What is Rainbow Writing and How Does It Help Emerging Writers?

rainbow writing and emerging writers

When we first started homeschooling, I saw rainbow writing all over the place, and I couldn’t figure it out. Back then, Grace resisted all writing practice, and I didn’t really investigate.

Now that Grace enjoys tolerates writing practice, and she adores rainbows, I gave it another chance.

A lot of people use the term rainbow writing in a lot of different ways. Here’s how we do it:

Handwriting Practice

rainbow writing and emerging readers

I’ve written before about how she first taught herself to write and then had to relearn how to form the numbers and letters correctly. Once in a while, I still have her practice forming the letters she’s struggling with.

Beyond letter and number formation, Grace writes a lot of numbers and letters backwards. I know it’s normal for many 6-year-olds, but I feel like we need to address it. Her numbers are a particular concern, so I have her practice a bunch of the same number using rainbow writing.

I think, ideally, you would trace over each letter or number precisely when you do rainbow writing. I let Grace get a little silly with her formation in order to keep her interested in the activity. As long as she was forming the numbers correctly (I mean, not backwards), I let her be goofy.

We don’t do this very often, maybe two or three times a month. We use other means of handwriting practice as well; I’ll write about them another day.

Spelling Word Practice

rainbow writing and emerging readers

I’m not big on spelling lists or spelling words or even sight words. I pretty much hate them and think they’re pointless.

Or, I did hate them and think they were pointless until I noticed Grace had much more success with sight words than she did with my 100% phonics method.

She is a visual-spatial learner (figured that out thanks to a learning styles inventory), and she needs to see words over and over in order to learn them.

I’m not a visual learner at all, so this was a lightbulb moment for me.

Anyway, Grace was often having trouble with the word was. She spelled it wuz, wus, woz, and wos. She tried and sounded it out and tried more. She could never read it when she was it in text. She just couldn’t figure it out – even though she knows that a can be lazy and say the schaw sound and s can sometimes say /z/.

I digress. She needed to see was a few times, so I pulled out a rainbow of dry erase markers and asked her to make a rainbow out of was. After she’d made the first rainbow, I asked her to make a second one.

We could’ve done the same thing with a black marker on strips of rainbow-colored construction paper or with rainbow-colored chalk on a blackboard. (Other tricks I have up my sleeve.)

The key is that the rainbow colors make the writing fun, and the practice helps with learning.

Have you ever used rainbow writing?

© 2013, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.


  1. Tina Reich says

    My 4th grader does rainbow writing as part of her weekly spelling list homework. They must write each word on the list using standard pencil and then trace over it four more times in different colors.

    • says

      Yep. In the number example, she traced the number in each color over the previous color. In the word example, she made a rainbow by writing the word once in each color in rainbow order.

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