Resources for Teachers and Students

Resources for Teachers and Students

Resources Related to the Center for Mark Twain Studies

Mark Twain  Literacy Project

Open to all grade levels.  A special program sponsored by WENY Newschannel 36, the Mark Twain Literary Project brings a collection of Twain’s most memorable books to local classrooms, all at no cost to the school, teacher, or student.  Classrooms who take advantage of this opportunity often complement the Twain-focused lessons in the classroom with a visit to the Mark Twain Study and Exhibit on the Elmira College campus and Quarry Farm.

The Mark Twain Study and Cowles Hall

Guidelines for all Center for Mark Twain Studies Field Trips

The Staff of the Center for Mark Twain Studies is happy to accommodate local school field trips all at no cost to the school. The Mark Twain Study and Quarry Farm constitute one of the cornerstones of this region’s cultural and historic legacy. CMTS endeavors to instill an appreciation of the importance of Mark Twain’s legacy in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions to the young people of the area, hopefully instilling in them a sense of pride of their local community. CMTS can accommodate groups comprised of 2nd grade students all the way through to undergraduates at the college level. The maximum size of a group is 60 students.  Contact Dr. Joseph Lemak ([email protected]) if you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity.

Summer Teachers’ Institute  (Registration has closed)

The theme for 2018 is “Mark Twain In Color.”

Every summer, CMTS collaborates with the Greater Southern Tier Teacher Center and hosts a two-day workshop, led by leading Mark Twain scholars, in order to help bring Mark Twain Studies into local classrooms.

Attendees of the 2016 Summer Teachers’ Institute at Quarry Farm

In 2018, join Kerry Driscoll, Ann M. Ryan, and Matt Seybold as they explore Mark Twain’s complicated reading (and writing) of race in nineteenth century America. We like to think of Mark Twain, “the man in white,” as absolutely progressive when it came to issues of race and ethnicity, but Twain’s journey toward enlightenment had many bumps in the road. Some of his attitudes were remarkable and forward thinking; others were more backward and reactionary—all of which makes Mark Twain less an icon of goodness and more an utterly human being. We’ll look at Twain’s portraits—in both his fictional non-fictional work—of African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants, as well as his many reflections on his own white identity. We’ll discuss Twain’s acute sensitivity to injustice and violence, and how it often competes with racial prejudice—some of which he inherits and some of which he hones. Our hope is that the teachers who attend this Institute will find in Twain’s lifelong reflections on race, as well as his struggles with prejudice, stories to share with students who also struggle with our complicated shared history.

Virtual Tour of Quarry Farm

This virtual tour shows the entirety of Quarry Farm, the Quarry Farm grounds, the Mark Twain Study, and many other locations locations associated with CMTS.  One of the major highlights is the Quarry Farm parlor, Mary Ann Cord’s stove in the Kitchen, and the Porch where Mark Twain set “A True Story, Word For Word As I Heard It.”

Virtual Tour of the Langdon/Clemens Plot at Woodlawn Cemetery

This virtual tour highlights the final resting place of Mark Twain, all his immediate family, and important members of the Langdon family.

Mark Twain in Elmira, Second Edition (2013)

In an expanded collection of primary and secondary documents and photos, Mark Twain in Elmira recounts the story of Sam Clemens’ time in Elmira and underscores the importance of Elmira in the development of American literature.  Mark Twain in Elmira (1977) was first compiled by Robert D. Jerome, an Elmira businessman and Mark Twain researcher and collector, and Dr. Herbert A. Wisbey, Jr., and Elmira College Professor of History.  As information about Mark Twain’s life in Elmira grew, Jerome and Wisbey created a list of pieces they proposed for inclusion in a second edition.  This expanded second edition contains those suggestions as well as additional new content and photographs of interest to mark Twain scholars and enthusiasts.  Dr. Barbara Snedecor is the editor of the second edition.

Mark Twain’s Kid’s Activity Book

For grades K-2.  An activity book created by CMTS, focusing on Mark Twain’s biography and his legacy in Elmira.

Quarry Farm Fireplace Tiles Creative Writing Contest (No longer accepting submissions for 2018)

2nd to 6th grade students from local schools are encouraged to submit their creative stories inspired by the Quarry Farm Parlor fireplace tiles to the Center for Mark Twain Studies. A “local school” is defined as being no more than 25 miles away from Quarry Farm. The deadline for the stories is March 1,2018. Three winners from three different schools will be chosen by the CMTS Staff . Winners will be given a personal tour inside of Quarry Farm and will be able to read their story right next to the Quarry Farm Parlor Fireplace. Winners will also be able to bring their class and or entire grade (depending on overall size). The tour of Quarry Farm will conclude with Mark Twain’s favorite dessert: gingerbread, vanilla ice cream and lemonade!  For the writing prompt and more information about the contest, click on the link above.

