Brenda Beyal, Lorna Loy
Literature, Elementary English Language Arts, Health Education, Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson, Reading
Lower Elementary
  • Bullying
  • Lesson Plan
  • Literacy
  • Myths
  • Native American
  • Ute
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Text/HTML, Video

    Education Standards

    Cottontail Tames Wood, Water, and Rock

    Cottontail Tames Wood, Water, and Rock


    This lesson shares a Ute tale with students to help them to use illustrations to help clarify text details and sequence. The story is then used to help engage students in a discussion on bullying, how actions have consequences and what the characteristics are of a good friend.

    Background information gives teachers resources to help their students learn more about the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The lesson is an integrated English Language Arts, Social Studies, Health lesson. 


    • Time frame: 2 class periods, 30 minutes each
    • 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: Original lesson by Kathryn Hurst, modified by Brenda Beyal and Lorna Loy

    Goals and Outcomes

    Students will:

    • read and form mental pictures and make predictions, make inferences, and identify theme/topic/main idea from the text and illustrations.
    • summarize important ideas/events in sequence.
    • identify the location of the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray reservation in Utah and give two main ideas they have learned about the tribe. 
    • describe characteristics of a good friend.
    • retell different forms of bullying. 

    Background for Teachers

    Appreciation is given to the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation for sharing this story with the students of Utah. This is a seasonal story, which means the story should only be told in the winter months. Please be honor their request and use this lesson plan after the first frost and before spring arrives.  

    The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation's ancestral lands extend through much of the Great Basin encompassing Utah, Colorado, and parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming. The Utes were among the first Native American tribes to acquire and embrace the horse and its use. This forged a new way of life and made them powerful and prosperous. The horse allowed for greater success in hunting big game. Traditionally the Ute were primarily hunters and gatherers moving with the seasons but with the horse they were able to travel long distances in search of bison and other valuable goods. Trading with other tribes became more acessible and made them a formidable adversary.  The horse also helped to transport heavy loads between camps. Horses often were adorned for parades and social gathering with beautiful beaded regalia. In the late 1800's three Ute bands were forced from the lands they called home to a reservation near Rosevelt, Utah in the Northeast corner of the state. This was a painful transition for the Ute people and they worked to keep many horses. Today the Ute continue to be proud of their relationship with the horse.

    The Unitah, Uncompahgre, Whiteriver bands now comprise the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The reservation is the second-largest Indian reservation in the United States and covers over 4.5 million acres. The Navajo Nation has the largest land base followed by the Ute Indian Tribe and each have reservation lands within the borders of Utah. As a sovereign nation, the Ute Indian Tribe is governed by a business council. Today they operate businesses, raise stock and have oil and gas leases. 

    Be familiar with the Ute tale Cottontail Tames Wood, Water and Rock, the theme of the story, purpose of traditional Native American tales, and how traditional storytellers use them not only for entertainment, but also to teach lessons about life, nature and culture. The resource titled, Native American Storytelling gives a summary that can be used to pick main points to teach to students.

    Student Background Knowledge

    It would be helpful for students to know that many cultures and peoples are a part of Utah and their contributions range from dress, foods, music and so on. Also students should know that pre-settlement, Indigeous people lived, danced and traveled on the land students call home. It would be appropriate to find out the whose ancestral lands the school is on and help students acknowledge it through a land acknowledgement. 


    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 forms of bullying and characteristics of being a friend. 
    • Be prepared to guide students in using illustrations to increase comprehension of text and discussions on bullying. Choose a friend project to engage students in on Day Two.
    • Read background information on the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and choose what to share about cultural traditions, storytelling, tribal recognition and sovereignty.. Keep in mind the question, "How will this enrich my students' understanding?"

    Materials Needed

    • Digital copy of the Ute traditional tale "Cottontail Tames Wood, Water and Rock" or copies of the story for paired reading (downloadable and printable book format).
    • A copy of the animal illustrations pages for each student, pairs or triads.
    • Materials for the friend project on day two. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    Pair students with other students to complete the illustrations sequencing and friend projects.

    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: bobbed, endured, heaved, pelted, trickling

    Lesson Day One: 

    STEP ONE: Explain to the students they will be reading a traditional story, as retold by a storyteller from the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT). The tribal lands are located in northeastern Utah. Show the students a map of Utah and using a compass rose to locate the tribal lands. The UIT consists of three bands of Utes: the Whiteriver Band, Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. Each band was removed from their original homelands and put on the reservation creating the Uintah & Ouray Reservation. The Uintah were removed from various parts of Utah and the Whiteriver and Uncompahgre bands were removed from Colorado. Give other background information to help students become familiar with the Ute tribal group as well as the UIT.

    Tell the students the story they will listen to today is shared by the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation with students in Utah. It is a story with a moral message and humorous at the same time. Use the information from the Native American Storytelling PDF in the Lessson Preparation section. 

