10 Activities for The Polar Express — Creatively Teaching First (2024)

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is my absolute favorite Christmas story to read in the classroom and at home. It is such a magical story where a little boy takes a ride aboard the Polar Express to the North Pole. This is a story for all who believe in the spirit of Christmas!

I can’t wait to share 10 Polar Express activities with you today that I use in my classroom and go right along with this magical story!

I use these Polar Express activities as stations. My class and I have so much fun spending the day reading the story, completing these 10 activities, watching the movie, and enjoying a snack. These activities can be done on one day or spread throughout a week or month. We complete these activities on the last day before break. I use these in place of our traditional reading and math stations. This way, it is nothing new and my students already know how to rotate to different stations. These activities can easily be done whole group or individual work as well! The stations/activities are engaging, fun, and full of literacy, math, and STEM skills.

Prior to our Polar Express day, I send a note home to parents inviting my students to wear their pajamas to school. On the last day before winter break, we have our magical Polar Express day! Students will start out by receiving their very own Polar Express train ticket. I like to have these waiting on their desk when they arrive. On our projector screen, I share an image of the Polar Express. The kids are so excited when they walk in!

The Polar Express Activity #7 - The Polar Express Round Trip Ticket

Students will create their very own ticket for the Polar Express. Students will write or draw a picture of what word would be on their Polar Express ticket. There are 2 differentiated options included!

The Polar Express Activity #8 - A Cup of Hot Cocoa Word Problems

With this Polar Express activity, students will read and solve math word problems on cups of cocoa. A cup of hot cocoa is not complete without marshmallows! Once each problem is solved, students will glue a marshmallow on each cup. This is a fun little incentive for solving the problem. There are two differentiated options included!

The Polar Express Activity #9 - Snow Spelling

The Polar Express goes through snowy mountains on the way to the North Pole. My students LOVE this Polar Express activity! Students will write their spelling words or sight words in the snow. You could use shaving cream, salt, etc. to be pretend snow. I like to use shaving cream because it is easy to wash off and it cleans the table too :)

The Polar Express Activity #10 - The Polar Express Train

This activity was quick and easy to prep! I printed the train cards, laminated, and cut apart. The I put a colored different colored dot on the back of each train set using a permanent marker. This makes it easy to identify a missing train to the correct set. I put each train set in a plastic bag.

Each train car has a number on it. Students put their train together by ordering the numbers from least to greatest!

Hot Cocoa and Cookie Decorating

After we complete the stations/activities, it is time to watch the movie with hot cocoa and a decorated cookie! I find it easiest way to do this is to use a crock pot. However, one year I was so tired (and pregnant) and it was just too much work to carry in a crock pot to school. Instead, we drank chocolate milk instead and the kids were just as excited with that!

I bought premade cookie dough that was already cut into shapes (best thing ever) and I just baked these the night before. I brought in the cookies and had a few parents donate supplies to decorate. The students enjoyed their hot cocoa and cookies while watching the movie. It was a great way to end the magical day!

I also have some EXCITING NEWS! These Polar Express read aloud activities are now DIGITAL! There are 10 digital activities ready to go on Google Slides. First, students will listen to the Polar Express read aloud by watching a video directly on the Google Slides. Students will be able to type, drag, and drop while completing the 10 engaging activities!

10 Activities for The Polar Express — Creatively Teaching First (2024)


Why was Polar Express so famous? ›

The Polar Express was the first feature-length film to be entirely created using motion capture technology. This revolutionary technique allowed the animators to create a highly realistic 3D world without having to draw each frame. The result was a unique and stunning visual style, unlike anything seen before.

What shows The Polar Express? ›

You are able to stream The Polar Express by renting or purchasing on Apple TV, Google Play Movies, and Vudu.

What is the summary of The Polar Express? ›

How old is The Polar Express? ›

The Polar Express is a 1985 fantasy children's picture book written and illustrated by American author Chris Van Allsburg. The book is now widely considered to be a classic Christmas story for young children. It was praised for its detailed illustrations and calm, relaxing storyline.

What is the moral of The Polar Express? ›

Parents need to know that, like the book that inspired it, the The Polar Express has wonderful messages about the importance of believing, the value of friendship, respect for leadership and courage, and the beauty of being kind to others.

What is controversial about Polar Express? ›

While the filmmakers clearly opted for a more realistic art style, many of The Polar Express' characters look human but not human enough. This creates an eerie disturbing sensation for some viewers.

Is there a deeper meaning to Polar Express? ›

The Spiritual Aspect Of Santa Is Further Hinted At

The Polar Express comes to a heartwarming conclusion with the Hero Boy embracing his belief in the holiday season and Santa Claus himself. This is signified by the bell under the tree on Christmas Day.

What is The Polar Express and why is it important? ›

In the movie, a doubting young boy didn't believe in the spirit of Christmas like everyone else. The Polar Express train saw this as a possibility to change the boy's life to show the true meaning behind this holiday with a train ride to the North Pole.

What was Polar Express based on? ›

The Polar Express is a 2004 American animated adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the screenplay with William Broyles Jr., based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. It stars Tom Hanks (in multiple roles), Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddie Deezen.

What is the main theme of The Polar Express? ›

The Polar Express is based on themes of believing and the magic of Christmas. The boy boards the train as a skeptic and meets other children who have the same feelings. The conductor leads the way for them to get back that childhood view of Santa and finally, Santa in the flesh proves himself to be real.

What does the hobo in Polar Express represent? ›

The hobo's identity is never revealed in the movie, leaving it open to interpretation as to who he is and what his true purpose is. Some fans have speculated that he is a representation of Santa Claus, while others think he may be a guardian angel sent to look after the children on their journey.

What is the main conflict in The Polar Express? ›

In The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, the narrator tells the story of himself as a young boy on one special Christmas Eve. He is troubled by a friend's words who doesn't believe in Santa because he's never heard the bells on Santa's sleigh.

What are some fun facts about The Polar Express? ›

The Polar Express
  • The film is listed in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the "first all-digital capture" film, where all acted parts were done in digital capture. ...
  • In the North Pole City communications room, an elf describes a bad little boy in New Jersey named Steven, who is terrorizing his two little sisters.

What is Polar Express about for kids? ›

The story begins on Christmas Eve, with a young boy whose growing sense of logic leads him to think that there's no Santa. Yet something inside him still wants to believe. Lying awake, he strains to hear sleigh bells and instead is jolted upright by the thundering arrival of a huge train, the Polar Express.

Why does Tom Hanks play everyone in Polar Express? ›

Behind the scenes

Hanks would eventually understand what the director desired and agreed to have the film be motion-captured. Robert Zemeckis initially wanted Hanks to play every character, but this proved to be too exhausting for Hanks, so his roles were cut down to five.

Why is The Polar Express so trippy? ›

Well, it's because of the animation. The graphics are so life-like, but at the same time, not quite realistic enough, which has given many the creeps. Well this is because of uncanny valley – the notion that the more human-like a non-human character becomes, the more we like it, until it becomes too unsettling.

Why is The Polar Express so nostalgic? ›

The movie evokes a nostalgic feeling of Christmas, with its focus on the importance of belief and the magic of the holiday season.

Why don't people like The Polar Express? ›

Let's address the elephant in the room: a lot of people hate this movie. The most common complaint is that the animation makes the people look uncanny, and I get it. However, I don't think that's enough to dismiss all the great things about the movie.

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