Polar Express, Gingerbread, Santa writing, and cute crafts!

What a fun month! I love December and so wish we had more school during this month because there is so much I want to do that I don't get to. 

 We had soooo much fun doing our Polar Express unit. We didn't have time to squeeze it all in because I waited too long to start. I always forget how much time the Christmas Pageant takes up!  I'll be prepared next year. I was so not good about taking pictures while the kids were working, but I took a few shots of some finished stuff. Here are our Polar Express sequencing trains. This is the front part when it's all folded up.

 When you open it up (sort of accordion style), this is what it look like. There is the cover and the first two events from the story. 

 When you flip it over, this is what you see: the last 3 events.  Students get the pages first with the events. They read each event, visualize what they are reading, and illustrate that event. Then they cut out each box and put them in order on the their trains. The black part of the train is just 11x17 construction paper cut in half. Each half makes two "cars" to the train once you fold them in half. The third "car" of the train  is half of the half. (that sounds way more complicated than it truly is.) I just glue it to the other two "cars" then fold it so it opens up like an accordion. Then they make their own wheels to glue on. I pre-make the black part for them because it's a little too tricky for them.

This is one of the writing prompts from my Polar Express Literacy unit. Some of them were pretty creative!

If I were Santa I would ride a plane because I could get first class refreshments and free food. The presents would go in the seats.

If I were Santa I would ride in a train because my elves would serve me hot chocolate.

If I were Santa I would ride in a bubble because he would not be cold.

If I were Santa I would ride in a motorcycle because it will be very fast to deliver the presents and I could attach a basket for cookies and milk and I could put the presents in the back.

We had a lot of fun last week with our Gingerbread mini-unit. First, we read several Gingerbread books. Then we compared the characters, setting, and endings. We did a story map from Deanna Jump's Gingerbread unit too. I saw this Gingerbread house on Babbling Abbey's blog last year and loved it, so I made one of my own. I laminated the white paper and wrote using white board marker so I could reuse this again next year.

We decided that we wanted to make our own Gingerbread story. We noticed that the characters in each book went along with the setting. One Gingerbread book was set in the forest so it had forest animals, another on a farm with farm animals, etc. So each student chose their setting first. Then they completed their story by choosing characters that went along with that setting. One of my favorites was this one below: the setting was the Arctic so she chose polar bears, caribou, seals and walruses as her characters. Cute! Another chose the North Pole and had Santa, elves, reindeer as characters. I just love how these turned out. I got this print out from someone else who's been teaching forever, but I can whip up my own version if anyone is interested. The last page says "but he wasn't clever enough for the ______" 

I remember seeing this Santa Stuck post from Cara Caroll last year and thinking I wanted to do that next year. Well, next year is this year so I had to do it! I did tweak it a bit though. First, we did this writing prompt independently (after discussing how a story needs a beginning, middle and end).  
Here's the rubric to go with it. You can download both here.

Then I used those stories to guide my instruction during this interactive writing assignment: 

Together we wrote this story, using the prompt from the same story started. We voted on each event as went along and each student got to "hold the pen". There were SO many teaching opportunities during this lesson and the kids LOVED it! I got to review capitals, periods, stretching out words, and clapping out multisyllable words. But mainly I was teaching them how to write a story with a beginning, middle and end (how did Santa get stuck, why did he get stuck, what did he do when he got stuck and how did he get out.) This was such a great activity and I'm definitely doing it this way next year too!

I loved doing Rachelle's Holidays Around the World unit. You should definitely check it out for next year if you don't already have it! It's the perfect Social Studies unit during this part of the year. Students made their suitcases at home and brought them to school to put all of our souvenirs in. 

This is the letter I sent home to parents about making the suitcases. You can download it here. 

I just have to show you this art project that our art teacher, Mrs. Cruickshank, did. She is SO talented! Aren't these angels just precious? I'm at a Catholic school in case you're wondering :) These were the gifts that the kiddos brought home to their parents.

We made these beautiful pictures using oil pastels for our 4th grade buddies. They turned out so nice! They glued a letter on the back to go along with it. It's a great buddy gift because it is quick and easy but super cute!



  1. I adore the Polar Express activity. We are actually going to watch the book on Storyline Online and do a beginning middle and end activity to prepare for our Polar Express party on Wednesday. That being said, I'd LOVE a link to the downloads!!! Thank you and happy holidays!!

  2. Thanks! I just posted the link to the downloads. Check under the picture of the sequencing train. The link has one with the words and a blank one in case you have some kids who may like the challenge of writing the events themselves. Enjoy! Happy holidays!

  3. Oh My Gosh! I love the Polar Express activity! I am so excited to do that! I love your blog and am your newest follower! I would love for you to come follow me and grab TONS of *freebies*!

  4. Thanks Heather! I'm already a follower and a big fan of your blog. :)

  5. Can't wait to use this. We do the Polar Express every year. But this is the best activity to go with it that I've seen. Thanks. Where did you find the train engine coloring page?

  6. Love your Polar Express activity! We are doing it next week! Where did you find your cute pattern of the train engine?

  7. This is SO great! Curious about what kind of souvenirs the kids will pick up during their adventures?