Dancing in Rainbows

poem by Susan Lendroth , illustrated by Amy Golbach

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify the effect of imagery in texts so that I can make the texts I write more vivid for the reader.

Success criteria:

  • I can make a sketch responding to imagery in a poem.
  • I can identify examples of imagery and the senses they evoke.
  • I can compose examples of imagery to describe a season.
  • I can make a sketch based on the imagery in my partner’s poem.


Read Dancing in Rainbows aloud or listen to the audio version. At this stage do not allow students to see the image that accompanies the poem. Instruct students to sketch what they imagine the scene described in the poem to look like. You may need to read the poem more than once for students to have a clear image of the scene in their minds before they begin sketching. Invite students to share their sketches and discuss students’ interpretations.

Read Dancing in Rainbows again and discuss language used in the poem that provided students with a clear idea of what the scene might look like. Examples include:

busy fans spin and whir

my ice block is dripping

mum turns on the sprinkler

we dance in rainbows

Inform students that these are examples of imagery, where words are used to create a clear picture in readers’ minds. Tell students that imagery often engages multiple senses. Identify the senses evoked by each of the examples of imagery.

The temperature’s rising (touch)

busy fans spin and whir (sight)

my ice block is dripping (sight)

mum turns on the sprinkler (sight)

to fling sun-dazzled spray (sight and touch)

we dance in rainbows (sight)

on a hot summer’s day (touch)

Reveal the illustration that accompanies Dancing in Rainbows. Discuss the following questions:

  • What in the illustration is similar to your sketch? What is different?
  • Are there any elements in the illustration that you feel don’t match the descriptions in the poem? If yes, which?

Inform students that they will be composing examples of imagery to describe a scene. They will then be sharing their examples of imagery with their partner. Their partner will listen to the imagery before composing a sketch of the scene described. Tell students that first you will be creating an example collaboratively. To do this, complete the following steps:

  • Discuss ideas students associate with a different season, winter. Sample responses include winter hats, frozen toes, hot drinks, condensation on the windows.
  • Instruct students to sketch their idea of winter. Tell students not to show their sketches to anyone. Make a quick sketch of your own. Encourage children to incorporate cultural knowledge such as of flora and fauna that appear during colder months in Australia. Constellations that appear across the Southern Skies that have been used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as a changing of the seasons. For instance, if you are on Wiradguri Country you may see Gugurmin appear in the sky around June and July (Refer to Larry Brandy’s book Wiradjuri Country for more information on this). If you are on Kamilaroi Country, Gawarrgay tells us important information relating to emu eggs. (Refer to Corey Tutts’s book The First Scientists for further information on this). If you are on Dharawal Country, then this time of the year is known as Burrugin. It is also indicated by the Burringoa producing flowers. (Refer to D’harawal Calendar for further information on this) For further information relating to the lands on which you live and teach, please always refer to Aboriginal Education Officers, Elders, Community members and the AECG in the first instance.
  • While the students finish their sketches inform them that you will be composing examples of imagery to describe the ideas in your sketch. Note the examples on the board, for example, fluffy winter hats, frozen toes inside damp boots, wind whipping at your hair. Highlight unique and interesting interpretations.
  • Instruct the students to help you compose a brief poem that includes examples of imagery. Refer back to Dancing in Rainbows to identify the style (a rhyming poem, where the second and fourth line in each stanza rhyme) and attempt to follow this style. A sample poem is:

Winter has arrived

Things are cooling down,

Toes damp inside shoes,

Wind whipping all around

Gurgurmin is in the sky,

Burringoa is in flower,

Burrugin has arrived,

It cannot be denied.

  • Tell students to sketch an image based on the poem.
  • Show students your original sketch and compare it with the sketches students made of the poem, discussing similarities and differences.

Inform students that they will be experimenting with imagery by following the same process. Place them in pairs. Instruct them to compose examples of imagery that describe their sketches before including these in a brief poem. Tell students to share their poems with their partner. Students should make a sketch of the imagery in their partner’s poem. Once complete, students should compare the sketch they made based on their partner’s poem with the original sketch and reflect on similarities and differences.