Li's Tangram Animals
Level O 

About the Book 

Text Type: Fiction/Narrative
Page Count: 16
Word Count: 684 

Book Summary
Li's Tangram Animals is about an eight-year-old boy from China who has recently moved to the United States. He is worried about fitting in with his second grade classmates. When Li gives his teacher a tangram, the students become interested in how it works and friendships blossom. Illustrations and diagrams support the text and introduce readers to basic geometry concepts.

About the Lesson

Targeted Reading Strategy

  • Visualize


  • Use the reading strategy of visualizing to understand text
  • Identify story elements
  • Identify quotation marks in text
  • Arrange words in alphabetical order


  • Book -- Li's Tangram Animals (copy for each student)
  • Chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Tangram, story elements, quotation marks, alphabetizing worksheets

    Indicates an opportunity for student to mark in the book. (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if books are reusable.)


  • Content words: cartilage, China, clever, language, marsupial, parallel, parallelogram, riddles, square, surprise, symbol, tangram puzzle, triangles

Before Reading 

Build Background

  • Have students share memories of times when they were new to a group. Invite students to explain the feelings and events associated with being new (feelings: scared, nervous, excited, and so on; events: moving to a new home, making new friends, learning about a new school, and so on).

Preview the Book

Introduce the Book

  • Guide students to the front and back covers of the book and read the title. Have them discuss what they see on the covers. Encourage them to offer ideas as to what kind of book this is and what it might be about.
  • Preview the title page. Talk about the information on the page (title of book, author's name, illustrator's name).
  • Have students find the glossary at the back of the book. Review or explain that the glossary contains a list of vocabulary words along with their definitions and the pages in the book on which the words are used.

Introduce the Reading Strategy: Visualize

  • Explain to students that good readers often visualize, or create pictures in their mind, while they read. Explain that visualizing is based on what a person already knows about a topic.
  • Model how to visualize.
    Think-aloud: Whenever I read a book, I always pause after a few pages to create a picture in my mind of the information I've read. This helps me to understand the ideas in the story. For example, if I read the word elephant, I picture a large grey animal with long white tusks.
  • Write the word lion on the board. Invite students to share what they picture in their mind when they hear this word. Write their descriptions on the board. Point out that even though their descriptions of a lion may not be the same, they were each able to picture the animal in their mind.
  • As students read, encourage them to use other reading strategies in addition to the targeted strategy presented in this section. For tips on additional reading strategies, click here.

Introduce the Comprehension Skill: Story elements

  • Explain that there are five different elements in a fictional story. Write the following on the board: characters, setting, problem, events, and solution. Explain that the characters are the people in the story, and the setting is when and where the story takes place. The characters usually are faced with a problem, or some difficulty that must be worked out or solved. The events are what happens to the characters as they are finding the solution to the problem. Write each definition next to the story element on the board.
  • Ask students to turn to page 3. Read the first page of the story aloud as they follow along silently. Have students discuss the story elements that are already disclosed, such as characters (Li and his teacher), the setting (at school, during the daytime), and a problem (Li misses his home in China, he feels alone).
  • Point out that as the story progresses, the elements will be added to and expanded upon.
  • Think-aloud: To better understand what is happening in a story, I think about the characters, setting, problem, events, and solution. I know that I remember more about the story when I do this, so I'm going to think about the elements of this story as I read.

Introduce the Vocabulary

  • Cut apart and place the following shapes from the tangram worksheet in a place where students can see: one parallelogram, one square, and five triangles (two small triangles, one medium triangle, one large triangle).
  • Write the word tangram on the board. Explain that a tangram is a puzzle from China that uses seven shapes to make different pictures. Have students name the shapes on the board. Write the name next to each shape. Encourage students to share what they know about the shapes (a square has four sides, the sides are parallel in a parallelogram, and so on). Tell students that the words tangram, parallelogram, parallel, square, and triangle are new vocabulary words in the story. Encourage students to find each word in the text.
  • Have students preview the rest of the book.
  • For tips on teaching word-attack strategies, click here.

Set the Purpose

  • Have students read the book to find out what a tangram puzzle is and how it is used. Remind them to stop every few pages to visualize the story in their mind and think about the elements of the story.

During Reading 

Student Reading

  • Guide the reading: Have students read to the end of page 7. Encourage students who finish early to go back and reread.
  • Model visualizing parts of the book.
    Think-aloud: When I read Miss Hess's description of parallel lines, I paused to picture in my mind how that would look. I envisioned railroad tracks running side by side, always remaining the same distance apart.
  • Check for understanding: Have students share pictures they visualized in their mind while reading.

    Have students make a question mark in their book beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. These can be addressed in the discussion that follows.

