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)


What does the Polar Express teach? ›

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 summary of the Polar Express? ›

How famous is the Polar Express? ›

Later re-releases helped propel the film's gross to $318.2 million worldwide, and it was later listed in the 2006 Guinness World Records as the first all-digital capture film. The Polar Express was also the last film appearance for Michael Jeter before his death in 2003 and is dedicated to his memory.

How old is the Polar Express story? ›

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 are the 6 role Polar Express? ›

The Polar Express (2004) - Tom Hanks as Hero Boy, Father, Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge, Santa Claus - IMDb.

What is the message behind The Polar Express? ›

The movie is trying to convey to the audience that it's not about what you see and how things work, it's about choosing to believe in the magic of the world. The power that choice to believe has is where the magic of childlike wonder comes from and is something people seem to forget when they grow into adulthood.

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 is an interesting fact about The 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 ghost in Polar Express represent? ›

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 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 is The Polar Express so good? ›

Despite its flaws, the Polar Express has some neat scenes with a beautiful Christmas message. There are some clever animations with, for its time, eye-pleasing CGI tricks and angles you can't recreate in real life.

Why does Tom Hanks play everyone in Polar Express? ›

But because of the emerging CGI technology of the time, they realised they could simply create new characters as they went “and have any performer perform that part”. And it turns out that in most cases, “any performer” was Tom Hanks.

What is the plot in Polar Express? ›

Was the mom in Polar Express pregnant? ›

This is clued in by Tom Hanks playing all these people. However, that misses some minor foreshadowing. The mother is pregnant. The detail only appears for three seconds when the boy is looking through his keyhole to spy on what his sister is saying to their parents.

What happens at the end of The Polar Express? ›

They return safely to their homes in time for Christmas Day, and the boy finds the Christmas Present from Santa beneath his tree, after which the story concludes.

What is the spiritual meaning behind The Polar Express? ›

The main character of the film is a stand-in for each of us. He once believed in the Eternal, but only as a child. He is growing weary, becoming skeptical and suspicious of the mystery of Christmas, particularly in Santa Clause.

What is the point of the homeless guy 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 Polar Express an allegory for? ›

The story of The Polar Express subtly shares the gospel while it tells the tale of four children who board a train bound for a round trip to the North Pole, and as they trek northward, they encounter various trials along the way. That aspect of the story symbolizes the journey of life.

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