The Rainbow Serpent

Free lesson plan, writing template and printable word-search puzzles for kids

the rainbow serpent

Best suited to:

K – Year 6

KLAs covered:

English (narrative), indigenous perspectives


  • how do Aboriginal people understand the creation of the world, the animals and features such as mountains and lagoons?
  • people tell different stories about how the world – and the things in it – came to be the way they are;
  • Aboriginal people have a deep connection to the country on which they live and a rich understanding of its history;
  • the Dreamtime, the Dreaming and Dreaming Stories;

Need to know:

  • a traditional Aboriginal story about how the world was created; 
  • the Rainbow Serpent is viewed as a creator god and is an important feature of Aboriginal art and religion;
  • there are many names and many stories associated with the Rainbow Serpent;
  • for Aboriginal people, the Rainbow Serpent is a symbol of fertility, peace and unity;
  • The Rainbow Serpent is sometimes called the Rainbow Snake, Wagyl or Wuagyl; 
  • the Rainbow Serpent is named because the shape of a snake suggests the shape of a rainbow;
  • ​when a rainbow is seen in the sky, it is said to be the Rainbow Serpent moving from one waterhole to another; 

Discussion Questions (before reading):

  • what do you think this book will be about? What do you see that makes you think that?
  • what do you see, think and wonder when you look at the cover?
  • what is a serpent? (discuss title);
  • what do you know about Australia’s Aboriginal people/First Peoples/Indigenous people?
  • have you ever heard of Dreaming stories or the Dreamtime? What do you know about them? (write ideas and responses on the class whiteboard);
  • tell children Aboriginal people call this a Dreaming Story;
  • write words or phrases from the text which might be new to the children on the whiteboard (eg different tongue, journeyed north, granite, head-dress, pandanus armbands, humpies). Discuss their meaning and have them visible as you read the book;

Discussion Questions (after reading):

  • ask the children if there were any unknown words in the story. Write them on the class whiteboard and discuss their meaning;
  • is this a true story? How do you know?
  • when did the story happen? How do you know?
  • where does the story take place?
  • who are the main characters? (write responses on the class whiteboard)
  • what happened in the story? (write responses on the class whiteboard)
  • how are Dreaming stories structured?
  • what do Dreaming stories teach us?
  • how do the Dreaming stories connect the land to its people and animals?
  • other cultures also tell stories about how things came to be. Do you know of any?
  • what are you wondering about after hearing the story? What does the story make you want to find out more about?
  • tell children paintings of the Rainbow Serpent first appeared in Arnhem Land rock art more than 6,000 years ago;
  • tell children ATSI people all over Australia have their own versions of the Rainbow Serpent story in their own languages;


K – Year 1

  • children write a sentence or two about the story and illustrate it;
  • art: show the children an illustration of the Rainbow Serpent from the book. Discuss the colours and design they see on the snake. The children draw their own Rainbow Serpent;
  • craft: children make a Rainbow Serpent using coloured paper or a collage Rainbow Serpent;


Years 2 – 3

  • children write a response to the text: why do they think the story is important to Aboriginal people?
  • children re-tell the story in their own words;
  • in small groups or in pairs, children create story cards for each of the main characters and use the cards to re-tell the story;
  • art: children make an individual or collaborative art work depicting the Rainbow Serpent;


Years 4 – 6

Enhancing children’s understanding of the Rainbow Serpent story

Watch this short clip (6 mins) about the story of the Rainbow Serpent:

  • note that the narrator calls the story a myth. It’s important to tell children that the story is not a myth but a very real story for ATSI people;
  • after watching the clip, lead a discussion about how the video added to the children’s understanding of the story of the Rainbow Serpent;
  • how does the clip help us to understand ATSI people’s thinking about how the world was made?

Watch this short clip (2:45mins) which shows an Indigenous man from Tamworth talking about Gariya, the name his people give to the Rainbow Serpent:

After watching both clips, children write about the Rainbow Serpent story:

  • how do they think the story came into being?
  • what does the story tell us about the way ATSI peoples thought about and understood the world?

Researching Rainbow Serpent Art (requires computers and internet access)

In pairs or individually: children choose a topic to research and write a paragraph about it in their own words:

  • historical and sacred sites in the Northern Territory;
  • Arnhem Land;
  • rock art in Arnhem Land;

Websites for research:

Exploring Character (requires card, cut into quarters)

In pairs or small groups: children discuss and record facts and their thoughts about characters in the text (Goorialla, Rainbow Lorikeet brothers, Tree Goanna brothers):

  • children use post-it notes to move and group their ideas as they work;
  • they use the information to create story cards (trading cards) for the characters, with information on one side and an illustration on the other;
  • invite groups to retell the story of the Rainbow Serpent to the class using their story cards;

Your free, printable word-search puzzles and writing template

These free, printable word-search puzzles for kids are great for building and reinforcing the vocabulary used when discussing The Rainbow Serpent. They’re especially helpful for EAL/D students.

There are three different puzzles in this file to enable you to differentiate the activity according to the learning needs of your students.

Download and print your free writing template for use with the picture book The Rainbow Serpent here (PDF).

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