After Reading 

Reflect on the Reading Strategy

  • Ask students what words, if any, they marked in their books. Use this opportunity to model how they can read these words using decoding strategies and context clues.
  • Ask students to explain or show how the strategy of visualizing helped them understand and remember the story.
  • Think-aloud: When I read about the shark Li created with his tangram cards, I paused to picture in my mind the shapes fitting together to create the animal's outline. I envisioned Li moving the shapes until all of the triangles, squares, and parallelograms fit into the shape of a shark. This helped me to understand what I had read and to remember that part of the book.

Reflect on the Comprehension Skill

  • Discussion: Create a chart on the board with the headings characters, setting, problem, events, and solution. Review the story elements already identified in the previous discussion (character, setting, problem). Ask students to explain whether or not information needs to be added to those elements (characters also include Li's classmates and his father; setting and problem have remained the same).
  • Review the meaning of the word problem. Have students discuss the problem of the story (Li feels lonely in his new country). Discuss some of the events leading to the solution of Li's problem (Miss Hess is warm and welcoming, Li answers riddles by arranging tangram patterns, Li's dad makes tangram puzzles for the whole class, and so on). Ask students to identify the final solution to Li's problem (he becomes friends with the students in his class and he isn't as lonely).
  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the story elements worksheet. When students are done, discuss their responses aloud.

    Extend the discussion: Discuss how identifying story elements helps readers understand and connect with what they have read. Have students reread page 12 in their book. Ask if they have ever been in a situation where they were not sure if they were doing something correctly. Ask how that made them feel and what they did to solve the problem. Relate their feelings to Li's feelings and actions in the story.

Build Skills 

Grammar and Mechanics: Quotation marks

  • Have students find the first paragraph on page 4. Ask a volunteer to read it aloud. Ask students to tell who is speaking and what she is saying. Review or explain that quotation marks are placed around words a character actually says or thinks in a story. Point out the comma and explain that the comma is placed before the quotation marks to separate the speaker's words from the rest of the sentence.
  • Have students point out other quotation marks on the page. Have them identify who is speaking and what the character is saying. Invite students to explain why the author doesn't tell who is speaking after the second quote. (The speaker was identified in the first sentence.) Ask students to tell who is speaking.
  • Have students suggest quotes. Write them on the board, leaving out the quotation marks and punctuation. Have volunteers come to the board to add the correct punctuation.

    Check for understanding: Ask students to highlight the sentences with quotation marks in the book. Next to each highlighted sentence, have them write the name of the character speaking. Have students use a separate sheet of paper to write a sentence using quotation marks.

  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the quotation marks worksheet.

Word Work: Alphabetical order

  • Review or explain the process of putting a list of words in alphabetical order. Remind students that if the first letter of two words is the same, they must compare the next two letters instead (such as square and symbol).
  • Write the words triangle and square on the board. Have a volunteer explain which word would appear first in alphabetical order and why (square because s comes before t in the alphabet). Write the words puzzle and parallel on the board. Point out that the words begin with the same letter (p). Ask a volunteer to tell which word would appear first in alphabetical order and explain his or her thinking (parallel because a comes before u in the alphabet).
  • Write the words parallel and parallelogram on the board. Have a volunteer explain which word would appear first in alphabetical order and why. (All of the letters in parallel and parallelogram are the same except for the final letters ogram. Since there are no other letters to compare at the end of parallel, it comes first in alphabetical order.)
  • Check for understanding: Write the words tangram and triangle on the board. Have a student come to the board and circle which word would appear first in alphabetical order. Have another student explain whether he or she agrees with the choice and why.
  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the alphabetizing worksheet. Discuss answers aloud after they are finished.

Build Fluency 

Independent Reading

  • Allow students to read their books independently or with a partner. Encourage repeated timed readings of a specific section of the book.

Home Connection

  • Give students their books to take home to read with parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends. Have students ask someone at home to describe a favorite story by discussing the story elements.

Extend the Reading 

Writing and Art Connection
Have students create their own riddle on a separate sheet of paper for other animals or objects, similar to the ones that Miss Hess shared with her students. Provide a tangram worksheet for students to use to create their picture. Invite them to illustrate their riddle with their tangram picture. Allow time for students to read their riddle aloud and for others to guess the answers by creating tangram pictures.

Social Studies Connection
Provide print and Internet resources for students to research China and the history of tangram puzzles. Ask them to look for answers to questions such as: How old is the tangram tradition in China? Who invented it? What ages of people play with the puzzles? Are the puzzles used in schools and, if so, in what subject? What other cultures now use the cards?


Monitor students to determine if they can:

  • consistently use the strategy of visualizing to comprehend text while reading
  • identify story elements during discussion and on a worksheet
  • identify and use quotation marks during discussion and on a worksheet
  • correctly place words in alphabetical order during discussion and on a worksheet 

Comprehension Checks

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