Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans and Classroom Resources
We have been busy developing lesson plans to go along with some of Mark Twain's books and short stories. The plans below were developed during teacher workshops held at the museum beginning in the summer of 2006 and sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council.  Each year we offer week-long teacher workshops, and these lesson plans are the result of their efforts. The lesson plans are organized by books/stories and by the concept that is emphasized in the lesson. All lesson plans are PDFs. We hope that instead of focusing on teaching and testing you will focus on reading and sharing with students. This is a proven way for them to get the most out of any literary endeavor! Twain is best when read aloud and discussed!

The Museum is now focusing on the Common Core State Standards and has created a unit plan using Mark Twain: Words & Music as a model for addressing these standards through integrated curriculum. This is free to download and modify as needed.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
This creative writing unit can be provided to students to guide them through their reading of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and to inspire them to use their own experiences to launch a creative writing project. The packet contains photographs relating to settings and events in the book with corresponding page numbers.

These reading and activity suggestions were created by Quincy University graduate student, Miranda Edgar. Teachers can pick and choose from a broad assortment of engaging ideas.

Instead of the usual summaries and quizzes, use some of these fun reading comprehension activities when reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Your students will thank you, and you'll enjoy their creativity. (Includes differentiation strategies for gifted students.)

The Big Read, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, has selected The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as one of its community reading books. We encourage you to contact them and plan a Big Read event in your community using Tom Sawyer. They offer comprehensive lesson plans for the classroom.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which Mark Twain based on Hannibal. All of the sights he described - from Cardiff Hill to Jackson's Island to Becky Thatcher's house - exist right here in Hannibal. Teachers, if you cannot bring your students on a field trip, you can at least take them on a Virtual Tour of these important literary landmarks. The Mark Twain Young Authors have created virtual tours of the landmarks and the museum gallery that include pictures, descriptions, and quotes from Mark Twain's books.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Bartering [Common Core emphasis]


Character Perspective Charting of Tom Sawyer [Common Core emphasis]
Characterization in Tom Sawyer
Characterization and Sayings in Tom Sawyer
Character Sketch
Descriptive Writing
Dialect in Tom Sawyer
Dialect Through Reader's Theater
Diction and Point-of-View
Discipline in Tom Sawyer
Effect of Setting, Motivation, and Theme in the Creation of Childhood Characters
Facebook (character)
Games of the Period
Games and Pastimes (Expository Writing)
Imagery in Tom Sawyer
Medicating Tom Sawyer
Murals (Art)
News Articles

Pacing and Timing in Tom Sawyer [Common Core emphasis]
Performance (Whitewashing) and Biography
Personal Connections to Tom
Persuasion and the Whitewashed Fence
Power of Persuasion
Short Story
Social Causes & Consequences of Slavery
Social Skills
Social Emotional Learning
Superstitions in Tom Sawyer
Superstitions Then and Now

Tom Sawyer for President [Common Core emphasis]

Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Mean Girls [Common Core emphasis]

Tom Sawyer's Hannibal [Common Core emphasis]
Word Choice in Tom Sawyer
Unit (includes overview on Twain's life)

Virtual Field Trip

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Allusion in Huck Finn

Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Documentary Video Supplement [Common Core emphasis]
Classic (Criteria)

Close Reading of Colonel Seller's Speech [Common Core emphasis]
Conscience in Huck Finn
Conscience and Courage
Conventions of Language (Interpreting Literature)
Found Poem

Influence of Place on Character [Common Core Emphasis]
Literary Raft
Musical Adaptation (Big River) of Huck Finn
Norman Rockwell Paintings (Dialogue/Prediction)
One Man Against the Crowd

Panel Presentation Unit [Common Core emphasis]
Place (Studying and Writing About)
Point-of-View in Huck Finn
Primary Documents - Slave Narratives
Sequel to Huck Finn
Slavery in Huck Finn
Steamboat Jargon (can be used with Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, etc.)
Superstitions in Huck Finn
Trial: Does Huck Finn Promote Racism? 

