The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg

Schools & Libraries

Dear Educator/Librarian:

The Polar Express is enjoyed the world over by children and adults of all ages and, after twenty-five years in publication, is still one of the most beloved and widely used books in classrooms across the country.

To help you share the magic of The Polar Express with your students, we have created a list of suggestions for using the book across the curriculum. See below for some ideas or use our more extensive discussion guide for extended activities, writing exercises, and ideas for group discussion.

Click here to download an extensive discussion guide for The Polar Express. Everything you need to use this holiday classic in your classroom is included.

Additional Curriculum Connections with The Polar Express

Creative Writing/Language Arts

  • Brainstorm winter words with the class.
  • Ask children to imagine their own magical midnight train ride and write about what they see on their journey and what their final destination looks like.
  • As a class, go through the book and pick out all of the adjectives and list them on a large sheet of paper. Do the same for the verbs and nouns.


  • As a way to begin using the book as the basis for a unit or simply as a treat for the children, host a Polar Express Party. Click here to download a complete party kit.


  • Have students locate the North Pole on a globe or map. They can research and write a short report on the landscape, climate, and other characteristics of the North Pole

Topics for Further Research

  • Polar ice cap
  • Northern lights
  • Reindeer
  • Weather and climate – what are the average high and low temps?


  • Have children draw what they would see out the window of the Polar Express on its way to the North Pole.


  • Give each child a bell. Play holiday songs to which they can ring the bells.
  • Break the kids into groups of four. Give each group a song and have them come up with a way to accompany it with their bells.

More Games & Fun

Discover activity sheets, games, recipes, and more to be used in the classroom and beyond.

Discussion Guides for all of Chris Van Allsburg’s books

We have a created an extensive library of discussion guides for all of Chris Van Allsburg’s titles. Every book has its own guide, complete with lesson plans and classroom activities. Click on the corresponding link below to download a pdf of the discussion guide.

The Polar Express Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
Jumanji Dicussion Guide:
PDF Version
Zathura Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
Bad Day at Riverbend Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
Ben’s Dream Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
Just a Dream Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Stranger Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Sweetest Fig Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Two Bad Ants Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Widow’s Broom Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Wreck of the Zephyr Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Wretched Stone Discussion Guide:
PDF Version
The Z Was Zapped Discussion Guide:
PDF Version