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Grandfather Tang's Story

Alignments to Content Standards: 1.G.A.2




  • A copy of Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert
  • One set of tangrams for each student (see note in commentary)
  • A set of tangrams for the teacher (magnetic for the whiteboard or colored to use on a document projector)
  • Character worksheet
  • Crayons


  • The teacher reads Grandfather Tang's Story to the class. As the teacher comes to each character in the story, note the picture of the animal that is an outline of a shape that can be made with tangrams. Students may need to spend some time looking to see how these outlines represent the animals since they are somewhat abstract. Ask the students if they see familiar shapes as components of the animal outlines--for example, the tail of the fox is a trapezoid and the wings of the hawk are triangles.

  • After the class has read the story, the students choose animals from the story to make with the tangrams. The worksheet shows the tangram animals, and when they have made an animal, they color the corresponding shape on the worksheet.

  • The teacher can demonstrate for students how to turn and place the tangram shapes as needed to support the students.

  • After the students have worked on making 2 or more animals from the book, they can make their own animals.

IM Commentary

The purpose of this task is for students to compose two-dimensional shapes to create a composite shape using the 7 tangram pieces. It is essential that the language the teacher uses during the task is precise to support students' academic vocabulary development. For example, "turn the square so one side is lined up with the shorter side of the rhombus to create the tail of the squirrel."

Trying to make the animals without the internal lines is very challenging, so the worksheet shows how the pieces are composed for each animal. This helps students see the shapes both as a single figure (consisting of the outline and a single region filled inside it) and as a composite shape that can be decomposed into smaller shapes. If the teacher wants to challenge the students, then they can try to make the animals just looking at the outline shown in the book.

As an extra challenge, see if the students can combine their tangrams into the original shape of a large square.


Note: The tangrams can be plastic machine-made sets or students can make them in a preceding lesson. There is a template for creating tangrams attached to this task. If the students create their own tangrams, they will see that the 7 pieces originate from a large square. Making the tangrams for themselves also helps students develop the ability to compose and decompose figures.

Not all of the characters are included on the character worksheet. The students can build these as time permits.


  • If the student completes the fox fairy, hawk, and squirrel, then they will color those three figures:


  • There is no single solution for each of the students' own pictures