Tangrams, Vocabulary, and Making Friends

This week in literacy, we are continuing our beginning-of-the-year theme of friendship. We are reading a book that I downloaded from readinga-z.com. The book is called Li’s Tangram Animals and it is about a little boy who just moved to the United States from China. He is nervous at school because he doesn’t know anyone and he is just learning English. He shares his tangram puzzle with his class and shows them how to make different pictures by arranging the pieces in a certain way.

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In my school, we have a large population of ESOL students, as well as many other students who need vocabulary support. I decided to try to be more direct in teaching vocabulary that the students will need to be able to understand the book. I began introducing the book today by making a copy of the glossary page from the book for each child. We talked about what the glossary is, how it’s organized, and where to find it in a book. The kids highlighted the words that they didn’t know and then we talked about the meaning of each word. We read half of the book, up to the part where Li makes an eagle out of his tangram puzzle. We glued the list of vocabulary in our reading notebooks and titled the page with the name of the book. We will come back to this vocabulary list tomorrow as we review the newly acquired words.

After reading, I showed the kids some bags of tangram puzzles and some color puzzle cards that I had made to go with them. I told the kids that they could work alone or with a partner and that they would have about 15 minutes to play with the tangram puzzles just like Li did. The kids loved arranging the pieces to make different pictures and begged for more and more puzzles to complete! I was very surprised at which kids figured out the puzzles quickly and easily, and which kids had a much harder time, even when working with a partner. The three kids that finished puzzles the fastest were three ESOL girls who easily saw how the pieces fit together!

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Tomorrow we will continue reading the book and then talk about what the book has to do with friendship and making new friends. We have been working on summaries (using the “Somebody…wanted…but…so…” pattern), so we will add a book summary for Li’s Tangram Animals in our reading notebooks. On Wednesday, the kids will be divided into four groups based on reading level. They will be reading another book from readinga-z.com that also has to do with making friends. The four books are Carlos Joins the Team – level G, The Sometimes Friend – level M, The New Soccer Ball – level Q, and Takehito’s Tango – level X. All four books are about a kid who moves here from another place. The kids all are trying to make friends. After each group has read their book, we will compare the book to Li’s Tangram Animals to look for similar themes and characteristics. Hopefully in our whole-class discussion of this comparison, the kids will realize that all five books are similar in this way!


The kids will each get a vocabulary list for their leveled book and be expected to write a book summary. At the end of the week, they will have two sets of vocabulary words, read two books, write two summaries, do a comparison between the books, and figured out some tangram puzzles that can later be used as a center or free-choice activity!

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