Polar Express Activity – Shape Train

This activity works well with these resources:

A family favorite book of mine during the holidays is  The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  And I just love the connections that his book has for reading, writing, and math.  And so I made a fun train project that focuses on shapes to use with your students for when you read this book.

The Polar Express is a classic story of one boy’s adventures traveling to the North Pole.  A train mysteriously arrives outside his bedroom on Christmas Eve to whisk him and other children away to see Santa and his elves.

It’s a great book to read if you teach about Christmas during your December holiday studies.  The kids love it too!  We tie in as many activities as we can from wearing jammies to sipping hot cocoa to making trains out of shapes.  Your students will be quickly caught up in this exciting and magical tale!

cut out train activity with free printable - polar express ideas

One of my favorite activities is making a free-standing cut-out train.  I like to review the shapes with the kiddos and have them pick out the shapes that make up the train. It’s a great math-literature connection. Students have such a blast creating their trains, they forget they’re learning!  (It’s also very STEM as they try to figure out how to make their train).



Click here to download the FREE Cut-Out Train Printable


  • Train sheet printed on card stock
  • paper towel rolls cut into 2 inch sections (2 per student) with a slit cut 1/2 way into each going 1/2 way down
  • scissors for students
  • crayons or markers for students


Have students complete the shape counting activity first. Next, color or decorate the train. Cut train out. Cover printed train wheels with cut paper towel rolls inserting the printed portion into the slits in the paper towel rolls. The train should stand up when finished.

cut out train activity with free printable - polar express ideas

Whether this is the one and only activity you do with the book or if it is one part of a whole Polar Express day, your students are sure to love it.

Do you have a favorite Polar Express or Christmas Activity? Comment below to tell us about it.



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