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  The Rainbow Fish 

The Rainbow Fish is a book written by Marcus Pfister.  Its about a fish that is more beautiful than all the other fish because it has shimmering scales.  When asked if he would share his beautiful scales, Rainbow Fish replied that he would not. In the end, he decided that having friends was  better than being the most beautiful fish in the sea.

The beautiful pictures alone will draw your students in, and the story will captivate them. Here are some ideas and activities that can be used with the book.

The Rainbow Fish is an excellent book to use in an Ocean Unit or in a Friendship Unit.  It lends itself well to discussing friendship, sharing, inner/outer beauty, pride, and real happiness.  When reading the book for the first time to your students have shiny "scales" taped to your shirt.  After reading the book, share your special scales with your students.

Rainbow Fish 
(tune: Frere Jacques)

Rainbow fish, rainbow fish, 
In the sea, in the sea.
A-splishing and a-splashing, 
A-splishing and a-splashing,
Look at me,
Look at me!

* adapted by me from a generic fish song on the Internet


The song above was placed in each student's Poetry Journal.  I typed it up and copied it for each student.  Then each student was provided a white Ellison fish cut-out.  My TA added the scales and details to the cut-outs.  The students used their markers or crayons to color the fish, then a holographic scale was added to each fish.  The scales were cut from left-over holographic book covers that I wouldn't let my daughter throw away.  The book covers were the kind that cling on their own.  (They were purchased at Office Depot.)  After they'd colored them, the fish were glued to the page with the song.

I also make a copy of each song on cardstock.  My TA does the artwork, then the page is laminated.  Since I work with small groups, I use this as a "Song Chart".  I put it up on the whiteboard with magnetic clips, then I track with a pointer as we sing the song.

I don't know why this fish looks as it does,
because it is actually a very pretty blue, pink, and purple.
The strange looking scale is the holographic scale.

Each student can participate in creating a class shape book.  Cut out a front and back cover, and enough pages for one per student.  Each student can write or dictate ways they can share with their friends, then illustrate the page.  All pages would then be bound together to create the class book.  Decorate the cover of the book, and insert at least one shiny scale.

There are many ways to create the Rainbow Fish as an art project.  Go to this site for a pattern to make a CD Rainbow Fish:

Because I lost the site, I had to adapt this project.  My TA either found or drew off a fish pattern almost the size of a sheet of copy paper.  Instead of doing each piece separately, she did the whole fish.  She also drew off a separate fin to be cut out and glued over the whole in the CD.  The students used colored chalk to color/smudge in the head, fins, and tail.  Then the students glued the CD to the center of the fish.  We hung these up in our window facing outside so that the CDs could reflect the sun's rays.

Below is another Rainbow Fish pattern more like what's at the link.  My Ks did these, but I forgot to tell them to add the "rainbow colors" to their fish first.  Duh!  I was in too big of a hurry!!  And I just noticed the fin over the CD hole in the other picture.  I like that better.  I'll have to modify my pattern again. :)

Rainbow Fish can also be made by copying a simple fish shape onto construction paper.  The students can then paint, use tissue paper, colored glue, or torn paper to give him color.  (Have them leave the head, fins, and tail undone and only do the body.)  One shiny fish scale can be added by either using glitter, aluminum foil, silver sequins, holographic book covers, or holographic wrapping paper.  A wiggly eye can be added as well.  These fish can be displayed together on light blue paper cut with "waves" at the top.

This is one of the first Rainbow Fish that I did with my students in years passed.
This is an incomplete fish that I was using as a model for the students to show them
how to place the scales in an overlapping fashion.

This Rainbow Fish project is straight from the Internet:

waxed paper
assorted colors of tissue paper squares
watered-down glue
black construction paper
one square of shiny tissue or wrapping paper.

Students "paint" the tissue paper squares on the waxed paper using the watered-down glue. Completely cover the waxed paper.  Cut two fish shapes out of black construction paper.  When the tissue paper on the waxed paper has dried, trim the waxed paper to fit the black fish shapes.  Glue on the shiny square as a special fin.  Glue on wiggle eyes if you wish.  The fish look like stained glass and look very nice hanging from the ceiling.

         Two Rainbow Fish 
(Tune: Three Blind Mice)

Two rainbow fish,
Two rainbow fish,
        See how they swim, 
See how they swim?
Their tails go left and their tails go right,
Their beautiful colors are quite a sight,
Did you ever see such a sight so bright
As two rainbow fish?

The song above was also added to the students' Poetry Journals.  I typed it up and my TA drew two fish at the bottom of the page.  The students colored the fish.

(These fish are also very pretty in reality: blue, pink, and green.)

Some students also worked on coordinating math activities.  I had a pattern of a fish bowl and we copied it onto 20 sheets of light blue paper.  Then each fish bowl was labeled with a number from 1 - 20.  They were cut out and laminated.  The students counted out the correct number of fish counters into the fish bowl.  The fish counters were actually multi-colored mini-fish erasers.  I also have some plastic fish counters that could be used, as well as fish crackers.


Another math activity was done using a pocketchart.  55 multi-colored fish were cut out from construction paper and laminated.  They were then placed in the pocketchart.  The students counted the fish in each row and matched it with the correct number card.  The number cards were made from a 3x5 index card cut in half.

This activity could be reversed by placing the number cards in the pocketchart and having the students count out the correct number of fish to match the numbers.

The same fish cut-outs from the activity above can also be used to practice patterning and grouping for "more/less".

If your students were working on greater than and less than, you could place sets of number cards in the pocketchart.  The students could place a fish with an open mouth in-between the two numbers, but facing the larger number (as if it wants to eat the biggest number).  For this activity, you would need a two-sided fish.

We also "Go Fishin'".  I cut out a pond from light blue bulletin board paper and added ripples.  Then we have different color construction paper fish.  Each fish is labeled with a number, a letter, a sight word, a color word, etc., and then laminated.  A paperclip is added to their mouth.  The students try to catch the fish using a pole (stick) with a magnet tied to the end of the line.  The magnet sticks to the paperclip (don't use plastic coated paperclips).  For the student to be able to keep the fish they caught, they must identify whatever's on the fish.  If they are unable to do that, I tell them what it is, then I throw the fish back into the pond.  If you want to turn it into a competition, you can have a fishing tournament and see who catches the most fish.

Another idea that I had, that I didn't get to try out, was to make stuffed Rainbow Fish.  I was going to have the students fingerpaint on two big sheets of paper.  Then I was going to have my TA cut them out in the shape of fish.  Then we were going to stuff them.  Of course, each student would add one shiny scale to their fish.  I think these would look good hanging from the ceiling or displayed on the "blue water" mentioned earlier.

Additional Sites:

iteach345sPage (scroll down to Fish)

CIMC Integrated Units: Rainbow Fish

Rainbow Fish Activities


Rainbow Fish Chain


Puzzle (online)


The Rainbow Fish Math Game (printable)

I recently purchased two books to include in this mini-unit:  The Copycat Fish and A Fishy Story, both by Gail Donovan.  Both books were purchased through our school's Scholastic Book Fair.  Last week, I also purchased the Rainbow Fish video at the new aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.  They also had all kinds of games as well.



Rainbow Fish Tattle Tale by Sonia Sander

  This puzzle was purchased from Lakeshore I believe.  One of my students completed it Friday in the Puzzles & Games Workstation.




last updated 3.9.08


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