Lorna Loy, Brenda Beyal
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Elementary
  • Aldean Ketchum
  • Language Arts -- Reading
  • Lesson Plan
  • Literacy
  • Native American Author
  • Native American Culture
  • Red Tailed Hawk
  • White Mesa Ute Tribe
  • october23
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    Aldean and the Red-Tailed Hawk: A White Mesa Ute Story

    Aldean and the Red-Tailed Hawk: A White Mesa Ute Story


    Aldean Ketchum is a White Mesa Ute tribal member. He grew up in southern Utah. He is a storyteller and flute player. He share a story about a hawk. The Ute people have a close association with nature and a respect for all living things. They share the earth with animals, and they look to them for guidance. The Utes honor the hawk in ceremonies, and they use hawk feathers in their regalia. Students will learn more about the White Mesa Ute tribe, birds of prey (raptors) and engage in strategies before, during and after reading the story. 


    Time Frame: 

    • Two (2) 30 minute sessions or one (1) hour lesson


    • Whole class or small groups


    Original lesson by Mary Jane Yazzie & Merry M. Palmer, modified and edited by Brenda Beyal and Lorna Loy


    Goals and Outcomes


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

    1. Improve reading comprehension through reading the story, "Aldean and the Red-Tailed Hawk: A story About A White Mesa Ute Boy."
    2. Make predictions about the story and discuss those predictions to check for accuracy and evidence. 
    3. Indentify, locate, and explain their knowledge of the Ute tribe and Ute culture. 
    4. Understand the meaning of the Red-Tailed Hawk to Native American tribes in North America. 


    Background Knowledge

    White Mesa Ute Tribe

    The White Mesa Community is party of the larger Ute Mountain Ute tribe, whose headquarters are in Towaoc, Colorado. The community is located 12 miles south of Blanding, Utah.

    According to Ute tradition, the people of White Mesa came to the Four Corners area after the creation of the world. Anthropologists say that the Southern Utes and the Southern Paiutes entered the region between 850 and 430 years ago, and the people of White Mesa descend from a band of Southern Utes, the Weenuche.

    Contact with the Spanish, and eventually Mormons, changed their way of life and in 1868 they signed a treaty that forced them to western Colorado Territory. The Weenuche band resisted reservation life for many years, however in 1923 they were confined to small allotments in San Juan County, Utah. This made their traditional lifestyle impossible. Farming was unsuccessful, so they turned to raising sheep, cattle, and horses. Starting in the 1950s, the Utes started building houses on the land south of Blanding, which created the community known as White Mesa.

    Other Ute Tribes of Utah

    The Uintah and Ouray Reservation is located in Fort Duchesne approximately 150 miles east of Salt Lake City. There are around 3,157 tribal members, and the reservation rests within a three-county area known as the “Uintah Basin.” The reservation covers over 4.5 million acres and is the second largest Indian reservation in the United States. Three bands of Utes comprise the Northern Ute tribe: the Whiteriver, Uncompahgre, and Uintah. The Uintah Band was first to call the Uintah Basin their home;later the Whiteriver and Uncompahgre bands were removed from Colorado to the Uintah Valley Reservation, thus creating the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The governing Ute body uses the band system. Each band elects two representatives to four-year terms in two-year cycles.

    Red-Tailed Hawks:

    Teaching Strategies: 

    Relate Resources:

    • Utah American Indian Digital Archive -  (UAIDA) is a gateway to the best resources regarding Utah’s Indian tribes. With articles, books, government documents, tribal documents, oral histories, photographs, and maps pertaining to the Northwestern Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Utah Navajo, White Mesa, and Ute Indians, this unique archive captures the complicated history of Utah’s tribes from multiple perspectives. The project, which stems from forty years of research conducted by the University of Utah’s American West Center on behalf of Utah’s Indians, offers tribal members, students, and researchers unprecedented access to information about the rich history and culture of Utah’s native peoples.
    • History To Go: Ute Indians - The Utah Division of State History acknowledges that the land Utah resides on has always been indigenous lands. Learn more about the Native American tribes of Utah here.
    • Map of Tribal Nation in Utah

    Lesson Preparation


    Initial Preparation

    1. The students should understand where the White Mesa Ute Tribe is located.
    2. Preview the story for the theme and/or significant message of the story. Determine how the students in your class may relate to the story or relate the story to their own experiences. Think of an experience of your own that you can share with the class. 
    3. Be prepared to take your class through a prediction making session/strategy.
    4. Be prepared to take your class through the Exit Ticket strategy. 

