Carolyn Hornik P.S. 101

Unit: Tantalizing Tangrams



1. To develop an understanding of the elements of a folk tale.

2. To understand the purpose of folk tales is to entertain and to preserve cultural values.

3. To develop an appreciation for figurative language.

4. To compare and contrasts folk tales using a graphic organizer.

5. To write an original folk tale.

Standards Addressed:

1. Reads and comprehends books on the same subject or in the same genre.

2. Produces a response to literature.

3. Participates in group meetings.

4. Prepares and delivers a presentation.

5. Demonstrates a basic understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work.

6. Analyzes and subsequently revises work to improve its clarity and effectiveness.

7. Produces work in one genre that follows the conventions of the genre.


computer with Internet capabilities, printer, tangram pieces, Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, (Crown Publishers Inc., New York)

1990, Three Pigs, One Wolf and Seven Magic Shapes by Grace Maccarone, (Scholastic, New York) 1997.

Vocabulary: may be used to define these words:

folk tale











puff of a tale



character traits


seek my fortune



figurative language
personification moral dialogue quotation mark exclamation point


1. Distribute tangram pieces. (Students can cut out their own tangrams from this pattern.) Have students name and describe each shape in terms of the number of sides and angles.


1. Read Grandfather Tang's Story and Three Pigs, One Wolf and Seven Magic Shapes by Grace Maccarone, (New York, Scholastic) 1997. In Grandfather Tang's story, Grandfather tells a story about shape changing fox fairies who try to best each other until a hunter brings danger to both of them. As new characters are introduced, tangram pieces are rearranged to represent the new character. Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes is a variation of the Three Little Pigs. The pigs are given seven magic shapes and instructed to use them wisely. Each pig turns his shapes into different objects. Only one pig succeeds in using his tangrams wisely and survives.

Have students retell each story using tangrams on a flannel board to recreate the objects made by the characters in each story. Constructing Your Own Set of  Tangrams by Tom Scavo explains how to construct a set of tangrams. Use worksheet #1 to help retell the story and worksheet #2 to draw the designs made by the tangram pieces. As the story is being retold, have students identify the setting, characters, problem, events in sequence, and solution of each folk tale. The following graphic organizers may be used: parts of a story, sequence map, character web.

A Venn diagram may be used to compare and contrast the two stories.

2. Grandfather Tang's Story and Three Pigs, One Wolf and Seven Magic Shapes are folk tales. Identify elements of folk tales:

Folktales teach a moral.

Animals are used as characters.

Folktales use personification. (Animals have human reactions and emotions).

stories are handed down from generation to generation and tend to change with the telling

Folktales have rural settings.

Folktales teach cultural values.

Folktales have an element of magic.

Words or phrases are repeated.

Characters are larger than life.

Students describe how these elements apply to the two folk tales being read. Chinese Folktale Extravaganza has a link to elements of a folk tale.

3. Students, in cooperative groups, plan out an original folk tale incorporating

original characters constructed with their tangrams. Roles within each

cooperative group will include: tangram constructors who create the

characters for the folk tale out of the tangram pieces, story boarders

who make the graphic organizers, writers who write the story based on

the graphic organizers, word processors who write, edit, revise and print the story

on the computer, artists who illustrate the story and presenters who

share the story with the class. Students, use Kidspiration or Inspiration

(software applications by Inspiration Software, Inc., that is used to

create graphic organizers) to plan the character (prepare a character web),

setting (time and place), plot (beginning, middle, end), sequence of the story

using details to describe the problem and solution.


Students use their graphic organizers to write their folk tale. Students

enter the text of their folk tales on a word processing application such

as AppleWorks, Student Writing Center (Learning Company) or Microsoft

Works, illustrate their stories with a drawing application such as Kidpix

(Broderbund), print and share their folk tales with the class. Tangram pieces

on a flannel board will be used in the recreation of the folk tales. The folk

tales may be laminated and bound into a class book.


Rubrics for evaluating students folk tales can be found at:





A writing checklist may be found at:

Related Web Sites:

1. This is a condensed version of Grandfather Tang's story with pictures, presented by

Dodge School Elementary, Grand Island, NE.

2. This is a lesson plan using math/literature plays.

3. Links to other Chinese folk tales can be found here.

4. A unit plan for dramatizing and writing a folk tale can be found at this site.

5. Students may use the tangram pictures on this site to create characters for their tangram stories.

6. Graphic organizers may be found at: 


7. Additional tangram activities are detailed at:

Related Materials:

The Folk Tale Problem-Solving Recipe, The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1988. This is a graphic organizer to help students plan their folk tale.

Follow Up:

In Lesson 3, students explore rotations, flips, and slides with their tangram pieces. Future related units may include comparisons of the various versions of The Three Little Pigs.

Teacher Tip:

As a pre-writing activity, have students brainstorm for synonyms for "said." A thesaurus or may be used as well. Words may include: exclaimed, proclaimed, called, cried, shouted, whispered, declared, decided. Instruct students to vary their words, as they write the dialogue in their story, by substituting these synonyms for "said."



Table of Contents

Lesson 1

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5 Sample Tangram Story

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