Who Did the Work? Researching Slave Labor in the 1800s [Common Core emphasis]

Words of Wisdom from Huckleberry Finn [Common Core emphasis]

1800s Life on the Rivers [Common Core emphasis]

Short Story Lesson Plans

The Californian's Tale Lesson Plan
Encounter with an Interviewer Lesson Plan
How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once Lesson Plan
How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once (Editorials)
How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once (Internet)
Journalism in Tennessee Lesson Plan
Jumping Frog (Bar Graph)
Jumping Frog (Competition)
Jumping Frog (Fun with Frogs Pre-K)
Jumping Frog Lesson Plan
Jumping Frog (Kindergarten)
McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm Lesson Plan
Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning Lesson Plan
Million Pound Bank Note Lesson Plan

Taming the Bicycle Lesson Plan


The Prince and the Pauper Lesson Plans
These lessons were developed by elementary and middle school teachers and can be easily modified to work with most grade levels. They are organized by the main focus of the lesson. However, all address The Prince and the Pauper.

Adapted for Young Readers
Character Analysis
Character Development
Character Phases
Compare Contrast
Heroes Unit
Prince and Tom Sawyer Unit
Setting and Social Class
Titles and Occupations
Using Quotes
Yearlong Unit


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Lesson Plans
These lessons were developed by middle and high school teachers and can be easily modified to work with most grade levels. They are organized by the main focus of the lesson. However, all address A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Appearance vs. Reality
Artifact and Postcard
Baseball and Inventions
Dress Like a Knight
Group Projects
Knight Fight Creative Writing
Medieval Celebration and Ballads
Projects and Project Rubric
Satire and Poetry
Story Elements
Twain Patents

Following the Equator Lesson Plans
These lessons were developed by teachers that attended our 2009 summer workshops. They address a range of topics that are explored in the book. This book is especially fascinating because Twain never mentions the tragedies that "book-ended" the journey. He was facing bankruptcy in 1895, so he toured the world lecturing in order to pay off his debts, which he did. His wife, Livy, and daughter, Clara, accompanied him.  Daughters Susy and Jean remained at home in Hartford. At the conclusion of the one year tour, Sam, Livy and Clara arrived in England, rented a home, and sent word for the girls to join them, only to learn Susy was seriously ill. Susy died of spinal meningitis before she could be reunited with her family. In 1889 Twain wrote in a letter to friend William Dean Howells: "I wrote my last travel-book in hell; but I let on, the best I could, that it was an excursion through heaven. Someday I will read it, & if its lying cheerfulness fools me, then I shall believe it fooled the reader. How I did loath that journey around the world!--except the sea-part and India!"

Worth noting: Jimmy Buffett listed a baker's dozen list of books he would take to a desert island. Twain was the only author to make the list twice - for Huckleberry Finn and Equator. Buffett has written three songs about this book: "That's What Livin' is to Me," "Take Another Road" and "Remittance Man." We think Mark Twain would approve!

(Read executive director Cindy Lovell's Amazon review to learn more about sharing this book with students.)

Animals of the World (K-1)
Descriptive Writing
Descriptive Scenes
Diamond Mining
Figurative Language
GPS Scavenger Hunt
Journal Writing
Living Museum (Characters)
Maori & Aborigine Comparisons
Moral Ambiguity
Relevance in the 21st Century (Human Nature)
Reverence for Other Religions
Script Writing and Character Development
Setting (Writing Process)
Story with No Ending
Traveling with Mark Twain

Roughing It Lesson Plans
Theselessons were developed by teachers that attended our 2011 summerworkshops. They address a range of topics that are explored in the book, Roughing It, Twain's classic about his time in the Wild West. Remember the great Warner Brothers cartoon character, Wile E. Coyote?  Cartoonist Chuck Jones said he got the inspiration for the character from Twain's description of the first coyote he saw on his way to Virginia City.  For teachers who cover the history of the American West, Roughing It is full of stories and history and will bring added excitement to this topic.