Tiles for the Quarry Farm Fireplace Tiles Creative Writing Contest

Images used to inspire the Quarry Farm Fireplace Tiles Creative Writing Contest

“Portraying Mark Twain” Creative Art Contest (No longer accepting submissions for 2018)

Elmira College students are encouraged to upload digital files of artwork they have created that portrays Mark Twain, Mark Twain in Elmira or some aspect of Mark Twain’s literature.  The deadline is March 30, 2018.  Up to $350 in prize money will be distributed among winning entries.  Winning entries will be featured in publications of Elmira College and the Center for Mark Twain Studies.   This site also includes a gallery of present and past submissions.


Lesson Plans from Individual Teachers

Resources for Elementary Schools

Michelle Halperin – Michelle Halperin is a veteran teacher in the Elmira City School District who has taught Mark Twain to her 4th and 5th grade students for over 20 years. She is available at [email protected]com.

“Mark Twain’s Places” – A PowerPoint focusing on the places in Mark Twain’s life, from his birth in Florida, Missouri to his death in Stormfield, Connecticut.

Lesson Plan to help teach Who Was Mark Twain? – A lesson plan to help teach the biography of Mark Twain through April Prince’s Who Was Mark Twain (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004).

Mark Twain Quote Poster Activity – This activity asks students to create a poster based on a specific quote from Mark Twain, then students are encouraged to interpret the quote for themselves.

Lesson Plan to help teach The Extraordinary Mark Twain .- A lesson plan to help students explore Barbara Kerley’s The Extraordinary Mark Twain (Scholastic, 2010).  Students are asked to create a biography of a family member of Mark Twain.

Lesson Plan for Mark Twain’s Lifespan Timeline .- A lesson plan that asks students to create a timespan of Mark Twain’s life, focusing on important events in the author’s life and important events in the history of the United States.


Important Educational Websites for Use in the Classroom

Mark Twain Project Online  – University of California, Berkeley

This site applies innovative technology to more than four decades’ worth of archival research by expert editors at the Mark Twain Project. It offers unfettered, intuitive access to reliable texts, accurate and exhaustive notes, and the most recently discovered letters and documents. The site’s ultimate purpose is to produce a digital critical edition, fully annotated, of everything Mark Twain wrote. MTPO offers not only the edited texts of more than 2000 letters and several book-length writings, including Autobiography of Mark Twain, but a catalog of all Clemens-related correspondence known to the Project staff and a variety of digital research resources.

Virtual Tour of Twain’s Home in Hartford Connecticut

The tour show the majestic home of Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) and and his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens.Samuel and Olivia “Livy” Clemens were married in 1870 and moved to Hartford in 1871. The family first rented a house on Forest Street‚ in the Nook Farm neighborhood‚ from Livy’s friends‚ John and Isabella Beecher Hooker‚ and later purchased land on Farmington Avenue. In 1873‚ they engaged New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their house.  Mark Twain and his family enjoyed what the author would later call the happiest and most productive years of his life in their Hartford home.Financial problems forced Sam and Livy to move the family to Europe in 1891. Though he would complain about other places the family lived compared to the Hartford house (”How ugly‚ tasteless‚ repulsive are all the domestic interiors I have ever seen in Europe compared with the perfect taste of this ground floor”)‚ the family would never live in Hartford again.

The Mark Twain Statue next to Harris Hall on the Elmira College Campus

Mark Twain In His Times

This interpretive archive focuses on how “Mark Twain” and his works were created and defined, marketed and performed, reviewed and appreciated. The goal is to allow readers, scholars, students and teachers to see what Mark Twain and His Times said about each other, in a way that can speak to us today. Contained here are dozens of texts and manuscripts, scores of contemporary reviews and articles, hundreds of images, and many different kinds of interactive exhibits.  The site also includes an interactive memory game.  The site was written and directed by Professor Stephen Railton and is produced by the University of Virginia Library.

Mark Twain’s Geography

Samuel L. Clemens was a world traveler. He was also a journalist and the author of many books. Rather than critique his writings, this site is devoted to presenting the geography of the many places he visited and/or spoke about. The site is designed as a series of courses.  Several of the courses follow his books, such as Roughing It and Innocents Abroad.  The books have been divided into geographically significant sections. The site was created and is maintained by B. Scott Holmes


Lesson Plans Related to Mark Twain and His Literature

Lesson Plans from The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT

For Middle and High school Students.  For the past several years, The Mark Twain House & Museum has been the host of National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Teacher Workshops at which educators from across the nation have written lesson plans to assist their colleagues in teaching the life and works of Mark Twain.  The site contains a selection of these lesson plans that have been updated to specifically reference their connections to the new Common Core Standards as well as edited to conform to the “Understanding by Design” (UBD) format for curricular units commonly used by educators today.

