The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Beautifully illustrated story of a young boy's night time journey on the Polar Express Train to the North Pole, and a silver bell that rings for those who believe.

Here you will find resources, activities, and lessons for The Polar Express, a wonderful children's classic!


Activities & Lessons:

To begin:

Introduce vocabulary to the students and have them guess what the story will be about based on the words. 

Tell students they will go on a trip on the Polar Express and give them train tickets for their journey (download here).  Add your own text to the text box on tickets (ex: children's names, class name, destination, etc.)



rustle hissing conductor vest
aboard North Pole outstretched nightgowns
Christmas carols nougat flickered lean
peaks valleys barren ocean liner
elves pranced harnesses sleigh
team lurch    

Polar Express Word Search

Polar Express Crossword

After watching the movie, compare and contrast the book to the movie using a Venn Diagram.

Reader's Response Bookmark - have students respond to the prompts on the bookmark in their reader's response notebook (or whatever other system you use).

Story Strips to Sequence - Put on sentence strips

Story Book from Ms. McGowan - For students to color.

Fill out the story map for the book.


Letter to Santa - Use the reproducible to write a letter to Santa

Imagery - The author uses lots of imagery to help set the setting and action. Download the cards and distribute to students. Have each student draw a visual of phrase on their card to illustrate what the author is trying to say.  Remind students to practice using imagery when they do their own writing.

Metaphors/Similes - The author uses metaphors and similes to make the story more exciting instead of using plain and boring language. Remind students to use metaphors and similes in their writing to make their stories pop!

Write a news article about the Polar Express, answering the 5 W's: who, what, where, when, and why.


Graph the following:

  • Who believes in Santa Claus?
  • Who has traveled on a train?
  • Who celebrates Christmas?
  • What's your favorite holiday?

Complete these Polar Express math problems.

Practice telling time using hands-on clocks.

Polar Express Webquest

The Polar Express - Read online by Lou Diamond Phillips

Social Studies/Science:
  • Geography - locate the North Pole
  • Science - What is the Great Polar Ice Cap?
  • Study the polar regions and animals that live there
  • Polar Express - Exploring the polar regions student activity sheet
  • The water cycle - how is snow created?
  • Study reindeer and their life cycle
  • Learn about trains as a form of transportation
  • Children in this country believe in Santa Claus. In other countries or cultures, children believe in other figures.  Read stories on the Three Kings, Old Befana, etc.


Other Resources from BTC:

More Resources:

The Polar Express Teacher's Guide Polar Express Teaching Theme Polar Expressions Polar Express Activity Favorites
Kid Party Ideas for Polar Express Polar Express Lesson Idea Polar Express Ideas  


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