A Ghost Story by Mark Twain Lesson Plan

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Use this lesson plan to teach your students about Mark Twain's 'A Ghost Story.' Activities center around students being active readers, summarizing text, and then extending the text through the investigation of hoaxes, such as the Cardiff Giant referred to in the story. As a culminating activity, students create videos about hoaxes.

Learning Objectives

As a result of this lesson, students will be able to do the following:

  • discuss and summarize Mark Twain's 'A Ghost Story'
  • use context clues to define key vocabulary, such as 'hoax' and other terms from the story
  • understand more about hoaxes throughout history


60 minutes/day for 3 days

Curriculum Standards


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate


Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.

Materials Needed

  • 'A Ghost Story' by Mark Twain (1 copy per student, or use devices to read e-texts available online)
  • Small sticky notes (4 per student)
  • Internet access to historical newspaper sites, such as Chronicling America (Library of Congress)
  • SmartBoard or projector to display lesson
  • Video camera or phone with video capabilities




  • Give each student 4 sticky notes. They should draw a smile face on one sticky note, a question mark on the second, a V on the third, and an exclamation mark on the last sticky note.
  • Explain to them that readers should constantly be thinking about what they are reading and whether or not it is making sense to them. If the story is not making sense, they should stop and do something about it.
  • Tell students that as they read the story, you want them to place the 4 sticky notes somewhere on the pages to show the following: a part they enjoyed (happy face), a part that confused them (question mark), a word they did not know (V for Vocabulary) and a part the surprised them (exclamation mark).
  • Have each student read the story silently, placing the sticky notes at appropriate points in the story.
  • When all students are finished reading, work together to summarize the story.
  • Ask the students what words they did not know (where they put the V sticky note) and make a list of them on the board. Explain them or have other students explain them.
  • Ask the students what parts of the story confused them. This would be where they put the question mark sticky note. Discuss those sections.
  • Ask the students what parts of the story surprised them - the exclamation mark sticky note. Have them turn to a partner and describe the part of the story they found surprising and explain why. Share some ideas with the whole group.
  • Ask the students what parts of the story they enjoyed the most - the happy face sticky note. Have them turn to a partner and describe the part of the story they enjoyed and explain why. Share some ideas with the whole group.
  • Watch the video lesson Mark Twain's A Ghost Story: Summary & Analysis and pause after the 'Summary' section.
  • Ask students if there anything in this summary that they did not already mention or discuss.
  • Continue the video and pause after the 'Analysis' section of the lesson. Ask the students to use context clues to define the word 'hoax.'
  • Finish the video lesson.
  • To check for students' understanding of the story, display Mark Twain's A Ghost Story: Summary & Analysis Quiz and have students respond to each item individually on a piece of paper.
  • Check the quizzes together.

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