Lorna Loy, Brenda Beyal
Literature, Health Science Education, Elementary English Language Arts, Science
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
  • Force and Motion
  • Lesson Plan
  • Native American
  • SEEd
  • Ute
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
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    Education Standards

    The Eye Juggler Coyote

    The Eye Juggler Coyote


    This lesson utilizes the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (UIT) tale, “The Eye Juggler Coyote” to enhance comprehension skills, provide an introduction to how force affects motion and give information about the UIT. The students will read the tale and then use the story to learn about gravity and balanced forces. The connection of the Ute people to the bison will also be explored. 

    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 made and suffering the consequences in their own lives.


    • Time frame: 1 Class period, 45 minutes 
    • Format (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.): Whole group, asynchronous, face-to-face
    • Cultural Consultant on the writing of the book: Gloria Thompson
    • Adapted by: LeeAnn Parker
    • Illustrated by: Molly Trainor
    • Authors: Orignal lesson by Lee Ann Parker, modified by Brenda Beyal and Lorna Loy


    Goals and Outcomes

    Learning Intentions

    • Improve comprehension through reading of the story "The Eye Juggler Coyote."

    • Be able to relate parts of the story to how force affects motion.

    • Draw a sequence of events in the story or show how force affects motion

    • Show where the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation is located.

    • Share two things they learned about the UIT and bison.

    Background Knowledge

    Teacher Background Knowledge

    Teachers need to be aware of the cultural aspects of traditional tales. Traditionally, the winter months are the only time coyote tales can be told. 

    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 "The Eye Juggler Coyote," 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 “Eye-Juggler Coyote”, students can discuss how Coyote’s choice to ignore the bird’s warning about juggling his eyes near the aspen trees caused some painful consequences. 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. This particular story is told by many different tribes with slight variations. The Goshute Tale, “Coyote Loses His Eyes” is a variation that can also be read to students. 

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

    Student Background Knowledge

    Students should be familiar with what a traditional tale is, including familiar examples, such as The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen, The Fox and the Hen, etc. and understand that traditional tales often use animals who speak with one another and exhibit human traits. Characters in traditional tales also present problems that wouldn't really happen in real life, but are used to portray a problem or challenge that reflect a human trait. In this story of "The Eye-Juggler Coyote", Coyote demands to learn how to juggle his eyes but doesn't follow the rules or words of caution that go with the game, and he suffers the consequences of his choice. He also has a hard time taking responsibility for his actions (blames the birds for his mishap) and then demands that the buffalo and mouse help him with his dilemma.


    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.

    Materials Needed

    • Group view copy of the Ute traditional tale "The Eye Juggler Coyote'' or copies of the story for paired reading (downloadable and printable book format).
    • Blank paper for informal assessment

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    Students who struggle with writing their ideas can be paired or grouped with other students to complete the project; students can illustrate their finished writing pieces with images or characters from the story.

    Students can be challenged by creating puppet plays or storytelling sessions, using props, puppets, music, etc. 

    Challenge students to find out what kind bird would most likely be the one in the story by researching birds in Utah and using the clue in the text.

    The lesson can be adapted to facilitate the struggling student by using paired reading or buddy-share sessions.

    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: grimaced, hollered, meandered, muttered, scurried

    • Teach the vocabulary words without the “ed” ending and share that these action words, verbs, are in present tense. 

    • Explain that adding “ed” to the verbs will change the tense of the word to past tense. Ask students to listen for the words as the story is read.

    Before Reading

    • 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.

      • In the story Coyote will meet a 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. 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 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 would you tell Coyote?

    • What surprised you the most?

    Connecting the Story to How Force Affects Motion

    • Reread the first two paragraphs of the story and ask the question, “How do birds fly?” Explain to the students that forces acting on objects can push or pull and start something moving, even birds. In the bird’s case it has a skeleton designed for flying and the required force needed to move, change speed and direction are helped with the streamlined body shape birds possess, such as:

      • light, hollow bones with cross pieces for strength;

      • a beak;

      • a strong skeleton for attaching muscles to; and, 

      • a large sternum for chest muscles used to flap their wings

    • Birds are able to fly by counteracting the downforce of gravity with an upward force called, “lift”. They make this force by moving their wings through the air by flapping their wings. 

    • Finish reading pages one, two and three and ask the question, “How were Coyote’s eyes able to fall back into his eye sockets?” Explain that Gravity pulls objects down toward the center of the Earth. When Coyote’s eyes come back to him that is the force of gravity pushing them back to earth. Take a few minutes to discuss gravity and do some quick demostrations. 

    • Read pages four and five and ask the question, “Why didn’t Coyote’s eyes fall back to him?” Explain that gravity does push objects back to earth, but at the same time there are things that oppose the pull of gravity. When objects or things are at rest, the force of gravity and the force of the object are balanced. The net force is zero and the object doesn’t move. When Coyote’s eyes come back to him that is the force of gravity pushing them back to earth. When they land in his eye sockets, it is the force of the sockets that opposes the pull of gravity and keeps his eyes resting in his sockets. The net force is zero and the forces are balanced.

    • However when Coyote threw his eyes up the last time and as they were being pushed back to earth (gravity) they were met by an opposing force which most likely was the tops of the aspen trees (a crook in the branches, the leaves acting as a canopy etc.) His sockets were no longer the force that kept them from falling to the ground but rather whatever they fell onto. This is once again an example of balanced forces. You may choose to have students investigate the pull of gravity, opposing forces and balanced forces by giving students other scenarios to think about such as:

      • How can a bird stay on a branch?

      • What keeps a book from falling to the ground?

    • The remaining pages can be read to the students and/or a paper can be handed out to:

      • Draw the key details of the story.

      • Illustrate gravity, opposing forces and balanced forces by using parts of the story as examples.


    • 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. 

    • Use the story as an introduction to an explanation about the importance of following rules, have students explain their understanding of the rules of a common game such as Uno and then compare their understanding of the rules with the original rules found with the game. 

    • A fun extension would be to explore the fun world of juggling! Some fun websites have video clips of some incredible jugglers. Students can have fun juggling bean bags (they are much easier to start out with). If you know a local juggler, have them visit your classroom and share their expertise. . Have some fun!

    • Read the story again and focus on what the coyote listened to and didn’t listen to, emphasizing how he did not listen to instructions and how that 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 been listening. 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 listening skills are important.



    Larry Cesspooch: Director and Producer


    Hand out a blank paper and have students:

    • draw the key details of the story; and,
    • illustrate gravity, opposing forces and balanced forces by using parts of the story as examples. 

    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 modern day story by reading the book, Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair. This book helps others understand why some Native American boys choose to grow their hair long. It is a great book to read and discuss as a class.