I still remember the first time I saw “The Polar Express” as a child. The movie seemed so vivid and magical that for days I seemed to play “The Polar Express” in my backyard.
As a teacher, I realize just how magical and impactful the “The Polar Express” book and the movie are.
As a Student Teacher, I first witnessed my first magical Polar Express Party with my Kindergarten students. My mentor had a natural knack for bringing the book to life for our students. The students seemed so engrossed in the awe behind it all that they didn’t even realize that they were learning.
Once I got my classroom, I wanted to create my own Polar Express Party for my students. In years passed, my students have enjoyed our “The Polar Express” party. Filled with Hot Chocolate, Pajamas, and Golden Tickets.
This year I worried that my Polar Express Party would end due to Distance Learning. Determined, however, I decided to adapt the party into a Digital Party.
Just because the world is different right now, doesn’t mean we can’t create amazing memories. That’s why I wanted to share my 5 Digital Polar Express Activities I will be doing this winter to keep the ritual going.
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“The Polar Express” Book or Movie
To start the day, you can read the “The Polar Express” book by Chris Van Allsburg. I found the book on Amazon if you don’t have a copy yet.
Another way to start the day is to have your students watch the movie. In order to do this, I make sure to have the Administration’s approval before we watch the movie. If you do not have access to the movie I found the movie on Amazon as well.
I personally always have my students watch the movie because it seems more engaging. You are welcome to do whichever way you prefer. However, this is what my party is going to like this year:
A couple of weeks before the party, I notify families that we will be wearing our pajamas for our Holiday Party.
I typically plan out the year so that this is a party that they can earn.
(If you want to read more about what parties I am doing in my classroom this year while Distance Learning, you can check out “ClassDojo Rewards while Distance Learning.”)
Allowing the students to wear pajamas allows them to feel more involved with the “Polar Express.” Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good Pajama day?
Typically for our “The Polar Express” Party, I meet the students outside of the classroom with their golden tickets.
When I meet the students outside of the classroom I like to whole punch their first letter in their name into their ticket.
However, since we are Distance Learning this year I am just sending their ticket pre-whole punched in a goody bag.
This is their ticket to “aboard the Polar Express.” Or in other words to watch the movie. Again I love this idea because it brings the story to life for my students.
Hot Chocolate and a Cookie
In years past I pause the movie during the Hot Chocolate scene and hand out hot chocolate and a cookie.
My students always enjoyed this because just like the ticket, they feel like they are actually in the story.
This year, however, I am still handing out hot chocolate but I am sending it in a goody bag for them to make at home.
However, I am not handing out a cookie with the goody bag because I couldn’t guarantee the cookie wouldn’t expire by the time our party came around. But if you can hand out cookies to your students you are certainly welcome to!
A Single Jingle Bell
At the end of the story, I typically hand out a single Jingle Bell to my students. This is relevant because (Spoiler Alert) at the end of the Polar Express the boy hears the bell Jingle. Which means he believes.
I love handing out the bell because it’s a great way to wrap up the movie. That and students have something to hold onto for years to come.
Disclaimer: Make sure the bell works! Yes, I have had some that didn’t work which I am so glad I had extra.
The only ones I found at my local Walmart were these red ones. However, I found some gold ones to match the movie for super cheap on Amazon. I’m having those shipped to my house as we speak.
Overall I like incorporating these three elements as we watch the movie because my goal is to make the story as realistic and relatable as possible for my students.
“The Polar Express” Writing Activity
After we watch “The Polar Express,” I like to have my students write about the movie.
That way we can incorporate learning into the activities and my students love to share about their favorite parts.
There were a couple of writing activities online that I found, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. So I created my writing activities that you are welcome to use.
In my classroom, I have a lot of students at different levels of writing. Some are phonetically spelling while others are still dictating through drawing.
That’s why I created different levels of writing worksheets. This allows me to differentiate the work of my students.
I also made them digital, so if I can’t hand them out in a packet, my students can always type or draw their answers through Google Slides.
Either way, I can print them out or assign them to my students on Google Classroom.
You are welcome to use or find your own. Or you are welcome to check out my writing worksheets.
