The Polar Express Book and Movie WebQuest
                     Dr. Pam Petty and  Block 1 Students, Fall 2004


Christmas - Santa - magic!  Welcome to the world of Chris Van Allsburg. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the north pole? How about going on a magical train ride to the North Pole? Well, hold on because here we go!!




Task 1:  Vocabulary Development: 

One great thing that reading a new book does is introduce is to new words.  The following table lists 12 words that you will find in The Polar Express.  Some words you may already know and some words may be new to you. 

A.  Please read these words and fill in the following chart before proceeding to the next vocabulary exercises.

 barren  conductor  desert  flickered  harness  lurch
  midnight nougat   ocean liner   paced pranced rustle

B.  To view these vocabulary words and their definitions on flash cards, please visit this site:

C.  To do a "search a word" with these words, please visit this site:

Self-checking for the word search:

D.  Further vocabulary study can be done using a Word Study Journal

E.  Explore vocabulary words with semantic gradients using WORD SCALES:

F.  Extend depth of vocabulary learning with Lexical Extensions grid:

G.  Categorizing concepts related to vocabulary words can be done with a Semantic Feature Analysis Chart.  An example for The Polar Express is located here:






1)  Pre-reading strategies provide activation of background knowledge and should serve to motivate children to want to read the selection.  Here are some ideas for pre-reading:

1)  As a class the teacher could have a printout of a train with engine, cars, and caboose. Then she/he could have sections from the book and the students could try to put the book sections in sequential order as they think the story will proceed. Then during the reading, the students could check their train and see if their ideas of order were correct.  Adrianne




During Reading



Post Reading

Task Writing Connection

In the book the bell symbolized the boys youth and innocence.  Many of us have artifacts from our childhoods that take us back to a time when we believed in magic and the simplicity of looking at like through the eyes of a child.  Follow the P.O.W.E.R.S. writing process to respond to this writing prompt:





1. If you were a child on the Polar Express, what do you think you would see as you looked out the windows?





During Viewing

1. Tell why you would want Santa to choose you as the child to give the first gift of Christmas and what you would ask for.



Post Viewing

After viewing strategies provide opportunities to extend understanding of the plot, sub-plots and themes in a movie. 

Writing in response to viewing is a good way to provide people with opportunities to share their personal thoughts and feelings.    Follow the P.O.W.E.R.S. writing process to respond to this writing prompt:

  1. If you were to give the first gift of Christmas, who would you give it to and what would you give?  Why?
  2. If you received the first gift of Christmas, what would you ask for?  Why?
  3. If you were the conductor for the Polar Express, who would you take with you to the North Pole? Why?



Children's Literature:  Christmas stories, poems, books

 The Night Before Christmas: Poem
by Clement Clarke Moore, Jan Brett



  Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
by Jan Brett
The Wild Christmas Reindeer
by Jan Brett
A Cup of Christmas Tea
by Tom Hegg (Illustrator), Warren Hanson
Papa's Christmas Gift
by Cheryl Harness
A Moon in my Teacup - Anita Riggio

Christmas Fairy Tales
by Neil Philip, Isabelle Brent
The Christmas Crocodile
by Bonny Becker







On-Line Resources:

Taking the Polar Express to Learning:

Chris Van Allsburg WebQuest:

The Polar Express Unit and Theme:

Trailer for The Polar Express movie:

The Polar Express movie information:



Polar Express Adventure (on-line game): (fabulous!)

Math with The Polar Express:


Other ideas for movie/book connections:

1)  Do you remember at the beginning of the movie, the scene of the snowman in the front yard? It might be fun to have a name that snowman contest. Children could vote on which name they liked best, or they could take their name and write a poem. Another idea would be to write a story from his point of view about what he thought might happen to the little boy.

2)  When I was in a first grade classroom as an instructional assistant one of the things we would do every year before Christmas was to go on a Polar Express train ride. We would make up tickets and provide the students with play money to purchase those tickets. They would then go to the ticket booth and purchase a ticket from the ticketmaster. They had to count out the money themselves. If they counted their change incorrectly they would have to go to the back of the line until they got it right. You better believe they were very concerned about counting the money correctly the second time around.

We would have hats that the ticketmaster and the conductor would wear.

The ticketmaster would sell the tickets. The conductor would take up the tickets. If the student did not purchase a ticket they could not get on the train. In the middle of the room their were rows of chairs which represented the Polar Express. After each student purchased their ticket and gave their ticket to the ticketmaster they would have a seat on our pretend Polar Express Train. We would have the conductor shout, " All aboard." Then off we would go. The teacher would read the the Polar Express book while I served warm hot chocolate to our students. It was a lot of fun. I plan on doing this in my classroom one day.  Lisa Henton

11/27/2004 03:34:23 PM -0600   Hit Counter