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 national endowment for the artsevent 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


Exploring Caves

Facebook (character)

Family Connections through Tom Sawyer

Games of the Period

Games and Pastimes (Expository Writing)

Growing Up with Tom and Friends-Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Honesty is the Best Policy – Mark Twain’s Test of His Own Characters

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



Sam Clemens as Tom Sawyer

Short Story

Social Causes & Consequences of Slavery

Social Skills

Social Emotional Learning

Strong Temptations aka Fence Painting Scene

Superstitions in Tom Sawyer

Superstitions Then and Now

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Current Students

Tom Sawyer in a Song – A Play

Tom Sawyer for President [Common Core emphasis]

Tom Sawyer Playwright (Comon Core Emphasis)

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

Tom Sawyer’s Hannibal [Common Core emphasis]

Whitewashing in Hannibal

Word Choice in Tom Sawyer Unit (includes overview on Twain’s life


Virtual Field Trip

Tom Sayer’s Front Page News

The Prince and the Pauper

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

Let’s Trade– Character Traits and Point of View

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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

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
These lessons were developed by teachers that attended our 2011 summer workshops. 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

Connecting American History and Mark Twain

Various Topics

Family Connections through Tom Sawyer

Family Story Written in the Style of Mark Twain

Famous Missourian: Mark Twain [Common Core Emphasis]

Honesty is the Best Policy-Mark Twain’s Test of His Own Characters

Letter Writing Unit

Mark Twain’s Life and Westward Expansion

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

Family Story Written in the Style of Mark Twain

Using Mark Twain to Practice Research