Here's an interesting worksheet to get older kids thinking about issues such as censorship and values. Do they think Mark Twain's books should still be used in schools today, due to some of the language and values now being thought of as offensive?
Mark Twain (1835–1910) was an American writer most famous for his children’s books ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Born Samuel Clemens, he used the pen name Mark Twain for his writing career. Here you can find out more about this ‘father of American literature’ whose charm and wit won him many friends.
- Samuel Clemens was born shortly after the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835. He believed that he would ‘go out with it’ as well. Halley’s Comet appears about once every 75 years, and Samuel died the day after its return in 1910.
- The pen name Mark Twain comes from a riverboat term measuring the water’s depth. A ‘mark’ stood for a fathom or six feet, while ‘twain’ meant two. If a man called out ‘Mark Twain’, it meant the water was 12 feet deep and safe for riverboats of the time.
Favourite Mark Twain Quotes
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
“If you love what you do you’ll never work another day in your life.”
A Short Biography of Mark Twain
Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Florida, Missouri, USA. He was the sixth of seven children born to John Clemens, a lawyer, and his wife Jane, although three of Samuel’s siblings died in childhood.
When Samuel was four, the family moved to Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi River. Samuel loved to watch the riverboats and dreamed of being a riverboat pilot. Many of his stories were inspired by his adventures in Hannibal.
When Samuel was 11, his father died. To support his family, Samuel became a printer’s apprentice at the Missouri Courier. He learnt a lot about writing and used public libraries in the evenings to educate himself. Later, Samuel worked as a typesetter for the Western Union, his brother Orion’s newspaper. Samuel created articles and sketches for the paper, and became known for his humour.
At 17, Samuel left Hannibal and found print work in St Louis, New York, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Then in 1857, he returned to study for two years to become a riverboat pilot.
But 1861 saw the end of Samuel’s river days once the Civil War started. He moved west to join the Confederate Army, although he left before fighting began. After working briefly as a miner, he became a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, and began writing short stories under the name Mark Twain. These funny tales were full of adventure.
Mark’s first popular story – ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ –was published in 1865. It received international acclaim and soon Mark was one of the most famous American celebrities of his day. He was asked to write his first (and best-selling) book ‘The Innocents Abroad’ (1869) about his travels, and other works followed including ‘Roughing It’ (1872), ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ (1882), and ‘Life on the Mississippi’ (1883).
In 1870, Mark married 24-year-old Olivia Langdon, the daughter of a rich coal merchant. They settled in Buffalo, New York, and had three daughters and a son. Their son sadly died in infancy.
Parenthood led to Mark’s famous ‘river novels’ for children. He read each chapter to his family as he wrote them. ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ (1876) and its sequel ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (1884) tell the adventures of two boys on the Mississippi River. Huckleberry Finn, in particular, has been called ‘The Great American Novel’ – a tale of a white boy helping a black man to escape slavery in the southern US. It was also one of the first novels to feature the colloquial (everyday) language of its characters. Mark Twain's "river books" have been banned in places as some characters in them use offensive, racist language that was common at the time of writing.
Mark’s writing earned him a lot of money, but he lost most of it by investing in risky ventures. In 1895, he began a world tour giving lectures to pay off his debts, which he did in 1898.
When Olivia died in 1904, Mark returned to New York, and later moved to Redding, Connecticut. It was here that he died from a heart attack in 1910, aged 74.
Our Mark Twain Activities
This printable story starter features the opening lines of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Why not have a go at writing your own story based on these first few lines. What will happen next?
It can be tricky to draw figures, but this step by step learn to draw sheet shows you how! This worksheet shows you how to draw American writer Mark Twain.
Our famous people booklets are a fun and different way for the kids to present their work. This booklet features a picture of Mark Twain - simply print out and fold (using our origami booklet folding instructions).
Ask the children to colour in this picture of Mark Twain - a great way to introduce younger kids to the famous American writer.
Comprehension worksheets test the ability of older children to understand a reading passage and answer questions based on the text. This comprehension worksheet is all about the famous American author Mark Twain.
Our Mark Twain factsheet teaches the kids some well-known facts and background information about the famous writer. Great to read on its own or to use alongside some of our worksheets.
Our newspaper writing prompts are a fun way to research and learn some facts about famous people and practise some writing skills too. This newspaper writing prompt features the famous writer Mark Twain.
This notebooking page has a photograph of Mark Twain. The children can find out about his interesting life and record it on this handy page, and maybe draw a picture in the space provided. We also have a version with just lines too.
Here's an easy-to-print poster of famous American writer Mark Twain, pictured here smoking his pipe and holding a book and quill.
This has to be one of our happiest quote posters, featuring a quote about the power of laughter by Mark Twain, and a little boy having a good laugh!
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." Here's an inspirational poster featuring a Mark Twain quote that's perfect for displaying at home or in classrooms.
"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Can the children think about what this famous quote by Mark Twain means, and then write it in their own words on this quote worksheet?
Our quote worksheets are designed to encourage children to think about the meaning of a famous quote, and then try and rewrite it in their own words - this worksheet features a quote by Mark Twain.
This story paper is perfect for writing about Mark Twain. The kids can write about his life or collect some facts. Choose from either our lined or handwriting lined versions.
This second story paper for Mark Twain includes a photo of the famous author, and it's perfect for older kids to summarise what they have learned about him.
Can the children use our Mark Twain timeline to fill in the important events in the life of the American author and perhaps mark when he wrote some of his famous novels?
There are 12 words all about Mark Twain and his novels hidden in our word search grid, so it's quite a challenge! We've included the answers to help if you're stuck...
Kids can find out some fun facts about American writer Mark Twain, and think about what they might say to him if they were lucky enough to meet him...
Our writing pages are a fun way to start younger children researching and writing about well-known people - this writing page features the famous American writer Mark Twain. We've got two versions to print out, colour or black and white.
A pen name is a name an author uses instead of their real name when publishing their written work - for example, Mark Twain was the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens.