedure:

    1. Tell the students they will be reading a Native American traditional story, retold by the elders or storytellers from the Northwest Band of Shoshone tribe who are locate in Utah. Show them a map of this location - Utah - Indian Tribal Lands and help students locate the tribal lands. Give other background information to help students become familiar with the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation. 

    2. Share the purpose of Native American storytelling - pdf document "Native American Storytelling"

    3. Preview the story: "Coyote and the Rock"   You may say, "This is a traditional Shoshone folk tale. This tale's main character is Coyote. Many Native peoples use Coyote stories as a means of teaching morals and lessons. In this story Coyote takes something that doesn't belong to him and suffers the consequences of not earning what he took." or come up with your own  introduction for the origin of this tale. 

      1. Make predictions.

      • Review or pre-teach vocabuary for the story and sight words. 

      • Pre-teach theme. One way may be to prompt students by discussing the moral of a lesson or points of view. 

    4. Read aloud the story to the whole group.

    5. After reading: Do a quick check on comprehension using a sequence of events chart.

    6. Introduce the definition of a tableau and its use in theater. Tableau is a theater technique of telling a story in frozen pictures. Students use their body position and facial expression to portray a specific part of a story. Pantomime is an extension of tableaux where students use small movements to show events from a specific part of the story. Acting with gestures and actions, no words.
      • Establish your criteria for a strong tableau
        • remain still or frozen
        • remain silent
        • pose with energy & expression
        • stay focused
        • pose at different levels
        • choose poses that are relevant and interesting
      • Teach stuents the commoezen terms for tableau
        • "Action - 2- 3 - FREEEZE!"
        • View the tableau and then call "Relaxe." Or you can say, "Curtain."
    7. Divide the students into eight groups of three or four. Hand the students the portion of the story they are do depict. Give them four to five minutes to practice and come up with a tableau. Ask the first tableau group to take their positions and have the rest sit down to be the audience. Begin reading the story. As soon as the first tableau is finished, the next group takes their positions. Emphasize going up quickly and sitting down quietly. Read the story and go through all tableaux. After the activity, complete the group rubric.You may give feedback or have students kindly give feedback and allow the group to make any modification to thier tableau to ensure they show the ideas they want to convey. 
      • Make sure they take positions they can safely hold with 15-30 seconds. 
      • You can engage class in purposeful observation and discussion of the tableau. 


    This story lends itself well to extensions in the arts, such as reader's theater, puppetry, and dramatization. After students use the strategy of tableaux, they can apply it to other stories as a tool for building comprehension skills. By utilizing the website listed, a map showing the Utah portion of the Shoshone Nation can be employed to build mapreading skills as an extension activity.

    Diverserse Learners: 

    Tableau is a wonderful strategy for diverse learners as groups problem solve together It also requires students with diverse needs to be about to use visual/spatial, interpersonal and kenisthetic modalities. 




    Use a Tableau as a way to check for understanding. This is most commonly done at the end of a lesson or unit. Use Tableau to:

    • check students' understanding of key concepts
    • see if see of students can apply content in a new way
    • formulate guided groups for students who do not demonstrate understanding
    • create extensions for students who demonstrate mastery
    • see if students can evaluate information and draw conclusions
    • see what new insignts students have gained during a unit of study
    • use a rubric to assess component of a tableau: planning and prep, tableau skills as a group - as individuals