Lorna Loy, Brenda Beyal
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
  • Folktales
  • Lesson Plan
  • Native American Storytelling
  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
  • ute
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    The Creator and Coyote: A Ute Mountain Ute Tale

    The Creator and Coyote: A Ute Mountain Ute Tale


    This is a story from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The purpose of Native American stories is not only to entertain, their primary purpose is to educate. Our story teaches a lesson about what happens to Coyote when he chooses to be irresponsible. Coyote is a trickster. He tries to trick the people, but they already know what he is capable of doing and how far he will go to get his way. He has a bag full of tricks. This story and all other Coyote Stories should only be told during the winter months.


    Time Frame: Up to 3, forty-five minute lessons. 

    Format: Whole group and small groups. 

    Authors:  "The Creator and the Coyote" adapted by Merry M. Palmer and Mary Jane Yazzie. Original lesson by Brenda Whitehorse, modified by Lorna Joseph-Loy & Brenda Beyal


    Goals and Outcomes

    As a result of this lesson, students will accomplish the following:

    • Define, identify and explain what responsiblity is. 
    • The students will be able to organize the story.
    • Design and role play a performance demonstrating an understanding of the importance of being responsible.

    Background Knowledge

    Teacher Background Knowledge

    Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

    Ute people live in Utah. There are three Ute tribal nations - 1) Uintah-Ouray Utes in northeastern Utah, 2) Southern Ute in Colorado, and 3) the Ute Mountain Utes in southern Utah, southern Colorado and New Mexico. Approximately 2,200 tribal members live on, work on and use these lands. The largest portion of the reservation is in Montezuma County, which is bordered by Mesa Verde National Park to the northeast, the Southern Ute Tribe to the east, the Diné (Navajo) Nation to the south and west, and a mix of US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands and private lands, including the city of Cortez, to the north. Tribal Headquarters is located in the town of Towaoc at the base of Sleeping Ute Mountain in the southwest corner of Colorado. There are approximately 2,200 tribal members living, working and using these lands. The Ute Mountain Tribal Park contains some of the nation's most spectacular ruins and supports a thriving heritage tourism business today.

    Native American storytelling

    In Native American communities, people tell legends, folktales, and fables. They tell these stories for many reasons: to recount the history of the people, to tell where they came from, or to relate the exploits of a particular hero. Often stories are told to educate children about cultural morals and values. See attachment for more information on Native American storytelling. 

    Related Resources:

    Utah American Indian Digital Archive

    History To Go: Ute Tribe

    Map of Tribal Nations within Utah

    Data.Gov: Tribal Nations Maps

    Ute Mountain Ute Tribe: Official Website


    Student Background Knowledge

    The students need to understand how to organize text using a story map. Vocabulary to know: Responsibility, sacred, tramped, remaining, ancient, creator, curious, task, terrible, whined, tongues, thorn, irresponsible, mightiest, valiant, prowler.

    Lesson Preparation

    "The Creator and the Coyote: A Ute Mountain Ute Tale" adapted by Merry M. Palmer and Mary Jane Yazzie. These books can be printed from the CD or ordered from the San Juan School District Media Center at or (435) 678-1229.

    Initial Preparation

    1. Preview the story for the them and/or significant message of the story. 
    2. Determine how your class or how your students might relate the story to their own experiences. Think of an experience of your own that you can share with the class. 
    3. Read section on Background Information and choose how to share information about Native American storytelling and information about the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. 

    Materials Needed:

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    Some students may be uncomfortable with performing. These students could be in charge of collecting or creating setting and costume pieces. They could also perform as the people who ran away..

    Lesson Procedure

    Vocabulary: slunk, task, tongues, tramped, valient, responsibility

    Day One:

    Explain that today we are going to do what all good readers do. We will activate our prior knowledge (or think about what we already know) by thinking about how important it is to be responsible. Our story teaches a lesson about what happens to Coyote when he chooses to be irresponsible.

    1. Write "Being responsible is" at the top of a chart board and have the students brainstorm a list of ideas. What are some other ways students hear the word “responsible” used?
      1. Be responsible
      2. Take responsibility
      3. It’s your responsibility
      4. Act responsibly

    All of these ways of talking about responsibility are related to doing the things we are supposed to do, or doing the things we are responsible for.

