Cottontail Tames Wood, Water, and Rock

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