    STEP TWO: Preview the vocabulary words and then the sentence in which they are used in the tale:

    • heaved- "He pushed and heaved and groaned."
    • endured- '"Little Ones," he said, calming them with his words, "you have worked hard and endured much.."'
    • pelted- "Great big droplets pelted the little chicks' faces."
    • bobbed, trickling- "The little brown chicks bobbed over to the trickling creek."

    Encourage students to listen for the sentence with the word in it as the story is read. 

    STEP THREE: Hand out the sheet with illustrations from the book to each student, pairs or triads. Have them cut on the dotted lines finishing with ten separate illustrations. Explain that information can be gathered from pictures and used to help readers and listeners understand characters, setting, plot and sequence of a story. Today they will practice matching an illustration to the words within the text.

    STEP FOUR: Instruct the students that you will be reading a story and stopping at certain points. Their job is to listen to the story carefully and then choose which illustration depicts the part of the story you just read.

    STEP FIVE: Read the story without letting students see the illustrations of the book and stop at the end of each page. Have them work individually, in pairs or triads to decide which picture depicts that part of the story. Have the students continue to place the illustrations in the order they think they belong.

    STEP SIX: After reading the story, show the storybook on a projector with the illustrations and have the students assess their guesses. Engage the students by discussing key details in the text and pictures.  on using the following questions:

    • Who are the main characters of the story?
    • What human characteristics does each character exhibit?
    • What is the relationship between the main characters?
    • What is the conflict or problem in the story?
    • How do the characters deal with the challenges and conflict?
    • Are there lessons that can be learned from this story?
      • Good friends are there to help us through difficult times.
      • There are consequences for decisions we make, they can affect us and others.
      • Go to someone (adult) who can help solve a problem. It is okay to ask for help.

    Lesson Day Two

    STEP ONE: Hand out the illustrations again and as a class have the students put them in the correct sequence and do a retelling of the story. Emphasize key details. 

    STEP TWO: Hold a discussion about bullying and how it can come in many forms. Relate that three characters exhibited various forms of bullying. As a class reread what each of the characters' (rock, wood/sticks and water) actions were and brainstorm what form of bullying that could represent. Here are three ideas. 

    • Rock laughed at the chicks and told them a lie and then told them to go away. This type of bullying can be verbal abuse whether it be laughing at someone, telling them a lie or even yelling at them to go away. 
    • The wood and sticks hissed and spat hot sparks at the chicks causing blisters and sores on their faces. This type of bullying is physical bullying (hitting, pinching and so on). 
    • The water rushed after the chicks and would not let them drink a drop of water. This type of bullying is keeping someone from participating in an activity or keeping them from something such as not allowing others to join in a game, taking someone's lunch or personal item. 

    STEP THREE: Brainstorm with the class the characteristics of a good friend (Cottontail) and what being a good friend looks like.

    • kind- it looks like helping someone pick up things they may have spilled, sharing a pencil, etc. Cottontail heard the chicks crying and offered to help. 
    • listens- it looks like being quiet and nodding to show you are listening. Cottontail listened to the chicks tell about what the wood and sticks had done.  
    • supports- it looks like saying things like, "you are doing good" or "keep trying, you will get it." Cottontail encouraged the chicks when they came to him with blisters and sores, he told them that they had worked hard and endured much and encouraged them to continue on. 

    STEP FOUR: Conclude with a project that reinforces the importance of being a friend. Activities might include:

    • Creating a friendship quilt by handing out to each student an 8 1/2 square piece of construction paper. Have student trace their hand as many times as they would like and then have them write their name on the paper and color their hands. Make two holes on at the end of each side and use yarn to tie the quilt together. 
    • Hand each student a piece of white drawing paper and have students make a self portrait to hang up as a pledge to be a friend. 
    • Use an index card to have students complete the sentence stem: A friend is ________________. Hang the cards up in the room. 


    • Arrange for a school counselor to lead a discussion about bullying.
    • Hold a discussion about steps to follow when one is the object of bullying and how to handle the situation responsibly.
    • Contact a Native American presenter from the Utah Division of Arts & Museums Native Teaching Artist roster to come into the class to share more about their tribal customs and ways. 


    • Chipeta- Wise and Influential Advisor



    • Hold an informal discussion about the culture learning.
    • Create an exit ticket that targets one or more aspects of the lesson.
    • Have students out the illustrations cards in the correct sequence the next day. 

    Additional Resources

    • Circle of Stories- Learn about storytelling, listen to stories told by Native storytellers.
    • John Jarvie Historic Ranch: Ute Map Lesson - This lesson is intended for 4-6 grades, however there are many sections that can be used with younger students. "In the Ute map lesson, students will learn about the history of the Ute people located in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. This history will include precontact lands as well as the transformation and eventual dispossession of Ute lands."
    • Jingle Dancer is a delightful book written by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Muscogee Creek Nation. This is a contemporary picture book written by an Indigenous author. It follows the journey of a young girl's desire to dance in an upcoming powwow. Powwows are social cultural gatherings held all over the country where Native people come to socialize and dance. It is open to the public. There are many such gatherings held in Utah.