Resources for Teachers and Students

Resources Related to the Center for Mark Twain Studies


Summer Teachers Institute

Every year CMTS holds the Summer Teachers Institute. This two-day workshop is interactive, focusing on how to use Mark Twain’s time and his writings, as well as that of his contemporaries, to address Standards’ targets and create an engaged and inquiry-driven K-12 classroom. The Institute uses both primary and secondary texts, and engages conversations and thoughts from classroom teachers and students from around the country who rely on Mark Twain year after year—some with no controversy and others who are enmeshed in controversy. 

Elmira College is the perfect place to “talk Twain,” since it is the home of the international Center for Mark Twain Studies. The Center has stewardship of Quarry Farm, the summer home of Olivia Langdon Clemens’ family and site of her sister Susan Crane’s home. Quarry Farm also includes the original location of the Study as well as the landmark home where Clemens wrote and first read many of his iconic writings to his family while on the porch at “the Farm.” 

The faculty of the Summer Teachers Institute have created and gathered a number of resources, including short videos, instructional modules, instructional exemplars, and suggested Common Core pairings. All of these are available for use in the classroom.

2020 Theme: “The New Normal: The Past Speaking to Our Student’s Present”

2019 Theme: “Mark Twain and Generation Z”


Guidelines for All Center for Mark Twain 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.


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.


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.”


Interactive Map of Elmira 1901

This map from the Library of Congress highlights the people and places that made up the Elmira community in Elmira, NY in 1901. The map emphasizes buildings and historical figures that were important to Mark Twain and the Langdon family.


Interactive Map of Woodlawn Cemetery

This online resource shows the final resting place of Mark Twain, his wife, and all his children. It also contains the Langdon family funeral plot, as well as the individual grave sites of important people in Mark Twain’s life, including Mary Ann Cord, John T. Lewis, Thomas K. Beecher, and other Elmira community members.


2021 Quarry Farm Fireplace Creative Writing Contest

Quarry Farm Fireplace

Deadline for submissions is April 23, 2021.

The Center for Mark Twain Studies encourages local elementary school teachers to discuss Mark Twain’s legacy in Elmira and the Southern Tier region of New York State.  2nd grade to 6th grade students from local schools are encouraged take part in this writing contest and submit their creative writing stories.  A “local school” is defined as being no more than 25 miles away from Quarry Farm.  Quarry Farm is the home where Mark Twain lived for over twenty consecutive summers and is the place where Twain penned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many other important texts. The deadline for the stories is April 23, 2021.  Three winners from three different schools will be chosen by the CMTS Staff.  Winners will be able to read their stories on the Quarry Farm porch.  Winners will also be able to bring a section of their class or entire classroom (depending on overall size).  The tour of Quarry Farm will conclude with Mark Twain’s favorite dessert: gingerbread, vanilla ice cream and lemonade!


Tiles for the 2021 Quarry Farm Fireplace Creative Writing Contest


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.


Portraying Mark Twain Creative Art Contest

(CURRENTLY ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR 2021)

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.


Mark Twain Writing Contest

(CURRENTLY ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR 2021)

Elmira College students are encourage to submit their best creative or scholarly writing projects inspired by Mark Twain or his literature. Scholarly and literary essays should develop an explicit theme or thesis and should have a clear sense of analysis or bibliographical material. Creative essays or works should focus on Mark Twain’s writing or life. Winners will receive a cash prize and have their name added to the list of past winners on the Mark Twain Statue located in the entrance to McGraw Hall.


Elmira College Performance of “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It”

In September 2019 members of the Elmira College community organized and performed a revised reading of Mark Twain’s “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It (1874). The following are thoughts and reactions from faculty and students. CMTS has included the script of the stage reading, a slide show, and a rehearsal video.


Elmira College Performance Celebrating Sam and Livy’s 150th Anniversary

In February 2020 students of Elmira College performed dramatic readings of  from Mark Twain’s imagined “Diaries of Adam and Eve,” Twain’s own recollection of the wedding after Livy’s death, and Ida Langdon’s discerning thoughts about her aunt and uncle. Resources include videos from the night’s performance, as well as the script.


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.


Mark Twain at Play

Bancroft Library Exhibits at the University of California, Berkeley

Mark Twain was a hardworking and prolific writer, but how did he spend his time when the “bread-and-butter element” was put aside and he was free to relax and amuse himself? He was a lover of music and song, of cats and cigars, of charades and games; he was an enthusiastic inventor, an obsessive billiards player, a charismatic raconteur, a mischievous correspondent, and perhaps the most sought-after luncheon and dinner guest in America. These many and varied leisure pursuits—and how Mark Twain’s “play” influenced his “work”—are the subject of “Mark Twain at Play.”

