EL Support Lesson

All About Tangram Puzzles

Students will love composing shapes using tangrams in this hands-on lesson! Use this plan alone or as a support lesson plan for the **Tangrams: An Ancient Chinese Puzzle** lesson plan.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Tangrams: An Ancient Chinese Puzzle lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Tangrams: An Ancient Chinese Puzzle lesson plan.

Students will be able to compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.


Students will be able to explain how to compose a larger shape with small shapes using content-specific vocabulary & hands-on materials.

(2 minutes)
  • Gather the class together and ask them to raise their hands if they've ever worked on a puzzle. Display several kinds of puzzles for reference.
  • Display the Vocabulary Cards and say, "Today you will be learning all about an ancient Chinese puzzle called a tangram. This puzzle uses smaller shapes to make different pictures."
  • Explain that we say ancient to mean that these puzzles are very old, and were created a long, long time ago.
  • Ask students to think about all of the shapes that they know. Point to different shapes using the Vocabulary Cards as a guide. Then explain that some of those shapes are part of the tangram puzzle.
(15 minutes)
  • Display the book, Grandfather Tang's Story written by Ann Tompert and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.
  • Read the book aloud, pausing to note the different shapes and animals that are made using the tangrams throughout the story.
  • Model cutting out the tangram puzzle pieces using the Color a Tangram Template and writing your name or initials on the back of each piece.
  • Show students how the tangram puzzle is actually a large square that is divided into smaller shapes.
  • Hold up each of the shapes and use the Vocabulary Cards and Glossary to name each shape, having the students repeat the name back to you.
  • Explain that you can use some or all of the tangram puzzle pieces to make different shapes, as in the story. You can also solve the puzzle by putting all seven pieces back together to make a square.
  • Model how to compose the seven pieces together to make the square using a document camera or display shapes on the board and using a think aloud. For example, "First I flip the triangle. Then I put the two squares together."
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out the Color a Tangram Template and scissors to each student and instruct them to cut out their own tangram puzzle and label the pieces with their name or initials.
  • Hold up two shapes (e.g., the two triangles) and ask students to put the shapes together to make a new shape.
  • Provide the following sentence frame for students to use when describing their new shape, "I used ____ and ____ to make a ____."
  • Pair students with a partner and allow them to explore the tangram puzzles to see what shapes they can compose using some or all of the shapes.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that students will work with a partner to create more shapes.
  • Display the Easy Tangrams Puzzle #10 and Block Puzzles (for a greater challenge) worksheets. Explain that students can use their tangrams to solve the puzzles.
  • If students finish early, encourage them to put the pieces back together to make the square. Remind students that they may need to turn or flip pieces over in order to compose the square.
  • Encourage the students to describe how they compose their shapes using the sentence frame, "I used ____ and ____ to make a ____."


  • Gather a small group to work with a teacher to practice composing and describing shapes using the tangram pieces.
  • Allow students to describe the composition of their shapes in their home language (L1).
  • Provide shape names in students' home language (L1).


  • Challenge students to create additional tangram pictures with a partner by describing to their partner how to place a shape and/or turn a shape to create the new shape.
(2 minutes)
  • Circulate as students work to assess if students are able to compose shapes from the tangram pieces.
  • Ask guiding questions to assess understanding, such as "What shapes did you use to make this? How do you know?"
  • Encourage students to explain how they composed their shapes using the sentence frame provided.
(2 minutes)
  • Gather the class back together and say, "Today you learned how to use a tangram puzzle! You put many smaller shapes together to create different shapes."
  • Provide students with small bags to take their tangram pieces home
  • Explain that you will make a classroom tangram center with more tangram cards and pieces for them to explore.

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