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.” 

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2020 Summer Teachers Institute

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

Jocelyn Chadwick talks with Elmira teacher, Michelle Halperin

Before any book or story appears in print—traditionally, digitally, audial—the author exists—breathes, lives, experiences, witnesses life all round. Every author takes in life—recording, listening, jotting notes, even actively participating in it—nothing is lost; nothing is not appreciated. Authors’ letters, journals, notes, for example, lend insight into their world and its times: social, cultural, political, and yes, even moments in life when health crises affect them and the time around them. From the Greeks to the present, authors have used health crises to their audience—present and future—to identify with and better understand how to make meaning of and from their “here and now.”

Mark Twain is no exception. Health issues and challenges followed Mark Twain and his family, as well as America during Twain’s lifetime.

The 2020 Institute sought to enable students to understand that what they have been experiencing, feeling, and fearing during COVID-19 is not singular, a “thing” that makes them different and alone. Health crises and issues from those arising during the Cvil War all the way to the present work their way into the fiction and nonfiction of our authors. Aligned with the current pandemic, the Institute will explore the killing of Mr. George Floyd and the ensuing massive protests in all 50 states – protests that have included so many of our students while the pandemic rages on.

The instructional aim here is not only to illustrate how Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens confronted and dealt with these challenges but also to examine and explore with our students how we as a nation had and are continuing to confront and deal with such challenges—from the illness or virus itself, to how day-to-day living and interacting and once-taken-for-granted routines and assumptions can suddenly, without warning not only change but potentially dissolve before our eyes.

In addition, teachers worked on and created several Interactive Student Activities (from elementary to high school) which they can take directly into their classrooms and on which they can build additional instructional lessons and activities, as well as scaffold other texts, both fiction and nonfiction.

Resources associated with the 2020 Institute include:

  • Instructional modules on Mark Twain and typhoid fever, Mark Twain and the San Francisco police, Mark Twain’s view of history, and civil disobedience in Elmira. These modules come with short videos, an assortment of primary resources, and suggested Common Core pairings
  • Instructional exemplars for the Pre-K to 12th grade classrooms with primary and secondary resources suggestions
  • Video archive of the entire 2020 Summer Teachers Institute

2019 Summer Teachers Institute

“Mark Twain and Generation Z”

The aim of the 2019 Summer Teachers Institute was to explore, discover, and reflect on how Mark Twain reads and speaks to this generation of students – Generation Z. In addition, the Institute examined how educators can leverage and realign what Mark Twain/ Samuel Clemens wrote that elucidates our students’ here and now from a “safe-literary distance” of both his nonfiction and fiction.

Resources associated with the 2019 Institute include:

  • An Institute reader with a large number of primary and secondary sources
  • Teaching resources associated with Mark Twain in Elmira, Mark Twain’s Memorization Strategies, and Teaching with Sensitive Texts
  • A Recap of the 2019 Summer Teachers Institute can be found HERE.


The 2019 Summer Teachers Institute at Quarry Farm