The Polar Express Lesson Plan
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
About this book
I use The Polar Express for a Chris Van Allsburg author study and also as a read-aloud. My students love this story and the illustrations. They like talking about what they would ask Santa for as a gift.
Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; and for personal fulfillment.
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- Chart paper or an interactive whiteboard
A Closer Look
Step 1: The Polar Express is known for its award-winning illustrations. Have your students examine the illustrations in the book, calling attention to the perspective and viewpoint of each.
Step 2: Now discuss the word choices that author Chris Van Allsburg used to make the story more interesting. For example, the train was “wrapped in an apron of steam” and moved as “fast as a car on a roller coaster.” List them on chart paper or on an interactive whiteboard.
If You Were Him…
Step 1: The main character is bestowed with a silver bell as the “first gift of Christmas.” Ask your students to consider what they would wish for if they received the first gift.
Step 2: Have children write about and illustrate their choices.
Retelling the Story
Step 1: Have students retell the story of The Polar Express and record it as a podcast. If using a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you could use GarageBand (which should already be loaded on your device) to record and edit your podcast for free. If using a PC, download Audacity, also free.
Step 2: Model how to read with expression and assign pages for students to read.
Step 3: Share the final podcast online with parents or other classes.
- Students can write about the main character’s special day using their own words, as if writing a blog entry. Consider publishing the blog posts with Edublogs.org or Kidblog.org. (See Alycia Zimmerman’s “Persuasive Writing 21st Century Style, Part 1 — Blogging” post for more on using blogs in the classroom.)
- Have students write new versions of the story, replacing the Santa and Christmas theme with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, The Black Snowman, etc.