Lorna Loy, Brenda Beyal
Arts and Humanities, Literature, Elementary English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Elementary
  • Adaptations
  • American Indian
  • External Structures
  • Lesson Plan
  • Myth
  • Native American
  • Paiute
  • Sovereignty
  • october23
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    How Badger, Skunk and Sage Hen Were Marked

    How Badger, Skunk and Sage Hen Were Marked


    According to Paiute legend, the hawk and the coyote were not always animals as we see them now. Long ago, they were people, like you and me. The hawk was known as Kuhsawv, and the coyote was known as Soonungwuv. Coyote tales are part of the Paiute oral tradition used to teach proper behavio, natural phenomenon and values from an early age. These stories are only told during the winter time. The Coyote illustrates the mischievous nature in all of us. Students will listen to a Paiute tale and learn about folktales. They will also be introduced to the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, the location and how tribal members are working to preserve their language and culture. Students will also learn about how external structures and adaptations of animals help them to survive in their environment through a group activity. 



    • Time frame: 1 Class period, 45 minutes 
    • Format (synchronous, asynchronous, face-to-face, virtual, etc.): Face-to-face
    • Cultural Consultants on the writing of the book: Karma Grayman, Dorena Martineau, Arther Richard, Eleanor Tom, and Rita Walker (Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah) 
    • Adapted by: Leeann Parker
    • Illustrated by: Molly Trainor
    • Authors: Original lesson by Margaret Olderog, modified by Brenda Beyal 

    Goals and Outcomes

    Students will be able to:

    • Make and confirm predictions about the myth.
    • Summarize the story by pointing out the setting, problem and conclusion.
    • Define and identify external structures and adaptations of animals in story.
    • Do a small research on an animal and how its external structure and adaptations help it to survive in its enivironment.
    • Show where the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is located.
    • Share what they learned about the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah with class members. 

    The student will make and confirm predictions to comprehend text.

    1.1 Survival (4.1.1) 1.2 Information (4.1.2) 1.3 Change over Time (4.1.3) 1.4 Evidence of Change over Time (4.1.4)

    Strand 2 for 3rd grade

    2.2 Inherited Traits (3.2.2) 2.3 Environmental Traits (3.2.3) 2.4 Traits and Survival (3.2.4) 2.5 Habitats and Survival (3.2.5) 2.6 Environmental Change (3.2.6)



    4th grade Reading: Literature Standard 9
    Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.

    4th grade Standard 2
    Students will understand how Utah's history has been shaped by many diverse people, events, and ideas.


    Objective 1
    Describe the historical and current impact of various cultural groups on Utah.

    b  Explore points of view about life in Utah from a variety of cultural groups using primary source documents.

    d Identify and describe leaders from various cultures who exemplify outstanding character and life skills.

    Background for Teachers

    Teacher Background Knowledge

    • This legend, called Tookwee'nup, is a myth and designed to be humorous, morally instructive and explain natural phenomenon. As with all coyote stories, this story should be told only in winter months after the first frost. Trickster tales are told throughout the world and are a part of the folktale genre. The main character is usually one who is intelligent, clever, full of energy and creates mischief. They make themselves or others look foolish, causing disruptions. Coyote is a common trickster in Native American stories told throughout the tribal nations. The tales have been passed down through oral traditions. It is important to note that in many Native stories, humans and animals live alongside each other communicating with one another, establishing a world where both are equal. Today, indigenous people continue to honor this tradition. A trickster tale usally has a lesson or moral for the listerner to learn how to; conduct themselves, distinguish right from wrong and take precautions. Coyote stories are traditionally told in the winter after the first snow and before spring arrives. In keeping with this tradition we ask that the book be read between those times. In the story Hawk's mother gives him a magic bow that could adjust to the size of the prey. Because he disregards her counsel to not show anyone, Badger, Skunk and Sage Hen are marked.
    • The Paiute Indian Tribe is one of the eight sovereign nation within Utah and was established as a sovereign nation by Executive Order on April 3, 1980. Following is an excerpt from NK360 telling about tribal sovereignty:  

      "Sovereignty means the authority to self-govern. Long before Europeans arrived, the Western Hemisphere was highly populated with autonomous (self-governing) Native nations that engaged in trade and diplomacy and made agreements with one another. Native nations made many treaties with European governments and the United States. Native American leaders showed courage and insight in these treaty negotiations by reserving certain rights while ceding lands. As nation-to-nation agreements, treaties confirmed the sovereign status of Native nations in the United States. The inherent powers of self-government within the United States have also been affirmed by United States Supreme Court decisions, presidential orders, and laws enacted by Congress." 