The exhibition brings together manuscripts, documents, notebooks, albums, vintage photographs, and other artifacts from The Bancroft Library’s Mark Twain Papers. It was the inaugural exhibition (October 2008-April 2009) in the new exhibit space within the retrofitted and renovated Bancroft Library.


Virtual Tour of Twain’s Home in Hartford, Connecticut

The tour shows 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.


Mark Twain In His Times

Mark Twain Statue on the Elmira College Campus

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.


Global Huck

Global Huck: A Crowdsourcing-based Approach to Data Collection. In this project, scholars aim to collect the various translations of the same text, in this case Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in, if possible, all the languages of the world, in order to measure and understand the transformations that affect its migration across borders and languages.


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.


Lesson 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 Plans 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 Plans 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).


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

Miscellenia

Film of Mark Twain at Stormfield, CT

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” (Directed by Markos Kounalakis)

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” (Directed by Michael Goorjian)

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.


PBS’ American Playhouse: “The Diaries of Adam and Eve”

A YouTube clip featuring “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” from PBS’ American Playhouse, originally airing April 26, 1989. The cast includes Meredith Baxter as “Eve” and David Birney as “Adam.”


PBS’ American Playhouse: “Pudd’nhead Wilson”

A YouTube clip featuring “Pudd’nHead Wilson” from PBS’ American Playhouse, originally airing on January 24, 1984. The cast includes Lise Hilboldt as “Roxie” and Ken Howard as “Puddn’head Wilson.”


Huckleberry Finn and the N-Word”

A Youtube clip featuring a 60 Minutes story concerning a Southern publisher’s sanitized edition of “Huckleberry Finn” that replaces the N-word with “slave” over 200 times. This becomes the focal point for a debate on the use of the controversial word in American society. Byron Pitts reports. Published on June 12, 2011.


“Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huck Finn

A YouTube Clip. PBS’s Culture Shock produced this 90-minute documentary on the heated debate surrounding Twain’s famous book. The program features a dramatic retelling of the novel’s plot, compelling interviews, and historical artifacts to ask the questions: “Why does this universally admired book offend so many? How do we distinguish between a critique of a social problem and the perpetuation of the problem? Does the required reading of prior generations have relevance for today’s students?” Clip is not the best quality.


Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder

A board game invented by Twain and patented in 1885 is supposed to help players remember the dates of important historical events. The TimeOnline project at University of Oregon has created a web-based version of the game for up to four players. The game is quite adaptable. Players can be limited to a single century or region, or they can play an open-ended version.


Sharing Mark Twain with Elementary Age Readers

Compiled by Michelle Halperin, Fourth Grade Teacher in the Elmira City School District

  • Anderson, William, River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain. Harper Collins, 2003.
  • Brown, Don. American Boy. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
  • Burleigh, Robert and Barry Blitt, The Adventures of Mark Twain by huckleberry Finn. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011
  • Camfield, Gregg, ed. Stories for Young People: Mark Twain. Sterling Publishing Company, 2005.
  • Harness, Cheryl, Mark Twain and the Queen of the Mississippi. Simon and Shuster Books for Young Readers, 1998.
  • Kerley Barbara, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy). Illustrated by Edwin Fotherington. Scholastic, 2010.
  • Maltbie, P.I., Bambino and Mr. Twain. Charlesbridge, 2012.
  • Mason, Miriam, Mark Twain Young Writer. Illustrated by Henry S. Gillett. Alladin Paperbacks – Simon & Schuster, 1991.
  • Prince, April Jones. Who Was Mark Twain? Grosset & Dunlap, 2004.
  • Sabin, Louis, Young Mark Twain. Troll Associates, 2004.
  • Sellas, George, Lance Tooks, Rick Geary, and Kevin Atkinson. Graphic Classics: Tom Sawyer Abroad, The Mysterious Stranger & More Tales by Mark Twain. Eureka Productions, 2007.

Books Dedicated to Teaching Mark Twain in the Classroom

  • Aller Susan, Mark Twain: A & E Biography. Lerner Publications, 2001.
  • Evans, John D., A Tom Sawyer Companion: An Autobiographical Guided Tour with Mark Twain. University Press of America, 1993.
  • Gilding, Thomas, Mark Twain & Me, Mikey T. and other Stories. Mark Twain Entertainment, 1996.
  • de Koster, Katie (ed.) Readings on Mark Twain. Greenhaven Press, 1998.
  • de Koster, Katie (ed.) Readings on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Greenhaven Press, 1999.
  • de Koster, Katie (ed.) Readings on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Greenhaven Press, 1999.
  • 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.