Standard Lesson

Making Connections to Myth and Folktale: The Many Ways to Rainy Mountain

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 50-minute sessions
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Students write a three-voice narrative based on the structure in N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain. They first analyze a passage from the book, focusing on the three-voice narrative style Momaday uses. They use a Venn diagram to make connections between the three voices. Students read folktales and myths, discussing their themes and characteristics. They then select a tale and retell it in their own words as the first voice in their narrative. Next they interview an elder and write about the interview as the second voice—that of historian. Students then compose a personal response to the interview or tale, adding the third voice in their narrative. They use a Venn diagram to peer review another student's work, looking for connections between the three voices. Finally, they revise their work based on the feedback they receive.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

They say, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." In the writing classroom, however, imitation can move beyond simple flattery to become an empowering technique which provides scaffolding for student expression. Kenneth M. Roemer states: "[I]f teachers select models carefully and present them not as ‘finished words' or ‘remote masterpieces' but as paradigms of dynamic processes and as hints leading to avenues of discovery, then modeling can and will contribute significantly to contemporary composition courses" (769). A model such as Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain provides "an occasion to study and practice writing as a dynamic process that links thinking, reading, writing and rewriting" while at the same time providing "a useful means of increasing student motivation to discover and experiment imaginatively with effective methods of invention" (Roemer, 770).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Copies of The Way to Rainy Mountain for students

  • Materials to bind class books




  • Familiarize yourself with the mythology and folklore Websites used in the lesson. You may want to narrow the choices and/or make bookmarks on the computer browsers for the Websites you've chosen. Additionally, gather any library resources that students can use for the lesson. Along with the mythology and folklore texts, include religious texts as appropriate (e.g., the Bible, the Qu'ran, the Torah).

  • Explore background information on the Kiowa people and in particular the importance of the Dog in their daily life and spiritual stories. The Texas Kiowa Indians can be used to add relevant background information to the exploration of the examples in class.  You can also find recordings of and information about Kiowa songs at The Power of Kiowa Song: A Collaborative Ethnography.

  • Ideally, students should read The Way to Rainy Mountain prior to the writing activities in this lesson. If students have not read The Way to Rainy Mountain, choose an excerpt from the book to share or use the excerpt from Chapter III, which connects to the Model Response handout. You may want to make copies of the section you've chosen or prepare an overhead, so that students can see the structure of the text.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Venn Diagram of the "Talking Dogs" Chapter, or prepare a Venn Diagram for another chapter of The Way to Rainy Mountain or the text that you've chosen to use as an example for this lesson.

  • Test the Three-Voice Narrative Venn Diagram on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

  • Make copies or overheads of the handouts for the lesson, or make arrangements for students to access the resources online.

  • Review background information and analysis of the text from Georgetown's N. Scott Momaday and The Way to Rainy Mountain, from Annenberg/CPB's The Expanding Canon.

  • To get a sense of what the project outcome may look like and how it could be adapted, see student samples from Carla Beard's adaptation of the author's original project.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • identify the underlying themes and connections in a variety of narrative texts.

  • relate personal and family memories to a cultural, ethnic, or religious text.

  • analyze model texts, using a variety of methods including graphic organizers, to determine the author's meaning and explore structural possibilities for their own texts.

  • faithfully retell stories from a variety of sources, using specific details and creating clear connections among the stories.

  • write for a specific audience and purpose, participating in drafting, peer review, and revising activities.

Reading the Text

  1. If you read The Way to Rainy Mountain prior to this activity, provide background information on the Kiowa people (see Preparation above) and on the author N. Scott Momaday, Ph.D.

  2. To highlight the importance of story to the Kiowa, share N. Scott Momaday: Keeper of the Flame from the PBS documentary The West.

  3. Discuss the text, chapter by chapter or section by section, finding the common ideas or themes that connect the sections of the text. For example, in The Way to Rainy Mountain, explore the ways Momaday connects the idea of "coming out" in Chapter 1 and "splitting apart" in Chapter 2. Other common themes to consider in The Way to Rainy Mountain are the importance of dogs, plains storms, and courage.

  4. You may ask students to complete journal entries on the reading to begin exploring the themes. Before beginning the writing activity, students should be familiar with the general characteristics of folklore and/or mythology based on their reading.

Session One

  1. Write the word "triadic" on the board or an overhead. Ask students to discuss the meaning of the word. Students are likely to notice that the root of the word is "triad" and to conclude that "triadic" means having the characteristics of a triad. Depending upon their experience and background, students may also offer the following information about the term:

    • In music, a triadic chord is a chord made up of three notes.

    • In art, a triadic is three colors equidistant on the color wheel.

    • In chemistry, a triadic is an element whose valence is three, such as boron.
  2. Review the three-voice triadic structure Momaday uses in The Way to Rainy Mountain. In each chapter of the book, three voices-the storyteller's, the historian's, and the author's-tell interrelated stories. Read the excerpt you've chosen or the excerpt from Chapter III aloud and discuss the ways that the three voices combine to tell the story.