“The Polar Express” Digital Activities
I also wanted to take my students’ learning a step further. That’s why after the writing activity my students are going to use Digital Activities to review what we are learning in class.
As I was looking for engaging digital activities for my students I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.
So I created these digital activities.
These activities are made on Google Slides and they are Drag and Drop. And the background stays in place. That way I don’t have to worry about my students messing up the background and directions.
I love assigning the letters we have learned so far in class to my students as a review of letter identification.
For this activity, I assign my students the numbers we have covered in class. Much like the Letter Recognition Activity this Activity is Drag and Drop in Google Slides.
I assign this to my students and it is great for them to show me their one to one correspondence.
You are welcome to check out these activities that I made or use other ones. These are just convenient for me because they cover exactly what we are going over in class.
“The Polar Express” Scavenger Hunt
The next activity I use in class is “The Polar Express” Scavenger Hunt. My students love this because they love competing to see who finds the most bells.
For this activity, I have numbers 1-20 on the bells. I hide them around the classroom (or home depending). My students then try to find all 20.
I love using this activity because they are working on number recognition in a fun and engaging way.
You are welcome to make your scavenger hunt or you can get mine for free by clicking here or down below.
Much like I did for “Pete the Cat and The Five Little Pumpkins” my scavenger hunt will lead to our next Polar Express Distance Learning Activity: a science experiment.
After students find number 20 in the scavenger hunt, I usually have the science experiment prepped and ready to go. That way it’s a nice transition to the final activity and I don’t have to worry about pausing to set things up.
Many people probably think it would be impossible to do science experiments while distance learning. However, much like the “Sneezy the Snowman Experiments” I talked about, you can always demonstrate the experiment through Google Hangouts or Zoom.
I have a couple of Snowman Science Experiments that I talk about in “Wonderful Winter “Sneezy the Snowman” Distance Learning Activities” that you are welcome to check out. However, I wanted the “The Polar Express” Experiments to be different.
Jingle Bells Magnet
The first one I found that would be amazing to do is “Magnets with Jingle Bells” by Fun-a-Day.
Since students will already have a bell from me, I thought this would be a great experiment because it doesn’t require much more materials.
For this experiment students will need:
- Popsicle sticks
- Mini Round Magnets
- Jingle Bells
In this experiment, students explore with the magnets and jingle bells and how they are magnetic.
Disclaimer: You may want to be cautious using this experiment with computers.
Fake Snow Slime
Another experiment that might be good for Polar Express is Fake Snow Slime by Little Bins for Little Hands.
I think this might be the one I do personally because my students love slime and we haven’t done any slime yet.
For this experiment students will need:
- Elmer’s Washable Glue
- Fake Snow
In order for this experiment to work, you can either have students mix the materials with the adults or do it yourself.
The final experiment, much like the snow slime, is to create Snow Dough by the Imagination Tree.
This experiment is great because it allows students to participate in sensory play. Plus it only uses three ingredients:
- Corn Starch
- Vegetable Oil
- Silver Glitter
For this experiment, I would do a demonstration on making it. Meanwhile, I would either have students follow along, or open up their goody bag to play with their very own Snow Dough.
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Overall you can make “The Polar Express” a magical time of year for your students. Even if you are Distance Learning. In this article we talked about utilizing the following tools to make your Polar Express Party come to life:
- “The Polar Express” Book or “The Polar Express” Movie
- Golden Tickets
- Hot Chocolate
- Pajama Party
- Jingle Bells
- “The Polar Express” Writing Activity
- Digital Activities
- “The Polar Express” Scavenger Hunt
- Magnets and Jingle Bells Experiment
- Fake Snow Slime Experiment
- Snow Dough Experiment
As a little girl, I loved books. Therefore it’s been my passion to bring books to life for students so that they may realize the magic behind them.
This is such a magical time of year for students. And even though this may year may look different, we can still preserve the magic this time of year brings.
I hope this post helped give you some ideas on what you can do this winter, and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this magical holiday season. I love putting all of my ideas for books into one place with hopes that another teacher might be able to use these ideas. And save some time and focus on what matters most.
What are you doing this holiday season for your students? Any ideas I didn’t mention? Let’s make a huge list for other teachers to use by commenting down below.
Because together we are stronger.
Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you!