Quick Listening Activity to Use with The Polar Express

We've made it to that wonderful time of year! The holidays present a ton of opportunities for fun, creative speech and language activities that will keep your kids and clients engaged. I love reading The Polar Express with my clients during the holiday season. While I never actually read it as a kid, the first school I worked for based an entire unit around this book, and I saw how well it lent itself to exciting and motivating learning experiences. The fun and magic that those activities inspired stuck with me so much that I now try to carry it forward in my own practice. Today I am sharing a quick, low-prep activity you can do while reading The Polar Express with your kids:

The kids loved the added bonus of taking a bell home with them!

The kids loved the added bonus of taking a bell home with them!


I incorporate as many opportunities for listening to speech sounds, grammar/syntax targets, and vocabulary as possible into my therapy activities. As an SLP, I sometimes feel like it's easy to get so caught up in the expression of sounds, words, and sentences that we forget to carve out time to just listen. With this activity, I encourage my clients to do that, while also offering them an active component that keeps them focused and engaged. All you need for this activity is:

  • Your copy of The Polar Express
  • One or more jingle bells

I bought a few packs of jingle bells at Rite Aid so that I could gift them to my clients when we were done with the activity, but you could easily just have one jingle bell that you use with each child/client. (If you are doing this activity with a group, having just one bell can create an opportunity to practice taking turns as well!) I started by reviewing listening targets that I found in The Polar Express with my clients, whether that was a specific speech sound, a grammar concept, or even just a single vocabulary word. Most of my clients also used this review as a chance to practice/talk about sounds and words, which was fine by me! After reviewing, I read the book aloud to them, and gave them the task of ringing their bells each time they heard one of their reviewed words. They loved the interactive component of this book-reading activity, and several of those in groups even turned listening and bell-ringing into a competitive game. In addition to being fun for them, this activity allowed me to see where their listening strengths and weaknesses were. Could they hear the difference between L and R? In which words was that easier or more difficult for them? Could they concentrate on listening for specific targets and still comprehend the plot of the story? 

Overall, I found this activity fun, motivating, informative, and super easy to put together. I will be incorporating it into my holiday activities and expanding upon it in years to come!

If you try this activity, please let me know how it goes! What did you do differently? What would you do to expand upon it? Send me an email or comment below to tell me!

Happy holidays!