Polar Express Day: Unique Ideas to Create Memories Your Students Will Adore (2024)

Inside: Looking to sprinkle some holiday magic in your classroom? This post offers unique ways to celebrate Polar Express Day and create lasting memories with your students.

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If you’re looking to add a little extra holiday magic to your classroom this season, Polar Express Day might just be what you’re seeking. In this blog post, you’ll find truly special ways to create lasting memories with your students.

So grab your ticket and get ready for a journey to the North Pole!

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Table of Contents

All Aboard! Polar Express Day Basics

If you aren’t familiar with The Polar Express, allow me to introduce it to you. It’s a delightful children’s picture book written by Chris Van Allsburg. It tells the story of a young boy grappling with his belief in Santa Claus, who then embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole.

The book was adapted into a movie (of the same name) which is widely loved- even if the animations can be slightly… eerie. (But hey, that’s just my opinion and a topic for another day, lol). In any case, both the book and the movie are fabulous resources for classroom activities around Christmas. Reading the story and watching the film provide endless opportunities for both learning and fun.

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Set the Scene for a Magical Polar Express Day

To make Polar Express Day truly memorable and meaningful for your students, you need to go beyond just reading the book, watching the movie, and doing a couple of related worksheets. This is an opportunity to create an event that your students will remember for years to come! The first step- creating the right atmosphere. ✨

Choo-Choo Changes

One of the easiest ways to make a big impression on your students is to arrange the classroom chairs into rows like train seats. Students become so excited when they walk in and see the new arrangement, feeling like they’re sitting on a real train(ish)!

Enhance the festive feel by decorating with twinkling lights and handmade snowflakes. Making the snowflakes with your students can be a fun extra activity, reinforcing fine motor skills, following directions, and spatial awareness. If you’re interested in the value of classroom crafts, check out my blog post, 9 Reasons Why Educational Crafts ARE Worth Your Time.

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Set the mood on Polar Express Day by dimming the lights and displaying a Yule log on your interactive whiteboard as students enter. Consider playing the sounds of a train in the background to make the experience even more authentic.

Pajama Day- Yay!

Since the children in the book depart for the North Pole on The Polar Express in their pajamas, make Polar Express Day extra special by inviting your students to wear pajamas to school. Be sure to send a letter home to the families, including the date of the event and any guidelines for choosing pajamas. In my school, for example, students were not allowed to wear slippers with their pajamas.

You can grab a free, editable copy of my Polar Express Day letter to send home by clicking here.

A Ticket to Ride

To enhance the excitement, print “train” tickets for your students. Hand them out to grant admission to Polar Express Day. The ticket is a significant element in “The Polar Express” movie, so this touch adds something special. If you have a hole puncher, punch the tickets as the students hand them to you as they enter the room.

Editable tickets are available in my Polar Express freebie resource. Customize them with your class or school name, and students can keep the tickets as a memento.

Hot, hot! Say, we got it: Sweet Treats to Delight

Bring “The Polar Express” experience to life by serving some delicious treats to your kiddos as they watch the movie! You can make hot chocolate with an electric tea kettle or by heating chocolate milk in a crockpot.

Offer marshmallows, whipped cream, cinnamon, and other yummy toppings- but be sure to check for allergies and dietary restrictions, first.

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The simple joy of transforming your classroom into a train car, complete with tickets, treats, and pajamas, will make Polar Express Day an unforgettable experience for your students. It’s not just about reading a book or watching a movie; it’s about creating lasting memories that your students will cherish long after the holiday season.

Learning Beyond the Screen

Polar Express Day isn’t just about enjoying the book and movie. I mean… it is school, after all. Use this as an opportunity to engage students in meaningful activities that reinforce core learning concepts. Here are some ideas for making this day magical and educational for your kids.

Comparing Tracks with a Movie vs. Book Comparison

Have your students compare and contrast the Polar Express movie and book by using a Venn diagram on chart paper. This activity encourages critical thinking, and visualizing the similarities and differences makes the ideas more concrete.

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Digger Deeper with Character Analysis

Encourage students to dig deep and analyze the characters from the movie. Encourage students to consider both inside traits (feelings, thoughts) and outside traits (appearance) for a deeper understanding of character development.

Here’s a list of the main characters for your students to analyze: the boy, the conductor, Santa Claus, the hobo, the girl

Train of Thought with a Sequencing Activity

Help students retell the Polar Express story by focusing on the sequence of events.

Write or draw the main events onto sentence strips or sheets of paper and work as a whole or small group to put them in order and use them to retell the story.

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Here are some events from the movie to help you get started:

  • The Boy boards the Polar Express.
  • The train picks up more children.
  • They enjoy hot chocolate.
  • The ticket gets lost and found.
  • They arrive at the North Pole.
  • The Boy meets Santa Claus.
  • The Boy receives a bell as a gift.
  • The Boy loses the bell.
  • The children return home.
  • The boy finds the bell under his tree.

Counting on the Polar Express with Themed Math Problems

Tie math into your Polar Express Day festivities. Have the students create Polar Express-themed math problems. Provide them with a keyword bank and some word problem frames for students who need support.

Here are some words to consider providing:

  • Train
  • Conductor
  • North Pole
  • Presents
  • Bells
  • Elves
  • Reindeer
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Here are some examples of word problem frames for addition and subtraction:

  • Addition: “If the train picks up ___ children at the first stop and ___ children at the next, how many children are on the Polar Express?”
  • Subtraction: “There were ___ bells in Santa’s workshop. After packing ___ bells in the presents, how many bells are left?”

