Polar Express - Vocabulary Lessons

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The Polar Express
By: Chris Van Allsburg
Vocabulary lesson by David Small
rustle: (The sound that leave, papers, or clothes make as they rub against each other.)
Sentence: I did not rustle the sheets.
Synonyms: crackle, crunch,
Gesture: fingers run lightly across other palm
barren: (land or soil that has no plants growing on it)
Sentence: We crossed a barren desert of ice.
Synonyms: sterile, bleak, desolate, stark, harsh, bare, empty
Gesture: open palm facing up, blow across hand
lurch: (a sudden movement)
Sentence: But the train gave a sudden lurch and started moving.
Synonyms: pitch, sway, heave, rock, heave
Gesture: a sudden movement forward of upper body
roam: (to walk around for a long time with no purpose or clear direction)
Synonyms: wander, stray, stroll, meander, journey
Gesture: sway side to side
peak: (the sharply pointed top of a mountain)
Synonyms: summit, point, crest, mountaintop
Gesture: make tent with points of fingers touching
Day 1:
Read Story.
Write words on Word Wizard chart. Reread aloud the parts of story containing the
vocabulary words highlight words in book. Use the definitions above to reiterate what each
word means.
Word Wizard Chart: Show the students the Word Wizard Chart. Say each word on the
chart. Students repeat the word after you. Give an example and gesture for each word. Let
them know that they will be learning about these words throughout the week. You will
record a tally mark on the chart when you hear students correctly using a vocabulary word
or they see it in writing.
Pictures:
Place a picture next to each vocabulary word that associates with that word.
Day 2:
Word Associations: After presenting explanations for each vocabulary word, ask students
to associate one of their new words or phrase.
Turn and tell your partner….
Which word goes with the sound dried leaves ? Why? (rustle)
Which word goes with the top of a mountain? Why? (peak)
Which word could be used to describe what you would do if your mother stopped the car
quickly? Why? (lurch)
Which word goes with wandering up the beach ? Why? (roam)
Which word goes with the moon? Why? (barren)
Day 3:
Making Choices
Point to the word rustle on the chart.
Say: If what I say describes rustle, run your fingers lightly across your other palm and say,
“rustle!” If not, just remain quiet.
- sheets right out of the dryer
- dry fall leaves in the wind
- slipping down a slide
- A lady walking by in a fancy silk dress
Point to the word barren on the chart
Say: If what I say describes barren, open your palm facing up, blow across your hand and
say “barren”. If not, just remain quiet.
- A jungle
- Antarctica
- Your back yard
- The desert
Point to the word lurch on the chart:
Say: If what I say describes lurch, make a sudden movement forward with your upper body
and say “lurch!” If not, just remain quiet.
- a roller coaster stops
- a ride on a tire swing
- dad hits the brakes to avoid a dog in the road
- walking down the sidewalk
Point to the word roam on the chart:
Say: If what I say describes roam, sway side to side and say “roam!” If not, just remain
quiet.
- Not knowing where you are going as you walk down the street
- Walking to lunch
- Running in PE
- Walking around Target for no reason
Point to the word peak on the chart:
Say: If what I say describes peak, put your finger tips together like a tent and say “peak!”
If not, just remain quiet.
- standing on your bed
- reaching the top of a tall mountain
-
the beach
Questioning, Reasons, and Examples: students turn and talk with a partner.





A person walks down the road with no destination in mind. What word describes
what he is doing? Why? (roam)
You hear leaves blowing down the sidewalk. What word goes with what she is doing?
(rustle)
You stop suddenly as the roller coaster ends the ride. What word describes what
you did? Why? (lurch)
You see a picture of the moon. What word connects with this? (barren)
A mountain climber stands at the summit of a volcano? (peak) What word
describes this? Why?
Day 4
Word Wizard Chart:
Say each word on the chart. Students repeat the word after you. Review the
student friendly definitions for each word.
Relating Words:
Have students turn and talk with a partner.
You are driving through the countryside with no real destination. Would that
be an example of roam or lurch? Why?
You hear the sound of dry leaves on a fall day. Would this be an example of
rustle or barren? Why?
Synonym Stretch:
Show the students the Synonym Stretch Chart. Read aloud the words at the top of
the chart. Read one synonym. Students work with a partner to identify the synonym
that matches the vocabulary word.
Rustle
Barren
Lurch
Roam
Peak
Put these on index cards and mix them up.
crackle, crunch, bleak, desolate, stark, bare, empty, pitch, sway, heave, rock, heave, wander,
stray, stroll, meander, journey, summit, point, crest, mountaintop
Day 5: Vocabulary Graphic Organizers: Hand out paper or have students work
in a spiral vocabulary notebook. Students make a square. Choose two of the words
for the students to use.
Write the word
Read the definition
Write a sentence using the word
Draw a picture
Created by Anne Coletti/Bardmoor Elementary/Reading Coach
Word Wizard
rustle
The sound that leave, papers, or clothes
make as they rub against each other.
barren
land or soil that has no plants growing on it
lurch
roam
a sudden movement
to walk around for a long time with no
purpose or clear direction
peak
the sharply pointed top of a mountain
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