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Hot Chocolate & Polar Express Unit Study for Upper Elementary Students

A Family-Style Hot Chocolate & Polar Express Unit Study for Homeschool Morning Time and Family School

This Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Upper Elementary unit study is generally for students at a third to fifth-grade level.

Feel free to mix and match with the Early Learners and Middle to High School posts to find activities that best suit your children and their learning styles.

To add in younger or older students for a family-style unit study, use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Early Learners and Middle to High School posts. This Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study uses Living Books, and hands-on STEAM activities along with English Language Arts, Poetry, Folktales, History, and Sensory activities and lessons.

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, I may make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

English Language Arts

Independent Readers

The Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery by Beverly Lewis is the third book in the Cul-de-Sac Kids series. This sweet and simple story is about the meaning of real friendship, not judging others, and working together for a common goal. My 7 year old loved it! Written for 7-10-year-olds. Here’s a review of this book along with some discussion questions from PluggedIn.com. Available on Kindle and Overdrive.

Hot Chocolate for Santa Claus by R. C. O’Leary and illustrated by Iryna Bodnarak explains why Santa Claus looks forward to drinking a mug of hot chocolate when he’s done delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Read Aloud Living Books

Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien is a collection of the letters he wrote each year to his children, from 1920 to 1943. This read-aloud will be the highlight of your Christmas season! It’s available free on KindleUnlimited and Audible.

If you’ve read A Year Down Yonder or A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, you’ll recognize the main character of this selection. Grandma Dowdel stars in A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck. Twenty years have passed and she has new neighbors. But Grandma Dowdel continues to outwit and charm everyone. This book is also available on Kindle and Overdrive and the audio version is free with an Audible trial.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg was the winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal. It’s one of the most popular children’s Christmas stories and is perfect for those starting to question their belief in Santa Claus. Also available on Kindle, free with Amazon FreeTime Unlimited.


Discover how the poinsettia came to be in this story of a young girl’s gift to the newborn Christ. This Mexican folktale, The Legend of the Poinsettia , is retold by author and illustrator Tomie dePaola. Many libraries carry this popular book or you can watch the video.

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    Literary Analysis

    The movie Polar Express expands upon the storybook, mainly through the subplot of the train ticket. Answer the questions about Polar Express on the Polar Express Literary Analysis worksheet for Upper Elementary Learners in the Free Resource Library.


    Being able to clearly communicate the steps of a process, such as how to make chocolate are a very important life skill, both for everyday living and for coding. My oldest son gave a hilarious 4-H robotics demonstration once about the importance of remembering to give specific details and what can happen if you don’t. It was similar to this video from Now I’ve Seen Everything. Use the Polar Express Upper Elementary Real-Life Writing worksheet from the Free Resource Library to write your instructions for making hot chocolate from a mix.


    A Visit From Saint Nicholas by Clement C. Moore is often called by the first line of the poem, “Twas the night before Christmas”. This iconic poem, written in 1832, is probably the most famous ever written by an American. Listen to this incredible collaboration between composer John Williams, the Boston Pops Orchestra and narrator Robin Williams.


    Copywork and narration are a real-life way to work on grammar skills. Use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Upper Elementary Copywork and Narration page from the Free Resource Library. After your child has written the sentence from dictation, let her see the original to check it with her work. Have her correct her work, so that she knows how it should look. As an extension of the narration, have him find all of the past tense verbs.


    Spelling requires lots of practice which can sometimes be boring. Liven up your spelling this week by using mini marshmallows (or the even smaller, marshmallow bits) to form letters and spell your words. Or you could even get an edible marker from the cake decorating section and write a letter on each marshmallow. Then, your kids can eat their homework when they’re done!



    Find out what happens to marshmallows if you cook them in the microwave. Find detailed instructions as well as the scientific “why” behind the outcome at The Science of Cooking. Use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Experiment worksheet from the Free Resource Library to show what you did and learned.


    Chocolate was first used as a medicinal drink, but once sweetener was added to it in 18th century Europe, it became very popular. Then, in the mid-1800s chocolatiers learned how to extract the cocoa butter and then add back the melted cocoa butter to make solid chocolate. The industrial revolution changed how chocolate was enjoyed (mostly as a solid candy instead of a beverage) because technology-enabled chocolatiers to produce a consistent product. Watch how chocolate is made in this video from the Science Channel’s How It’s Made.


    Construct a marshmallow catapult using household supplies. Choose one of these three types:


    Fine Arts

    David Mittner is a contemporary American artist with a love of trains. Check out his painting of a MARYLAND & PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD
    2-8-0 Winter at Deer Creek. See his other works of art featuring trains at FineArtAmerica.

    Practical Arts
    hot chocolate cookies

    Make these festive Hot Chocolate cookies to give away as a gift (if they last that long!). The instructions from The Soccer Mom say to cut the jumbo marshmallows in half, but we decided that cutting them in fourths (horizontally) would look better, as our marshmallows still look really tall.

    Try Mexican style hot chocolate; it’s got a bit of a kick from spices. Authentic Mexican style requires Mexican chocolate tablets which we couldn’t find locally, and cayenne, which my kids didn’t think they’d like. (They were total party poopers on this one!)

    So, instead, we tried Lil’Luna’s Mexican Hot Chocolate that has cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.


    Pretend that you are having a hot chocolate and cookies party for your family and friends. Use the Polar Express Upper Elementary Math worksheet in the Free Resource Library to figure out how many cookies and hot chocolate you need to make.


    Watch this video from Tasty to see how chocolate is made. Then learn about Milton Hershey, America’s most famous chocolatier in Milton Hershey, Young Chocolatier: Childhood of Famous Americans by M. M. Eboch (available on Kindle). Discover how Mr. Hershey persevered despite failures; his life was the quintessential American dream.

    For a fun rabbit trail into the history of Chocolate and Mr. Hershey, check out the free (newly updated!) Hershey Chocolate Unit Study on our sister site, Homeschool Helper Online.


    Listen to the Polar Express soundtrack while you are making hot chocolate and wrapping Christmas presents. You can stream it free if you have Amazon Prime or find it on Hoopla.


    In the Polar Express movie, the conductor punches the word “believe” into his train ticket. Believing in something is the same thing as having faith. Read these Bible verses with your kids and discuss what it means to have faith.

    • Deut. 7:9
    • Matt. 17:20
    • Rom. 5:1
    • Rom. 10:17
    • 1 Cor. 13:2
    • 1 Cor. 16:13

    Sensory and Body Awareness

    cloud dough

    Make some Hot Chocolate Cloud Dough. It’s very similar in texture to kinetic sand. It sticks together like playdough when squeezed, but comes apart easily.

    It’s fun to use cookie cutters as well as just using your hands to shape it. You can make it gluten-free or with regular flour. This hot chocolate cloud dough mixes up in just a couple of minutes and provides your kids with hours of fun!

    More Ideas

    After Christmas, continue your study of the North Pole with this full unit study about the Arctic Region.

    arctic unit study

    Be sure to follow my Pinterest board Christmas Time Homeschooling for more great hands-on activities and ideas for your Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study!

    Don’t forget to pin this post so you can refer back to it during your Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study.

    polar express
    polar express

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