A story told to a little girl is enlivened by the use of a tangram puzzle. A fun, math related, story-within-a-story.
Before Reading Grandfather Tang's Story
Have the children look at the cover of the book to identify the characters or grandfather and granddaughter. Tell the children that the story is about a grandfather who spends some special time with his granddaughter. Have them think of special times they have shared with someone they love.
After Reading the Story
Help the children understand that stories from a particular country or culture often include animal characters native to that area of the country or culture. These animals may have magical qualities. Have the children look these animals up in the encyclopedia to discover if they are native to China. Read aloud the information on fox fairies in the back of the book. Ask the children which animals (real or mythical) they would include in a story reflecting the wildlife of their area.
Have the children research the origin of ancient tangrams in Chinese folklore. Challenge the children to gather and share as much information as possible about the puzzle. If the research results in conflicting stories about the origin of the puzzle, ask the children to hypothesize why so many explanations exist.
Tell tangram Stories
Using puzzles pieces having the children take turns telling stories. Demonstrate by retelling Grandfather Tang's Story. As you tell the story, arrange the tangram pieces. If you use a flannel storyboard cut the shapes from felt. This makes them very "friendly"; for children who need a tactile approach to learning. As you retell the story have students come up and arrange the pieces to resemble the new character.
Making Their Own tangram Puzzles
Provide each of the children with a copy of the tangram puzzle found in the back of the book. Have them cut the puzzle pieces apart along all lines and then use the pieces to resemble their favorite Chinese animals. Remind them not to overlap the pieces of the puzzle. Pieces should also connect to the others along a side or at a point. You may have them glue them onto a piece of construction paper. You may want to have a contest in which the children guess what each others animal is. Remind them that these shapes represent the animal and are not to look exactly like the animal.