    Student Background Knowledge

    • Stories from different cultures can helps us to learn about the world around us.
    • Folktales can be stories called myths, fables and fairytales.

    Lesson Preparation

    Initial Preparation

    • Preview the story and become familiar with the characters, their problems and the solutions to those problems. 
    • Be prepared to guide the students through learning about animals' external structures and adaptations by completing the Five Animals worksheet. 
    • Read background information about trickster tales and the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Prepare to share information with the students that will help them to gain a greater understanding of the tribe.  

    Materials Needed

    • Digital copy of the Paiute tale, How Badger, Skunk and Sage Hen Were Marked or copies of the story for paired reading (downloadable and printable book format). 
    • Printed copies of the worksheet, Who, What and How. One for each student. 
    • One copy of the Five Animals sheet for every two students.

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    Students who struggle with writing their ideas can be paired or grouped with other students to complete the activity.

    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: ferocious, marveled, sacred, taunted, transformed, myth


    Begin the lesson by teaching the vocabulary words and their definitions to studetns.

    Myths, Predicting and Reflection

    Explain that a myth is a type of folktale that explains a natural phenomenon and the myth, How Badger, Skunk and Sage Hen Were Marked is the title of the story they will be listening to. Ask the students to use the title of the story as a clue to give the ideas as to what natural phenomenon this Paiute story explains. Allow students to share their answers with the class.

    Give students time to write a prediction how badger, skunk and sage hen were marked on a Post-it note and share it with a partner. If students do not know what the animals look like, let them know that you will share images of them after the reading of the book.

    Share will the students that the story comes from the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (PITU) whose tribal headquarters are in Cedar City, Utah. Show students the tribal groups map. Explain that the PITU consists of five separate distinct bands that united together to gain federal recognition. The bands are:

    • Cedar
    • Koosharem 
    • Shivwits
    • Indian Peaks
    • Kanosh

    Today, the PITU is working are hard to help their youth retain their cultural traditions. Show students the calendar on the PITU website with all the activities planned to help Paiute youth. This myth was shared by the tribe with the children of Utah to learned from and help them to become familiar with their sovereign nation. There were five cultural consultants who helped to have the story written as accurately as possible. They request that the story be read only during the winter months after the first snow and before spring.

    Read the book to the class and ask the following questions:

    • Why would this story be called a myth?
    • 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 conflict? 
    • How do badger, skunk and sage hen get marked according to this tale? 
    • Are there lessons that can be learned from this story?
    • When are Coyote stories told? (October (first frost) through February) 

    Animal External Structures

    Show images of each of the animals and point out their markings. Share that each of the three animals in the story can be found in Utah environments and they have external structures and adaptations that allow them to survive in their environments. Explain what external structures are and adaptatations. They help an animal survive in the environment. 

    Put students in groups of four or pairs. Hand out the worksheet titled Who, What and How to each student and one Five Animals sheet to each groupHave students work in pairs or groups to complete the worksheet.  

    Worksheet directions: Have students choose an animal from the Five Animals sheet and put the name in the "what" box and then read about it to learn what external structures and adaptations the animal has and how they help them to survive. Give students time to work and then have a share out of information gathered. Clarify any misunderstandings.

    Give the informal assesment


    • Assign pairs of students an animal or bird to research to find out how the animal's external structure helps them to survive in their environnment. The information should be written out similiar to the activity above. Give students time to fill out new worksheets using their peers' research.
    • Give students time to work on drawings of each of the animals in the book using the website We Draw Animals.
    • Contact a local storyteller and invite them to your class. Reach out to a nearby 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.


    Karma Grayman- Paiute, enrolled member of the Shivwits band language teacher.



    Use the following to guide your informal assessment of cultural learning:

    • Set a timer for 1-2 minutes and tell students to write down everything they can remember about the Paiute Indian Tribe from the lesson. 

    Use the follwoing to guide your assessment of external structures and adaptations of animals:

    • Hand out a sheet of paper and give students time to draw a picture of an animal they learned about in the lesson. Have them label at least three aspects of external structures or adaptations of the animal and provide a 2-3 sentence explanation of each on how it helps the animal to survive. 

    Additional Resources

    • The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is just one of the many federally recognized Paiute sovereign nations in the United States. Nevada alone has over fifteen recognized Paiute Tribes. One of them is the Pyramid Lake Paiute. Here is one of their revered storytellers and native-language specialist that students can learn more about.
    • Adaptations and the Environment video with wonderful resources to extend student learning. 
    • Paiute Federal Recognition and Sovereignty- This lesson plan was created by the BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative in partnership with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. 
    • Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith is a book about the bond between a boy and his grandfather. It highlights the importance of elders in Indigenous cultures.