Lessons Plans from The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, MO

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum has developed lesson plans to go along with some of Mark Twain’s books and short stories. The plans were developed during teacher workshops held at the Hannibal museum beginning in the summer of 2006. The lesson plans are organized by books/stories and by the concept that is emphasized in the lesson.  Lesson plan groups included are The Adventures of Tom SawyerAdventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Prince and the PauperA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtFollowing the Equator,

Lesson Plan from the Library of Congress –  “Mark Twain’s Hannibal”

For grades 9-10. Writers are influenced by their environment including their family, community, lifestyle, or location. One such writer was Mark Twain. In this project the learner will become familiar with and analyze life around Hannibal, Missouri, during the latter half of the nineteenth century using various resources to determine what effects this location had on the writings of Mark Twain. The curriculum context begins with a Lesson on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Segments of this lesson might also be integrated into a study of Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The lessons could be presented with introductory material prior to reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or integrated while reading the novel. Even though these activities center on Mark Twain and his writings, they could easily be adapted to almost any author and his environment.  Activities fulfill standards established by Common Core and other organizations.

Lesson Plan from The Kennedy Center – “Twain: Icon and Iconoclast”

For grades 9-12. This lesson asks students to examine samples of Twain’s work in the context of pre- and post-Civil War America. Students will also be encouraged to probe William Dean Howells’ characterization of Twain as “the Lincoln of our literature” as a backdrop to the study of Twain’s work throughout the course of the unit. Activities fulfill standards established by Common Core, national, and various state standards.

PBS Mark Twain Classroom Activities

PBS has created 5 different classroom activities, including a Twain chronology, selected readings, further reading suggestions, and helpful internet links.  All the activities fulfill specific standards established by the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE).

Mark Twain’s Mississippi – From the Northern Illinois University Libraries, the site provides searchable texts of works in which Mark Twain imagined and remembered the Mississippi Valley of the mid-nineteenth century, as well as a set of primary source materials providing other descriptions of it or places within it. It also includes original interpretive materials, maps, and lesson plans for teachers suitable for use across the K-12 curriculum.


The Mark Twain Statue in the Gannett-Tripp Library on the Elmira College campus

Film of Mark Twain at Stormfield, Connecticut – A YouTube Clip showing the iconic film of Mark Twain walking in front of Stormfield, his house in Redding Connecticut, where he would later die.  Film includes images of his daughters Clara and Jean. TFG Film & Tape has performed a digital restoration to the 1909 Edison film of Mark Twain. The image has been flipped left to right to correct the camera-to-subject orientation.

The War Prayer – Animated YouTube Clip of Twain’s “War Prayer” (1905). Directed by Markos Kounalakis. Featured at Animation Film Screening at OSA Archivum in Budapest, Hungary to commemorate UN Human Rights Day, December 9, 2010.

The War Prayer – In this YouTube Clip, Twain’s “War Prayer” (1905) takes place in present day, during Sunday services at a church in Any Town, USA. This short film is directed by Michael Goorjian and stars Jeremy Sisto.

Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!” – In this YouTube clip, Hal Holbrook performs from his famous one-man show.  In this section, Holbrook as Twain expounds upon Man, “the reasoning animal.”  Inarguably, the best impersonation of Twain.

American Playhouse: The Diaries of Adam and Eve – A YouTube Clip showing a recorded performance of The Diaries of Adam and Eve, aired on PBS’s American Playhouse in 1981.  The performance features Meredith Baxter as “Eve” and David Birney as “Adam.”


Mark Twain Books for Young People

Harness, Cheryl. Mark Twain and the Queen of the Mississippi  (Simon & Shuster, 1988).

Kerley, Barbara. The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic, 2010)

Mason, Miriam E. Mark Twain Young Writer.  Illustrated by Henry S. Gillette (Simon & Shuster, 1991).

Prince, April. Who Was Mark Twain?  Illustrated by John O’Brien. (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004)

Quackenbush, Robert. Mark Twain? What Kind of Name is That? A Story of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Simon and Schuster, 1984).


Books Dedicated to Teaching Mark Twain in the Classroom

Leonard, James S., ed. Making Mark Twain Work in the Classroom. Duke University Press, 1999.

Rasmussen, R. Kent, Mark Twain for Kids: His Life and Times. Chicago Review Press, 2004.