K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • create different shapes/animals using the tangram pieces.
  • use their listening skills to determine what animal the fox fairies will be next using clues from the reading.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


Technology resources

Overhead projector to show transparencies


  • Students should be able to identify all 7 tangram pieces, know congruent and similiar pieces, and have had “play” time with tangrams creating different shapes. Students should also be able to make a square with all 7 pieces.
  • Teachers should make transparencies of the animals presented in the book, and paper copies for each student. Group the paper copies into sets in the reverse order they’re presented in the book, so that when placed face down, the first animal picture will be on the top.


  1. Give students a few minutes of “play” time and have them put the 7 pieces in a perfect square.
  2. Pass out animal sheets upside down so students can’t see the pictures. Attachments for these are the same as those used by the teacher.
  3. Begin reading Grandfather Tang’s Story aloud to the class. As the animals are introduced in the story, show the transparency on the overhead and have students turn over the top sheet and put their tangrams in the correct spaces to create the animal.
  4. As you are reading the story the students can try to figure out the next animal by using the clues given in the reading.
  5. When the story is finished, review the fox fairies adventures using the transparencies.
  6. Give students a few more minutes to try making other animals that the fox fairies could have been.

Have students create a new tangram animal and name it. Trace on a piece of paper. Then they must write a new page for the story that could be added into the book.


Assessment is done through the teacher’s eyes. The teacher must look for correct placement of the tangrams in the animal pictures. Peer assessment can also be done. Did your partner use the tangrams appropriately?

Supplemental information

The teacher should be very comfortable using the tangrams his/herself. There are many other tangram-related stories that can be used before or after this activity (ex. Tangram Magician by Lisa Campbell)


Tangrams are great tools for geometry, area, perimeter, and fractions. This is a fun activity to give students at the beginning of the year so tangrams can brought out again throughout the year.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • Geometry
          • 1.G.2 Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, half-circles, and quarter-circles) or three-dimensional shapes (cubes, right rectangular prisms, right circular cones, and right circular cylinders) to create a composite shape,...
        • Grade 2

          • 2.G.1 Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces.1 Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.
        • Grade 3

          • 3.G.1Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals). Recognize rhombuses, rectangles,...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 3: Geometry - The learner will recognize and use basic geometric properties of two- and three-dimensional figures.
    • Objective 3.01: Use appropriate vocabulary to compare, describe, and classify two- and three-dimensional figures.