R is for Rainbow - Perfect St. Patrick's Day Lesson Plan!

Since St. Patrick's Day is Saturday, I'm going to skip ahead in the alphabet to the letter R to share our fun rainbow unit that would go great along with a St. Patrick's Day theme.

The Books We Read
During our rainbow unit, we read several some imaginative books about rainbows. All of these books reinforced the colors of a rainbow while telling enjoyable stories.

A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman

This is a creative book about a boy who imagines what he would do if he had his own rainbow.

Elmer and the Rainbow by David McKee

When the rainbow comes out and is missing its colors, Elmer the elephant decides he is going to give his colors to the rainbow. My kids enjoyed this cute story featuring fun jungle animals, and I always like a book that has a good message.

The Leprechaun Who Lost his Rainbow by Sean Callahan

This book was another that had a good lesson about giving--a girl sacrifices many things she has in order to help a Leprechaun build a rainbow. Since we did this unit right before St. Patrick's Day, it was a fun way to incorporate the legends about leprechauns into our unit.

Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry

This is a very simple book, but my kids enjoyed the bright colors and rainbow shape of the book.

Keep reading for a couple of other books we incorporated into other specific parts of our unit.

Learning the Letter
To reinforce the shape of the letter R, as well as rainbow colors, my two year-old created a Rainbow R. He is learning to cut along a straight line, so I drew lines on different colors of paper for him to cut. Then, I helped him glue the colors in order to a piece of white paper and then I cut out the shape of an R from that. Throughout the week as we reviewed the color spectrum, we were able to refer back to that craft and name the colors. We also referred to it as we reviewed the sound of the letter R. (My 4-year-old wasn't interested in doing that craft, and that was fine with me. While I was helping my 2-year-old with our letter R craft, my older son was happily drawing pictures of trains).

For our rainbow unit, I once again pulled out one of my old science teaching files about light and adapted it to teach a few of the concepts to my children. Here's a brief summary of our science lesson about light and rainbows:

How do we see colors?
First, I briefly explained light and how it is through light that we see every color around us. We didn't go into depth about this. I just told them that the light reflects certain colors back to our eyes.

What happens when we mix colors?
Then I asked them, "What would happen if we mixed all of the colors of light?" If we mixed paint, I reminded them, we know that it makes a muddy brown, but light is different. When you mix all of the colors of light, it makes white light. Hidden inside the white light all around us are all the colors of the rainbow. But we can't see the separate colors of the rainbow unless we bend them.

Refraction Demonstration
I showed them a simple demonstration of how we bend light by using a straight straw and a clear cup that was half filled with water. Even though the straw was straight, it looked bent when we put it in the water. That is just the light bending, I told them. When we bend light, it is called "refraction." Then I asked my kids if they wanted to bend even more light. I showed my kids a prism, and together we went outside and used a prism to create a rainbow on a piece of white paper that I put on our patio. As I held the prism, we named the colors of the rainbow, and I taught my children the colors "indigo" and "violet" (as they are used to just purple).

I told them that sometimes people remember the colors of the rainbow by imagining a rainbow person named "Roy G. Biv." We watched this fun movie with a song about the color spectrum.

The song from the video was stuck in our heads for days.

Rainbow Diffraction Glasses
Later, we went inside and found more rainbows inside our house by using these fantastic rainbow diffraction glasses to look at lights around our house (another souvenir from my science teaching days!)

Rainbows in the Rain
"So why do we see rainbows when it rains?" I asked. I taught them that the raindrops are like a giant prism, bending the light that comes from the sun. So you have to have both sun (light) and rain (prism) at the same time to make a rainbow in the sky. I did a simple demonstration of this kind of a rainbow by spraying a water hose in the backyard and showing the kids the rainbow that formed from that.

Milk Rainbow
While this wasn't related to rainbows formed from light, my kids also loved doing this milk rainbow demonstration. Simply fill a shallow dish with milk, put a few drops of each color of food coloring near the center. Then, put a q-tip saturated with dish soap in the center of the dish and watch the colors mix and the rainbow swirl! My boys were so impressed with this--we ended up repeating this demonstration five times.

We also read the book The Rainbow and You by Edwin C. Krupp

to reinforce some of the scientific concepts we learned about rainbows as well as to learn some other facts and legends associated with rainbows.

Art Project

In addition to the Rainbow R I mentioned above, we also did a rainbow sponge painting. I helped the kids paint the colors of the rainbow in order on a sponge and then let them use the sponge to paint all over their papers with the rainbow sponge however they wished.

Field Trip

We read the book, Colors Everywhere: A Guess How Much I Love You Storybook

and then for a "field trip" we went on a walk outside and searched for items in our yard that were every color of the rainbow. I gave my kids a little basket to pick up fallen items that they wanted to collect. We couldn't collect everything we found, but we still pointed out all of the colors--the blue sky, the violet flowers, the green grass, and more.

Sensory Tub

--> We created a sensory tub with gelatin in all of the rainbow colors. My kids loved squishing the gelatin around, scooping it up, smelling it, tasting it, forming it into a mountain and more. This was one sensory tub that even baby sister could enjoy, too. Here's a video showing the kids with the sensory bin:


For snacks during our rainbow week, I made rainbows out of colored goldfish, with marshmallow clouds. Another day, we had some rainbow pancakes with whipped cream clouds. And for a special treat, we made rainbow cupcakes--we just bought the cupcake mix that had rainbow colored sprinkles mixed in. My boys loved helping bake these. I liked how the cupcake mix had images as well as words. I showed my son the picture of the eggs and asked him, "How many eggs do we need to add to the mix?" My son counted the eggs on the picture, 1-2-3, and excitedly said, "We need 3 eggs!" It was a great practical life and math lesson in one.

Songs and Games

The kids love having items to hold when we do music time, so together we went out into the backyard and collected sticks. Then I tied rainbow-colored strings to those sticks to create "rainbow wands." They danced around with their rainbow wands as we sang our favorite songs about colors and rainbows. My two-year-old's absolute favorite song is "I Can Sing a Rainbow," so we spent a lot of time singing that. It did confuse my kids a bit as to the order of the color spectrum, but that didn't stop us from singing and dancing to it. I like the song because it just represents the joy of colors all around us. We even made up different versions of the song, sometimes singing the colors in the spectrum in order, other times adding some of our other favorite colors, such as turquoise. Here's a clip of us singing the song together:

We also watched this classic clip of the "Rainbow Connection."
Finally, we played this simple Color Bingo game. It was very easy--my kids already know their colors quite well, but they still loved it and wanted to play it again and again. It was a super short and fast game, so it is great for little kids with short attention spans. We played it quite a few times, switching which card each person had each turn.

For more Rainbow-themed activity ideas, see my "R is for Rainbow" Pinterest board. I also have a St. Patrick's Day board .


Chelsea said...

Great job! Love the details! They learned a lot!

Rachel said...

Thanks, Chelsea :)