How are Rainbows Made? English Listening Activity

50-minute English lesson

This English listening activity explains how rainbows appear in the sky. Rainbows require three special conditions.

Learn English listening with level graded science stories.

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What is a Rainbow?

A rainbow is a beautiful act of nature. It looks like magic, but really, it can be understood with basic science. Rainbows appear in the sky when three events happen at the same time.

First, there are millions of water drops in the atmosphere. That’s why rainbows are visible during or right after a rain shower.

Second, the sun is behind your back. If you’re facing the wrong direction, you can’t see a rainbow.

Third, the sun is low in the sky. That’s why rainbows are usually seen in the early morning or late afternoon.

When these three conditions are present, light enters the drops, bends, changes direction and comes out at different angles. As the light bends, it breaks into seven colors. This is the interesting part: white light enters a drop and seven colors come out.

All of the colors are shooting off into the sky in random directions. However, only a small amount of those colors can be seen by people.

The tiny portion of color which we see, and call a rainbow, leaves the drops at very specific angles. We see just the line of light moving straight towards us. For that reason, we see only one color from each drop.

Now imagine a rainbow. The outside layer appears red because red is the only color of light travelling on a straight and precise path to our eyes.

Now think about violet, which is the color of the inner ring. Violet appears on the inside because that is the only color of light moving from those drops towards our eyes.

In conclusion, the seven layers of color and round shape of a rainbow are not actually real. It’s a remarkable visual trick created by light that is reflecting off a large concentration of water drops and moving in a variety of directions.

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English Listening Activity

Audio

Here is the listening file for this lesson.

Listening level: 5
Audio file: 2:16 min
Story length: 306 words

ESL lesson plan about rainbow science.
Rainbow in the countryside

Quiz: Rainbow

Did you understand the story?

Let's check with a True-False quiz.

Gap Fill for the English listening activity

Listen to the story again and fill in the blanks.

A rainbow is a beautiful act of __________ . It looks like magic, but really, it can be understood with basic __________ . Rainbows appear in the sky when __________ events happen at the same time.

First, there are millions of water in the atmosphere. That’s why rainbows are visible during or right after a rain __________ .

Second, the sun is your back. If you’re facing the wrong __________ , you can’t see a rainbow.

Third, the sun is __________ in the sky. That’s why rainbows are usually seen in the early morning or late __________ .

When these three conditions are __________ , light enters the drops, bends, changes direction and comes out at __________ angles. As the light bends, it breaks into __________ colors. This is the interesting part: white light enters a drop and __________ colors come out.

All of the colors are __________ off into the sky in random directions. However, only a small amount of those colors can be by people.

The tiny portion of color which we see, and call a rainbow, __________ the drops at very specific angles. We see just the line of light moving towards us. For that reason, we see only one color from each drop.

Now __________ a rainbow. The outside layer appears because red is the only color of light travelling on a __________ and precise path to our eyes.

Now think about __________ , which is the color of the inner ring. Violet appears on the __________ because that is the only color of light moving from those drops __________ our eyes.

In conclusion, the __________ layers of color and __________ shape of a rainbow are not actually real. It’s a remarkable visual __________ created by light that is reflecting off a large concentration of water drops and __________ in a variety of directions.

ESL discussion questions

Talk about the story.

  1. Have you ever seen a rainbow?
  2. What condtions need to be present before we can see a rainbow?
  3. What are there seven color in a rainbow?
  4. Are rainbows real?
  5. Why are water drops important for rainbows?
  6. When is the best time to see a rainbow?

Synonym match

MATCH THE WORD OR PHRASE ON THE LEFT WITH THE CORRECT SYNONYM.

1. events
2. atmosphere
3. bend
4. smart
5. variety 
a. curve
b. action
c. many
d. up in the sky
e. bright

ESL listening activity: anagrams

MOVE THE LETTERS. MAKE A WORD FROM THE ESL LISTENING STORY.

  1. UTFBEIUAL – beautiful
  2. SLMNIIOL – millions
  3. GLNSEA – angles
  4. DMRAON – random
  5. ESCEPIR – precise
  6. VTLOEI – violet


Writing practice

Write the five sentences from the English listening activity. Put the words in the correct order.

  1. beautiful / act / of / is / nature / rainbow / a / a
  2. early / why / usually / the / seen / afternoon / are / rainbows / or / morning / in / late / that’s
  3. is / your / behind / the / sun / second / back
  4. rainbow / a / imagine / now /
  5. colors / of / into / the / shooting / off / all / in / directions / are / random / the / sky

Another English listening activity

Ready to learn English with another free online listening lesson? Try this free English lesson that talks about why the sky is blue.

Reading and taking notes

Did you like this ESL listening story about rainbows? Learn more about rainbows here.

  1. Scan the article.
  2. Take notes.
  3. Make a list with at least six facts.

Get the worksheet

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3 thoughts on “How are Rainbows Made? English Listening Activity”

  1. As light the bends, it breaks into seven colors.

    I would like to know how to translate the sentence?
    “as light the bends” what does that mean?
    thanks

    Reply

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