  3. Connect this discussion to earlier background on the importance of storytelling to the Kiowa people. Challenge students to think about the way that Momaday is extending the story of his people through his text.

  4. Share Kenneth Roemer's description of the three voices in Momaday's text to provide basic descriptions of the structure that will guide students through the rest of the project.

  5. Reread the section of Momaday's text, asking students to listen carefully for the three voices and to pay attention to the ways that the three voices are woven together. Invite students to share their responses to this second reading.

  6. Display the Venn Diagram of "Talking Dogs" Chapter (or your own diagram) and discuss the relationships and connections between the items included on the chart. Ask students to discuss any changes that they would make to the diagram. Alternately, you can use the Three-Voice Narrative Venn Diagram, chart paper, or the board to create a diagram collaboratively. If you create your own diagram, save or print the chart for use later in the lesson.

  7. Pay particular attention to areas where the circles of the Venn Diagram overlap, asking students to consider what the overlaps among the topics mean for the overall chapter and the exploration of the theme. Students should recognize that the more overlapping items on the diagram, the more closely connected and interrelated the theme in the section is. This connectivity will be a goal for their own three-voice narratives.

  8. Distribute The Many Ways to Rainy Mountain assignment and the Three-Voice Narrative Rubric.

  9. Explain the writing activity.

  10. Ensure that students understand the parts of the writing activity:

    1. Identify a theme from the readings to focus on in their own tales.

    2. Find a cultural, ethnic, or religious text with the same theme, and write a summary of it. You may choose a folktale, legend, myth, or religious story.

    3. Interview an Elder who can tell a true story related in some way to the theme.

    4. Write a personal response based on the theme and linking to the other parts of their own tales.

    5. Combine these three writings, following the model of Momaday's text, and contribute the text to a printed class anthology.
  11. Discuss the importance of finding personal connections among the components of the assignment: the theme, the cultural story, the interview, and the personal response.

Session Two

  1. Brainstorm a list of themes from the reading that students can use as the focus for their own tales. To structure the session as a review of the reading, ask students to provide examples and connections to the text that explain or expand the themes they identify. Continue noting ideas on the board until a range of topics is available.

  2. Before students begin working on their own narratives, share and discuss three-voice student narratives that demonstrate the writing task that students will complete in this project. These examples are taken from Kenneth Roemer's "Inventive Modeling"; see his text for more details and examples.

    • Leah Wright's Three-Voice Narrative
      "Leah Wright's Indian heritage and Oklahoma background allowed her to relate easily to Momaday's book. But the essay she wrote . . . was strongly influenced by an agricultural tribal history that is quite different from Momaday's Kiowa background." (Roemer, p. 777)

    • Yukiko Ikeda's Three-Voice Narrative
      "Yukiko Ikeda, of Shimane University in Japan, transforms Momaday's combination of storytelling, historical, and personal voices to create a personalized view of a landscape significant to her." (Roemer, p. 769)
  3. Shift to working on the first part of the triadic-folktale or mythology. You may read and discuss several folk legends or myths as a class, discussing common themes or morals if desired before students begin searching on their own.

  4. Discuss the fact that many of these stories have spiritual importance for the people who told (and may still tell) them. Connect this significance to the religious texts that students are familiar with.

  5. Have students search the Internet or texts in the library or classroom for cultural, ethnic, or religious stories that focus on the themes they have chosen. Emphasize that students may choose a folktale, legend, myth, or religious story. You can share the following Websites with students as possible resources:
    Encyclopedia Mythica
    Myths from Around the World
    The Big Myth
    Bulfinch's Mythology
    Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts
    The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages
    Bearskin Tales

    For religious texts (e.g., the Bible, the Qu'ran, the Torah), you may have students rely on their own personal copies or standard copies from your school library.

  6. After choosing and reading their folktales, students should rewrite the stories in their own words. This will be the first "story" of their triadic tales. Remind students that they can refer to the student models by Wright and by Ikeda as well as to the excerpt from Chapter III as necessary.