Charting Santa’s Domain – Crafting North Pole Maps

Have students create a map of the North Pole, making sure to include specific places from the movie like:

  • Santa’s Workshop
  • The Elf Village
  • The Reindeer Barn
  • The Christmas Tree Square
  • The Train Tracks

Remind students to include a map key and encourage creativity when they are illustrating the locations.

These activities are sure to keep your students engaged and deepen their understanding of the story, characters, and themes of the Polar Express. Combining art, language, and math, you can make Polar Express Day a rich learning experience that your students will treasure.

Bells and Elves to Make it Magical

And now for the best part… the part that ties a bow on this amazing day. THIS is what will make your students remember this day for years to come.

Here’s what you’re going to do. Prepare and “deliver” a package “from the North Pole”. Trust me, this will leave your students in awe.

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  1. Prepare the Bells: Purchase enough bells for each student from a craft store or dollar store. Make sure they all ring!
  2. Wrap and Pack: Wrap the bells in festive tissue paper and pack them into a blank cardboard box along with a Letter from Santa. You can grab an editable Letter from Santa for free by downloading my Polar Express freebie!
  3. Label the Box: Remove ALL labels from the box and attach a custom “Fed Elf Express” label, which you can edit and print from the freebie link provided. I designed it to look legit! (It’s the little details that matter, right?!)
  4. Chill the Package: On Polar Express Day, stick the box in the staff room freezer or refrigerator. This will make the package feel authentically cold from the North Pole.
  5. Coordinate Delivery: Ask a secretary or (another staff member) in the main office to grab the box from the freezer and call your classroom at a predetermined time (ideally when your class finishes watching the movie) to announce the FREEZING cold package’s arrival. For an added bonus, have them say it was dropped off by ELVES! (This is when your class will start to go NUTS).
  6. Retrieve the Package: Send a couple of students down to get it, and if they have gloves or mittens, have them wear them. The icy feel of the box will enhance the magic!
  7. Unbox and Enjoy: Let the students unwrap the package and discover their bells, each one a special keepsake from this memorable day.

The thrilled faces, the chime of the bells, and the excitement in the room will make this surprise an unforgettable part of your Polar Express Day celebration. It’s these unique touches that turn an ordinary school day into something truly magical.

This magical package from the North Pole adds an extraordinary touch to your Polar Express Day, creating a memorable experience that your students will cherish. Make sure to download the free editable label and other materials from this link to complete the experience!

Wrapping Up This Most Special Gift

Polar Express Day is more than an excuse to wear pajamas and watch a movie in class. It’s a joyful and educational journey that nurtures creativity, critical thinking, and the spirit of the season. From the atmospheric setup to engaging activities and magical surprises, you now have everything you need to create a memorable Polar Express Day.

Don’t miss the chance to make this holiday season truly special. Download the freebie that includes everything you need to make Polar Express Day a magical experience. Believe in the magic of Christmas and create memories your students will adore!

And if you’re looking for more ways to make this time of year extra special (and fun) for your kiddos, be sure to check out my blog post, 7 Delightful Gingerbread Activities You Can Use to Make Winter More Fun.

Merry Christmas!

Polar Express Day: Unique Ideas to Create Memories Your Students Will Adore (2024)


What was unique about Polar Express? ›

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 does the kid wish for in Polar Express? ›

Realizing he could choose anything in the world, the boy asks for a bell from Santa's sleigh. An elf cuts a bell from one of the reindeer's harnesses. The boy places the bell in the pocket of his robe and all the children watch as Santa takes off into the night for his annual deliveries.

What are the messages in 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 the message of the Polar Express book? ›

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.

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 makes The Polar Express so good? ›

Relatable Characters

The main boy learns how to believe, the girl learns to be a leader to others, and Billy learns the meaning of friendship and how he is never truly alone. These are all good lessons for young children, and seeing characters that they can relate to is a great way for those teachings to be learned.

What is The Polar Express about summary? ›

Is The Polar Express for kids? ›

The young boy and the train conductor in The Polar Express. The Polar Express turns 20 next year, and though many argue if it deserves a spot in the best Christmas movies of all time list, it's definitely one that is great for the whole family.

Is The Polar Express just the kids dream? ›

Even then, the bell only working for certain people strays back into the fantastic, firmly giving weight to the fact that the train ride actually took place. However, the story wasn't a dream, as the main character tells Billy, and the bell at the end proves it.

What lessons does The Polar Express teach? ›

The film followed a young doubtful boy who got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a trip to the North Pole via a magical train, the Polar Express. The boy learned to not only believe in the magic of Santa Claus but also in himself.

What is the most famous quote from The Polar Express? ›

The quote from The Polar Express, "Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe," encapsulates the timeless message of the power of belief and the magic of Christmas.

What does the ghost symbolize in Polar Express? ›

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. His backstory was cut from the original film as the creators thought the film had a better flow without it.

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 inspired The Polar Express? ›

Here's the scoop: The animation team modeled The Polar Express locomotive after Pere Marquette Railway No. 1225, which is 2-8-4 Berkshire wheel arrangement built by the Lima Locomotive Works in October 1941. The locomotive is part of the PM's N-1 class.

Why was Polar Express controversial? ›

The animation in The Polar Express has been criticized as creepy, with the characters feeling unsettling and off-putting to many viewers. The movie evokes a nostalgic feeling of Christmas, with its focus on the importance of belief and the magic of the holiday season.

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.

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.

What was the point of the hobo in The Polar Express? ›

Hobo – The Hobo is a magical and ghostly character who inhabits the roof of the train and understands the true meaning of Christmas. He plays Devil's Advocate to test the strength of the Hero Boy's skepticism about Santa throughout the film.

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