    Materials Needed

    1. Vocabulary words - preview and preteach/teach vocabulary words pounce, swoop, perched, snared, and hovered.
    2. Show two short videos or pictures:
    3. Digital copy of the story, Aldean and the Red-tailed Hawk A Story About a White Mesa Ute Boy
    4. Prepare prediction chart - First Lines: chart headings or section headings are -  "First Line," "Prediction," "Explanation," and "Revision"
    5. Make a list of questions for "Exit Slips"
    6. 3 X 5 cards

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    • Include writing as a way of organizing predictions and/or thoughts generated from discussions.
    • Have students work in groups and support each other as they make a prediction.
    • Remind students that there is not a "right" or "wrong" way to make predictions about a text.
    • Emphasize that they should be able to support their predictions from the information in the sentence.
    • Have a variety of exit slips and differentiate which students get which ones
    • Allow students to work on their exit slips in pairs or small groups
    • Allow students to verbally express the information



    1. Show two short videos or pictures:
    2. Explain what makes a bird a raptor. All raptors have a hooked beak, strong feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and a carnivorous diet. Raptors also have excellent hearing. They make a range of noises and use their hearing as a means of communication. They also rely on it heavily for locating their prey, combined with their sharp vision. Raptors have very powerful flight. A raptor needs to be able to fly very well in order to catch their prey in flight. To conserve energy raptors will find thermals (up drafts of warm air) that help them to soar in circles without even needing to flap their wings. There are many kinds of birds and the differences of birds are told by how they get their food, how or if they fly, their beaks, and by their feet. 
    3. Ask the students to raise their hand if they think they have seen a raptor before? Hold up pictures of raptors to give them an idea of what a raptor might be; or hold up the eagle and chicken picture and ask them which bird is the raptor according to the description of a raptor.
    4. Ask students to name some raptor birds. Put the list on the board. Add some they did not think of: American kestrel, bald eagle, barn owl, barred owl, boreal owl, broad-winged hawk, burrowing owl, Cooper's hawk, Eastern screech owl, Ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, great gray owl, great horned owl. Gyrfalcon, long-eared owl, Merlin Northern goshawk, Northern harrier, Northern hawk owl, Osprey, Peregrine falcon, prairie falcon, re-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, short-eared owl, snowy owl, Swanson's hawk, turkey vulture. 
    5. Ask them to name as many characteristics of birds as they can think of. Put the list on the board. Add any others from the list above they didn’t think of. Discuss.
      • Bird Feet - Show the variation in bird feet.
        • Question(s): Why do the feet of each species look the way they do? How does this affect their survival?  Answer: Different species have different types of feet to fulfil different tasks. If the eagle didn’t have strong and sharp talons it couldn’t catch prey (this extends to the other species as well); Sandpiper - large surface area to walk on mud; Eagles - strong sharp talons for grasping prey; Perching Sparrow - for perching on branches (away from predators); Woodpecker - gripping onto bark; Pigeon - hopping around and clinging onto branches; Duck - paddling in water; etc. 
      • Bird Beaks - Show the variation in bird beaks.
        •  Question: Why do the birds' beaks look the way they do? Answer: Their beaks serve as their main tool for getting food. Point out Darwin's finches. Specify that the bird with the larger/stronger looking beak uses it to crack nuts and the birds with thinner beaks have the agility to catch insects.
        • Question: Is it a coincidence the Eagle and Vulture have similar shaped beaks? Answer: No, both the Eagle and Vulture are carnivorous. This means they eat meat. Since their diet is so similar, their beaks have evolved to also be similar. 
      • Bird Feathers - No other animal has feathers. Birds come in an amazing variety of colors and sizes. That’s another special thing about birds—diversity. Feathers are the things which cover birds. They help keep birds warm. Feathers also protect them from injury. In most kinds of birds, feathers help them to fly. The individual feathers in the wings and tail play important roles in controlling flight. They may also be plucked to line the nest and provide insulation to the eggs and young. Feathers give birds color. The function of color in birds is extremely important. It includes:
        • Camouflage: it hides the bird in its natural environment, especially when it is stationary in the nest. Camouflage is often backed up with behavior.
        • Display: birds carry display colors when they need to be noticed by other birds. Often the male of a pair will do the display and wear colors, while the female is camouflaged. Display is usually backed up by behavior, especially bird song. The main functions are:
          1. To attract a mate
          2. To signal and defend their territory.
    6. Today we are going to read a story about a raptor, we will read about a Red-Tail Hawk. The story is called, "Aldean and the Red-tailed Hawk: A Story About a White Mesa Ute Boy" This story come from a Native American that live on the White Mesa Indian Reservation in Southern Utah. 
      • Discuss the Ute Tribes in Utah (also in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico)  - There are three tribal nations of Utes. 
      1. Northern Utes: Three bands of Utes comprise the Northern Ute tribe: the Whiteriver, Uncompahgre, and Uintah. The Uintah Band was first to call the Uintah Basin their home;later the Whiteriver and Uncompahgre bands were removed from Colorado to the Uintah Valley Reservation, thus creating the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The governing Ute body uses the band system.
      2. Souther Utes: Mouache and Caputa bands comprise the Southern Ute Tribe and are headquartered at Ignacio, Colorado.
      3. Ute Mountain Utes: The Weenuchiu, now known as the Ute Mountain Utes are headquartered at Towaoc, Colorado. The White Mesa Utes are part of the Ute Mountain Ute band. 
    7. Next, talk about what hawks sybolize to the Native Americans - Every Native American tribe has their own distinct set of traditions and beliefs, so hawk symbolism and meanings can vary from tribe to tribe. But overall, Native Americans views the Red-Tailed Hawk as a protector and a spiritual messenger. Hawks are often seen as a symbol of power, courage and strength. In some tribes, such as the Cheyenne, hawks are associated with protection from enemies, and seeing or dreaming about a hawk can be seen as a warning of danger. The Red-Tailed Hawk is a sacred animal for these reasons. The Red-Tailed Hawk is a master of adaptation. The Red-Tailed Hawk does not have red tail feathers until it matures. If you find one, it is a great honor, as it means you are maturing spiritually. The Utes honor the hawk in ceremonies, and they use hawk feathers in their regalia.