  7. Encourage students to share their retellings with class members, asking for feedback, advice, and praise.

  8. Students can continue work on the first part of their triadic for homework, if necessary.

Session Three

  1. Discuss the concept of an "Elder." In "Who Is An ‘Elder'?" Lakota Elder Mathew King explains, "In our way, the Elders give spiritual direction to the People. The wisdom of thousands of years flows through their lips. In our way, when we grow old, we become Elders." The piece continues, "Every older person in indigenous communities is hopefully an Elder within their own family. Some are Elders to their Clans, their Tribes, their Nations; even, at times, to the World." For a more extensive explanation of Native American Elders, see "What Is an Elder? What Do Elders Do?" which explains:

    Elders should be role models for everyone else. Elders should be teachers to the grandchildren and all young people because of their wisdom. Elders should be advisors, law-givers, dispensers of justice. Elders should be open to everyone. Elders should be knowledgeable in all aspects of Innu culture. Elders should be teachers for everyone of the past history of Innu people. Elders should be recorders of history, not only orally but to be preserved in print. Elders should be teachers of values important to Innu to be passed on from generation to generation. Elders should be teachers of language and oral history. Elders should be teachers of Innu medicine.
  2. Explain the next part of the project, gathering the tale for the second part of the triadic narratives, the historian. For homework, students interview an Elder of their family. Students can interview in person or by phone, e-mail, or postal mail. Ideally, a grandparent or similar older family or community member can be interviewed. If necessary, a parent, aunt, or uncle can serve as the Elder. Remind students that in the Native American tradition of the Elder, the person they interview does not strictly have to be a member of their own family-a religious leader, community member, or special teacher can serve as an Elder as well.

  3. Once students understand the activity, brainstorm questions that students can use in their interviews. Possible questions include the following:

    • Did a member of your family immigrate here from another country or another state?

    • What important myths or stories have been handed down in your family?

    • What was the most significant event in your life?
  4. Share the Tips for Interviews handout. Encourage students to customize the tips for the person they will interview.

  5. Answer any questions and allow students the rest of the class time to continue writing and to share their progress so far in small groups.

Session Four

  1. Invite students to share the results of their interviews with classmates. The interview responses may still need to be shaped into the narrative structure modeled in the examples for this activity. Give students some class time to continue work on their interviews before moving to the third part of the project.

  2. After you're satisfied that students have had a chance to share the results of their interviews, explain that students will now begin composing a personal response, a "memory picture" of the retold tale and/or the storyteller, as the third part of their triadic narratives. In this section, students link the story to a personal memory of some element of the first and/or second parts of their triadics.

  3. Return to the student models by Wright and by Ikeda and/or to the excerpt from Chapter III. Read the text aloud and ask students to consider the personal connections that the author makes.

  4. As a group, brainstorm a list of qualities that describe a strong personal connection in these examples. Explain that this list will guide students as they write their own responses.

  5. To help students gather ideas for their personal connections, ask them to freewrite on their experiences with the project so far. They can write about the theme, connections to the various parts of the tale, or the process of gathering and writing their stories.

  6. Once students have gathered some ideas, suggest that they begin working on the third part of their narratives by looking at the freewriting they've just completed for starting points. Remind students that they can refer to the student models by Wright and by Ikeda as well as to the excerpt from Chapter III as necessary while they are writing.

  7. Encourage students to share their retellings with class members, asking for feedback, advice, and praise.

  8. Students can continue work on their triadic narratives for homework, if necessary. Remind students that they should have a complete draft of their narratives at the beginning of the next session.

Session Five

  1. Return to the Venn Diagram of "Talking Dogs" Chapter (or your own diagram). Review the information that the chart displays about the story, highlighting the importance of connections and the information in overlapping areas.

  2. Review the requirements for the assignment using the rubric as well.

  3. If you have not worked with the tool previously, demonstrate the Three-Voice Narrative Venn Diagram, showing students how to add items to the chart as well as how to print their responses.

  4. Explain the peer review step of the project: students will exchange their narratives with partners. Partners will use the Three-Voice Narrative Venn Diagram to analyze and respond to the text. Remind students that in addition to filling in the Venn Diagram, they will be asked three summary questions about their partners' papers.

  5. Encourage students to share comments, advice, and praise. Students should interact with one another while completing the review.

  6. Once all students have had a chance to complete the peer review activity, gather students and respond to any questions about the project.

  7. Note that the Venn Diagram gives a snapshot of the underlying relationships of the narrative. If there are few details on the diagram, the narrative probably needs more specifics.

  8. Discuss the final format for the narratives: stories should be printed so that the three voices are clear. You can use the format from Momaday's book, the format used in the student models by Wright and by Ikeda, or another format. If color printers are available, you might use different colors for each section, as in the Model Response to Literature. You could also choose specific fonts for the different sections (e.g., the myth section uses Times, the interview section uses Arial or Helvetica, and the personal connection section uses Comic Sans Serif). By choosing your format as a group, you ensure that the assembled class anthology is consistent.

  9. Students can continue revising their narratives during the remaining class session and for homework.

  10. Students should print two copies of their stories (one for the class anthology and one for you to respond to). Students should submit peer review comments, notes, and drafts along with the final copies.


Students can place their stories on hyperlinked Web pages, as an online anthology. See the Websites section for sample sites.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Ask students to complete the Reflective Journal assessment for self-evaluation of the project. Use the Three-Voice Narrative Rubric to evaluate the final project. Additionally, you can check peer review comments, notes, and drafts to note students’ progress over the course of the project.

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