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All Aboard: Fun and Engaging Polar Express Activities for Upper Elementary Students

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The holiday season is the perfect time to add some Polar Express activities and embark on a magical journey through the pages of “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg. This beloved children’s book tells the story of a young boy who embarks on a wondrous adventure to the North Pole on a magical train. It’s not just a heartwarming tale; it’s also a fantastic educational tool for upper elementary students. Now you may be thinking, “The Polar Express,” upper elementary!?! WHAT!?! There is no way that book can translate to upper elementary skills. But I promise you, once you dive into this blog post, you’ll see how many you can do, and it isn’t just a one-page Polar Express worksheet either! 

Summary of The Polar Express

The story of  “The Polar Express” is a classic children’s book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. It tells the story of a young boy awakened on Christmas Eve by the sound of a train outside his window. He boards the train, bound for the North Pole, and embarks on a magical adventure. At the North Pole, he is chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas, a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Through this enchanting journey, the boy learns the true spirit of Christmas and the Christmas season.

Transforming The Polar Express for Older Students

While “The Polar Express” is often associated with younger children, it can be a great addition to upper elementary lesson plans. The rich narrative and depth of the story provide ample opportunities for critical thinking and close reading. By incorporating various Polar Express activities, you can engage older students in meaningfully exploring the text. I promise you won’t want just to use one Polar Express worksheet when you can use a bunch to cover multiple skills! It’s always great when you can get a printable pack that covers everything you need, isn’t it? A Polar Express day can be just as fun in the upper elementary classrooms as in the primary classrooms. 

Comprehension Practice 

Just like with my cause and effect lesson that goes along with “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” You can engage students with comprehension practice worksheets that dive into character traits, story elements, text connections, visualization, sequencing, and the overall message of the book. It’s important to look at this book from an upper elementary standpoint. They have so many comprehension skills that can be used with this holiday classic! It’s not just about “right there” questions anymore. 

Vocabulary and Grammar Exploration

The story is filled with lots of vocabulary words related to the holiday season, the North Pole, and the magical train ride. Students can create a vocabulary train and match each definition to the correct word, complete a crossword, write sentences, and more. Plus, there is even a Polar Express worksheet focused primarily on parts and speech. 

polar express activities

Book Reflection

When it comes to upper elementary, we want to read books that students enjoy, and the Christmas season is the perfect time to enjoy “The Polar Express.” Engage students with a book reflection and review. It’s the easiest way to get students to wrap up all of the fun and give their opinion on whether they enjoyed the book or not. 

polar express activities

Polar Express Flipbook

Provide an engaging hands-on activity where students can create a flipbook to show their comprehension of the book. Students will write about the characters, problem, solution, and the setting. Once done, they can put it together and color it! 

Polar Express Sequencing Train

If you are looking for a way to get your upper elementary students moving. Why not try a sequencing train? Students are given a piece of the train, and they must work together to put the events back in order. Not only is this a quick and fun activity. It gets students moving and working together!

polar express activities

Polar Express Party

If you are looking for a fun way to celebrate the days before holiday break, winter break, or the hard work your students have put in over the last couple of months. Transform your classroom into a winter wonderland and bring the magic of “The Polar Express” to life with a Polar Express Party!

Invite students with golden tickets and encourage them to wear cozy pajamas for this festive event. Create activity stations, including a hot cocoa corner, a ticket-making station, and a cozy reading nook for storytime. 

Organize a silver bell hunt and let students exchange train tickets for small treats at various stations. Enhance the experience with holiday-themed snacks and the sound of a train in the background. The Polar Express Party is not just a celebration; it’s a magical journey that combines the joy of the season with the enchantment of a beloved children’s story. Plus, the Polar Express movie is a great way to end the day and a relaxing one, too! 

With the right resources and creative lesson plan supplements, “The Polar Express” can be a valuable tool for upper elementary students. It’s a wonderful book that not only brings the magic of Christmas to life but also offers a wide range of educational opportunities. By incorporating Polar Express worksheets and activities, you can make the holiday season a time of both joy and learning for older children.

Happy teaching and happy holidays!

Melissa Mazur

Melissa Mazur

My name is Melissa and I am an educator, blogger, and curriculum designer.
I’m here to help offer you teaching tips and low-prep resources to help take some of the burdens off you so you can do what you do best – teach!

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learning lab resources- about

Oh hey there!

My name is Melissa and I am an educator, blogger, and curriculum designer.
I’m here to help offer you teaching tips and low-prep resources to help take some of the burdens off you so you can do what you do best – teach!  

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