    1. Explain what a responsibility is- it’s something you are expected to do.
      1. When you do the thing you are expected to do, you are being responsible, and a positive result occurs.
      2. When you do not do the thing you are supposed to do, you are not being responsible, or being irresponsible, and there is a negative consequence for having neglected your responsibility.
      3. Being responsible has two components-
        1. the act of doing the thing you are responsible for, and
        2. accepting the good or negative outcome of your actions.
    2. Discussion starters:
      1. It’s easy to take responsibility or ownership when things go well. Why is it hard to take responsibility when things don’t go well?
      2. What is the opposite of responsibility? (unreliability, blaming others, making excuses)
      3. Who do you trust more—someone who owns up to mistakes or someone who covers them up? Why?
      4. How do you think responsibility can help you in school? At home?
        1. Responsibilities can be tasks, or jobs, that you are supposed to do. It’s a responsibility because there is a result or outcome you are working toward. If you don’t do the task, there is a negative result.
        2. Responsibilities can have to do with how we act / behave around others. We are expected to act a certain way (be responsible in how we act) because if we don’t there may be a negative outcome.
      5. Discuss some tasks and behavior expectations and the positive or negative consequences of being responsible or irresponsible. For example:
        1. Do your homework- If you do it, you learn and it helps prepare you for life. It may also keep your parents and teachers happy and you may get praise. If you don’t do it, it hurts your ability to learn and grow. Parents and teachers may be disappointed. There may be consequences like losing privileges until your work is done.
        2. Don’t hurt yourself of others - It’s your responsibility think about how you are working in the classroom or playing outside. Acting responsibly helps keep you and others safe from harm.
    3. “Now we are going to read a Navajo folktale, 'The Creator and Coyote: A Ute Mountain Ute Tale. Our story teaches a lesson about what happens to Coyote when he chooses to be irresponsible.” The Navajo elders tell this story to their children so that they learn about being responsible by linking actions with their consequences. This story teaches one way why responsibility is important to consider and to consider what would happen if people were not responsible.” Read the story, use reading strategies for before and during reading.
    4. After reading the story use a “anchor chart” to help students know what responsibility means. See attachment example.
      1. What does it mean?
      2. Characteristics of…
      3. Examples
      4. Non-examples
      5. You can do variations such as: synonyms for “responsible,” and/or list of other terms relating to responsibility.  

    Day Two:

    1. Organize the students in groups and distribute the story maps and books.
    2. Explain that the students will be using the story map to organize the story as they read it. Tell them to think carefully about each part of the story because they will be creating their own dramatization and will have parts to perform.
    3. After the students have completed the story map, discuss how the genre of this story would be fable or folktale. We know this because there is a lesson about being responsible and this story has been passed down from generation to generation.
    4. Tell the students that tomorrow they will be given a rubric to use as a way of grading each member of their group on responsibility as a group member.
    5. Have the students get back into groups. Give them the Readers Theater Rubric. Review what you expect them to do as a group, and how they will grade each other.
    6. Remind them that they are learning about being responsible, and responsible citizens work hard and follow directions.
    7. Explain that they will use the book and their story maps to decide which characters they want to play (including a narrator) and the items they want to collect for the setting and costumes.
    8. Have the students write the dialogue for each of their parts.
    9. The students will practice their performance at least once, and decide whether they need to change or add anything.

    Day Three:

    1. The students will take turns performing. Remind the class that every performer deserves appreciation for his/her effort, so the entire class will enthusiastically applaud every performance. This is something that responsible citizens do to make sure that everyone feels good about his/her effort.
    2. Ask the students what they learned about the importance of being responsible through this activity.
    3. Tell the students to use their Readers Theater Rubrics to evaluate each member of their group on this project. Stress that this information is TOP SECRET and can't be discussed or viewed by anyone else. Have students turn in thier evaluations. 
    4. Have the students write in their journals about what they will do to be more responsible citizens.

    Lesson Extensions:

    • The students could use their skills as story organizers and performers to create their own play and perform it before the class.
    • Walk through the examples of being responsible. Compare what a responsible action is and its positive outcome (on the left) with the irresponsible action and its negative consequence (on the right.)
    • What's On Your Plate? Give students paper plates and markers. Have them write down or draw the things and responsiblities in thier lives that fill up their time as a student. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    • Use easier scripts with fewer words for younger or struggling readers.
    • Write the script (or the student's part of the script) with print that is easy to read (i.e. larger or in preferred font). Supply Braille scripts when needed.
    • Give the student their part in advance. Encourage them to practice at home with their parents
    • Have students read parts together.
    • Allow advanced students to write parts of the script.
    • When assigning roles, be sensitive to students' individual needs. Assign roles accordingly; provide extra, individual practice if needed.



    Informal Assessment

    Make Use of Prior Knowledge

    Our students bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences with them to school. By asking questions that draw on what students may already know, we can help them make use of their prior knowledge to understand and learn from what they’re reading. Having students turn and talk with a partner about what they already know helps them activate their prior knowledge. This activity also integrates cooperative learning, another research-supported strategy, into the process.

    Readers Theater

    Assess student's completed written play along with their performances. Use a group grading sheet (attached) to create individual accountability.

    Cultural Learning

    • Can the student locate on a map the 5 tribes of Native Americans in the state of Utah?
    • Can students tell you some details about the Ute Mountain Utes?
    • Can the student relate several reasons why storytelling is important to Native Americans?