Acceptance or Prejudice?
American Perspectives on the Chinese
Craft of Writing
Descriptive Language
Illustrations to Build Reading Comprehension
Pony Express (Kindergarten)
Stagecoach and Horses
Travel Writing
Voices in Literature

Common Core Lesson Plans -- Various Topics

Family Connections through Tom Sawyer
Famous Missourian: Mark Twain [Common Core Emphasis]
Letter Writing Unit
Narrative Writing Based on Experience
Adapting Mark Twain for Theater
Writing About Experiences
Major Events
Illustrating Mark Twain
Westward Expansion
Narrative Writing
Tom Sawyer Playwright
Establishing Rules
Biography Common Core
Personal Culture in Literature
Friendly Letter
Family Connections through Tom Sawyer
Sam Clemens As Tom Sawyer
Describing Experience As Narrative
Letter Writing Unit
Creative Genius
Karst Topography and Human Uses
Key Details - Adventures

2008 Mark Twain Creative Teaching Awards:

Grand Prize: Dana Thompson, New Smyrna Beach Middle School, New Smyrna Beach, FL
Mark Twain: His Life and Works (School-wide Unit)

1st Prize, Elementary: Laurie Robinett and Susan J. Snyder, Cary Junior High School, Cary, IL
The Prince and the Pauper (Unit suitable for elementary and middle/junior high levels)

1st Prize, Middle: Barbara Adair, New Smyrna Beach Middle School, New Smyrna Beach, FL
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Unit suitable for middle/junior high and elementary school levels)

1st Prize, High School: Clark Beim-Esche, The Principia School, St. Louis, MO
The Mark Twain Project (AP Literature and Composition)

Honorable Mention, Scott J. Peters, Gifted Education Resource Institute, Purdue University, West Lafatette, IN
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Unit suitable for multiple grade levels)

2007 Mark Twain Creative Teaching Awards:

Grand Prize: Jill Quinn, Stevens Point Area Senior High, Stevens Point, WI (Huckleberry Finn Lesson)

1st Prize, Elementary: Diana Minor, Eugene Field Elementary, Hannibal, MO (Jumping Frog Lesson)

1st Prize, Middle School: Karla Varriano, White Station Middle School, Memphis, TN (Tom Sawyer Lesson)

1st Prize, High School: Anne Fox, Fort Zumwalt South High School, St. Peters, MO (Huckleberry Finn Lesson)

Honorable Mention: Carla Beard, Connersville High School, Connersville, IN (Mark Twain and American Humor Lesson)

The grand and first prize winners are invited to Hannibal, Missouri to accept their awards during National Tom Sawyer Days. Thank you to everyone for submitting lesson plans for consideration. And it's not too early to begin thinking about the 2009 Mark Twain Creative Teaching Awards!

Other resources you might find helpful in planning lessons:

Mark Twain's Genealogy
Mark Twain's Publishing Career
Link to School Tours
Teacher Resource Guide (12 pages of activities, ideas, and handouts - may take a few moments to download)

The Big Read
In 2008, the National Endowment of the Arts, in partnership with The Big Read, selected The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as one of its featured titles. The Big Read created excellent teaching resources for teaching this great American classic.

Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT
This is the home where Sam and Livy Clemens raised their children.

Mark Twain Quotes
Thousands of quotes by Mark Twain are organized alphabetically by topic.

Kennedy Center - 4 Lessons on "Mark Twain, the Lincoln of Our Literature"
Library of Congress Lesson Plans about Mark Twain
Mark Twain Papers & Project at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
Mark Twain's Writings Searchable E-Text and Memory Builder Game
National Geographic Lesson Plan - Mark Twain Cave
PBS Mark Twain Interactive Scrapbook and Classroom Activities


And more...

Field Trips to the Museum
If you would like information about booking a field trip to the museum, please click here. For your convenience we have created an interactive Scavenger Hunt for you to print and bring for your students. We suggest having them work in pairs or small groups to collaborate on the scavenger hunt. Answer keys are available on site.

Virtual Tours of the Museum Properties and Artifacts
You can also view a Virtual Tour of the museum created by the Mark Twain Young Authors Workshop participants. (Teachers, this is a great way to ensure that your field trips will be interactive. Have your students create a virtual tour of their experience here!) The Young Authors also created virtual tours of museum properties.

If, as a teacher,you are facing resistance by your school in teaching either The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you will find the completed rationales below helpful. These rationales are copyright 2007 by the National Council for Teachers of English. They are posted with permission. www.ncte.org

Rationales for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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