So when the two combine…heaven! The great thing is, now that the Little Helper is getting older, we can have her friends join us on our little adventures! That said, I have been spending a lot of time on Amazon recently. As you may know, they offered me my own special Letters from Santa Amazon favorites page last week you can take a peek at it here if you like. Having no experience in how to be an affiliate, I was completely stunned. But in a really cool way!
So, I have spent a lot of time looking at stuff they have that might make my life a little easier when it comes to planning some of our special Family Christmas Activities this year, and holey-moley! They have such neat stuff! I had no idea! So here is what I am going to do in this post — I am going to share my ideas and inspirations just like always, but I am going to also link to Amazon so that if you see something you might like, or might like to make, the items or materials are right at your fingertips.
I have been able to help Santa out like you would not believe. I have saved myself literally days of roaming the city trying to hunt down what the Little Helper asked Santa for by just popping onto Amazon for a few minutes here and there and adding things to my cart to mull over. Our local IMAX theatre plays it every December, and we watched it there on the big screen once, but the Little Helper inevitably wants to watch it at home instead.
This is actually okay with me, because it just flows a bit better from home unless you like going to the theatre in your pajamas! Set the Polar Express Mood! Remember to really set the mood by hanging a Polar Express poster in your viewing room!
A Polar Express Craft or Two.. Sometimes, we do a Polar Express craft before the movie to get ourselves in the mood. When the time comes, we make a giant bowl of popcorn, dim the lights, and watch the show! This year we are having friends join us so we are definitely going to start off with a couple of Polar Express Crafts!
The Little Helper always leaves a special ornament gift out for Santa on Christmas Eve, so I love having as many opportunities to make them during the holidays as possible. Students need a blank sheet of paper or use the dotted template below. They work in small groups and take turns rolling a die to make a Christmas tree, including the top, the middle, the bottom, the tree trunk, the star on the top and at least 6 ornaments. When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket.
Heartbroken, he is returned to his home. Inside is the silver bell! The boy and his sister are enchanted by its beautiful sound, but their parents cannot hear it. The boy continues to believe in the spirit of Christmas and is able to hear the sweet ringing of the bell even as an adult. This book in particular captures the magic of childhood with sensitivity and grace.
The warm and vivid color pastels create expressive characters and scenes that are very much alive. This is a book to return to year after year. The vivid visual world of The Polar Express is evoked by the text as well as by the pictures.
Van Allsburg constructs a distinct sense of place, infused with magic by his skillful use of metaphor and simile. The train is "wrapped in an apron of steam," and the children drink hot cocoa "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars. The Polar Express describes a journey both literal and symbolic that brings about transformation for the characters and the reader as well, a consistant theme in Van Allsburg's work. In The Polar Express, Van Allsburg chooses an object to represent an idea: the silver bell symbolizes not only a belief in magic, but a kind of joyful openheartedness that many children have and that many grown people have forgotten.
For example, the reindeer "pranced and paced, ringing the silver bells that hung from their harnesses. This type of description provides a wonderful model for children who are working on writing fresh and unusual descriptions. He writes,"the train thundered through the quiet wilderness," describing the striking contrast of the thundering train and the quiet woods. It can be helpful to examine his descriptions of the setting which changes as the train makes its way to the North Pole , as it can be useful in the context of both reading and writing.
When we are reading, for example, we can gather information about the story by paying close attention to the setting. It helps make the world of the story real for us. Because this story describes a journey with a clear beginning, middle, and end, it is an excellent story to use with younger children who are working on retelling a story.
Children must be taught to fully absorb a story in order to develop theories and make meaning of the text. Retelling the story helps children not only remember what happened but also to choose the important parts and sequence them. This story is particularly suited to this activity: it has a clear storyline and many details, providing an opportunity for students to practice sifting through information to find important structural elements.
Below you will find several ideas for how you might undertake a Polar Express reading and celebration in your classroom as well as some guiding questions aimed to develop rich conversation when discussing the book with your students.
Below each lesson are ideas for adapting the lessons for use with older or younger children, and some suggestions for expanding the lessons. Ideas for a Polar Express Reading Celebration! Invite students and their families, if you wish to come to school in the morning in their pajamas. Your students will be delighted if you join them in this endeavor! Sit all together in a cozy spot in your classroom or the school library and read the book aloud.
Follow the read-aloud with a book conversation see sample guiding questions for a Polar Express book talk below. Add to the magic by celebrating with hot cocoa "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars" and candy with nougat centers "as white as snow.
Younger children will be thrilled if, on the day of the reading, you set up their chairs in two rows like the seats of a train. Give the students train tickets, which you will collect as you invite them to take a seat on The Polar Express. You can even ask them to buckle themselves in. This kind of dramatization invites young readers into the magic of the story in an accessible, tangible way. In the days leading up to the reading, using a roll of craft paper, make a train mural for your hallway or classroom.
How would you describe the mood of the book? What was your favorite part? Have you ever rode in a train before? You can use it in a pocket chart. You may want to make many and have the students take them to their desks to complete.
This is a book to return to year after year.
So when the two combine…heaven! The boy can ask Santa Claus for anything in the world. Tell your students that when you are making a timeline, you do not need to write complete sentences, just notes to yourself to help you remember.