    Tell the students that all good readers think about what they already know about a topic before they begin to read, so that the new information will have a place to stick in their brains. To activate that knowledge, they will be brainstorming things that they already know about the Ute Native American tribe and about Red-Tailed Hawks. 

    1. Make predictions about the story using a strategy called First Lines. You can make a whole class chart to list thier predictions or you can do an individual sheet for students to record:
      • Your chart or diagram will have the following headlines - First Line, Prediction, Explanation, Revision
      • Choose the assigned reading and introduce the text to the students. Ask students read only the first line of the assigned text, or if using your read aloud, read aloud only the first line.
      • Ask students to make predictions for the reading based on the first sentence.
      • Engage the class in discussion about the predictions.
    2. Next, show the students the picture cards for the words pounce, swoop, perched, snared, and hovered. Ask for volunteers to act out the words.

    During Reading:

    1. Encourage students to return to their original predictions after reading the text, assessing their original predictions and building evidence to support those predictions which are accurate. Students can create new predictions as well.
    2. Discuss: Lead a classroom discussion of the material. Encourage students to reflect on any differences between their reading of the content and their predictions.

    After Reading Exit Slips

    1. At the end of your lesson ask students to respond to a question or prompt.
    • Note: There are three categories of exit slips (Fisher & Frey, 2004):
      • Prompts that document learning:
        — Example: Write one thing you learned today.
        — Example: Discuss how today's lesson could be used in the real world.
      • Prompts that emphasize the process of learning:
        — Example: I didn't understand…
        — Example: Write one question you have about today's lesson.
      • Prompts to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction:
        — Example: Did you enjoy working in small groups today?
      • Other exit prompts include:
        — I would like to learn more about…
        — Please explain more about…
        — The thing that surprised me the most today was…
        — I wish…
    • You may state the prompt orally to your students or project it visually on an overhead or blackboard.
    • You may want to distribute 3 x 5 cards for students to write down their responses.
    • Review the exit slips to determine how you may need to alter your instruction to better meet the needs of all your students.
    • Collect the exit slips as a part of an assessment portfolio for each student.


    1. As a class, use the story map to determine the story elements as you read (students have paper copies/teacher has a transparency).
    2. After Reading: Have the students write a story about a special experience they had with an animal.




    Assessment, whether it be formal or informal, drives instruction. For more informal assessments, take notes about a students use of the predicting strategy and in discussions during reading conferences or in small groups. Considering the following when observing the students’ use of the strategy:

    1. Are students making predictions prompted or unprompted?
    2. Can students support their predictions with text evidence?

    3. Do students draw on personal experiences to inform their predictions?

    4. Are students monitoring if their predictions were correct or incorrect?

    5. Are the students’ predictions logical? Do they make sense to the story?

    6. Finally, having a rubric written in kid-friendly language is especially helpful when providing feedback to a student on their ability to make predictions. The rubric can provide clear guidelines on how to make predictions while reading.

    7. Assess anecdotally throughout the lesson as the students volunteer information about the story elements and the vocabulary words.

    Use the following to assess cultural learning.

    • Can the student show on a map, the approximate location of where the White Mesa Ute reservation is located?
    • Can the studen relate reason why the Red-Tailed Hawk is sacred and important to the Native American people?

    Additional Resources

    Additional Resources on Native Americans

    • PBS: Circle of Stories - Circle of Stories uses documentary film, photography, artwork and music to honor and explore Native American storytelling.
    • National Museum of American Indian: Native Knowledge 360 - Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°) provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. Most Americans have only been exposed to part of the story, as told from a single perspective through the lenses of popular media and textbooks. NK360° provides educational materials, virtual student programs, and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. NK360° challenges common assumptions about Native peoples and offers a view that includes not only the past but also the vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.
    • Utah Division of Arts & Museums: Native American Teaching Roster - We provide opportunities for artists and artistic groups to work as artists/educators in schools, nonprofit organizations and other community settings. Services are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Legislature and local sponsoring organizations.
    • BYU ARTS Partnership: Arts Reaching and Teaching in Schools - Founded as an initiative in the BYU-Public School Partnership, the BYU ARTS Partnership works to increase the quality and quantity of arts education in Utah elementary schools. The initiative is housed in the Center for Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES) in the McKay School of Education. BYU faculty, district administrators, and teachers collaborate to provide professional development programs and create materials and resources for teachers.