Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about rainbows–what they are and how they form.  Applying what they learn, students analyze a real rainbow then conduct an experiment creating rainbows.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about rainbows.
  2. Develop a concept map that identifies what rainbows are, how they form, and under what conditions they are visible.
  3. Analyze a photo of a double rainbow.
  4. Conduct an experiment making their own rainbows and analyze the outcomes.



dispersion, hue, invisible, optical illusion, prism, rainbow, reflection, refraction, register (verb), spectrum. visible light, wavelength, white light


Lesson Procedure:

  1. Create a KWL chart on the whiteboard. Ask students what they know about rainbows. You may want to prompt them by asking what conditions they appear under and what causes them to form. Write their responses in the K column.
  2. Tell students that today they will learn about rainbows, including what they are, how they form, and under what circumstances they are visible. Ask what they hope to learn about rainbows. Write their responses in the W column.
  3. Show the movie Rainbows on an interactive whiteboard or other large display for the whole class once through without pausing.
  4. Now working either independently or with a partner, have students open the Make-a-Map feature within the movie. As they watch, have them construct a concept map that identifies what rainbows are, how they form, and under what circumstances we are best able to see them.
  5. Now have partners click the Primary Source Activity from the Rainbow topic page. Suggest that they first read a question, then click the View buttons to see the rainbows, toggling back and forth from questions to photos. Encourage them to use their concept maps they created in Make-a-Map to help answer some of the questions.
  6. Now students will conduct an experiment making rainbows as outlined in the "Make It" section of the Graphic Organizer.
  7. The rainbow experiment happens over a series of three days (given there is sunshine). Divide the class into small groups. Provide each group with a glass, access to water, and a sheet of paper. For the next three days, have the groups conduct the experiment, as instructed on the activity sheet--filling the water to different levels and experimenting at three different times of day over the three days. Someone in each group is to record the observations.
  8. After three days, have groups share their results. How did their results compare? Why might they have differed? Have them hypothesize why rainbows appeared when they did.
  9. Have students complete the Worksheet by researching what a rainbow would look like in each condition.