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Mark Twain Elementary School provides many enrichment opportunities for students and parents. The IB Program, Literary Development Center, Strings, Art a la Carte, and Odyssey of the Mind are just some of the options available. Explore all that our school has to offer!

Ib program

Mark Twain Elementary is an IB World School. The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.

Mark Twain received authorization in 2005 to provide the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP).  This curriculum, created and developed by the faculty, encourages conceptual understanding, provides depth and complexity, and integrates the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  A major tenant of IB is international-mindedness that encourages understanding of multiple perspectives of global issues through guided inquiry.   

IB learners strive to be:

Inquirers – They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

Knowledgeable – They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.

Thinkers – They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communicators – They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.

Principled – They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.

Open-minded – They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.

Caring – They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.

Risk-takers – They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.

Balanced – They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Reflective – They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

Click on the links below to learn more about IB:

Questions about IB? Contact Kathleen Blakeslee, Mark Twain IB Coordinator, at


 Literary Development Center

The Literary Development Center at Mark Twain Elementary is a unique language arts lab. Every classroom teacher and his/her students rotate through the Center in two week blocks to learn reading and writing strategies and are given opportunities to practice them in authentic activities. Each lesson is planned based on each teachers’ own professional growth needs and on the class’ instructional needs.

Students participate in real life reading-writing units that integrate many curriculum areas simultaneously. Because the LDC teachers see each student starting in kindergarten and continuing through the 5th grade, learning becomes more individualized as student progress is monitored from grade to grade. On-going reading and writing conferences are held with students. Anecdotal grading information is shared and instruction is fine tuned for each child. The teachers’ observations are an invaluable tool throughout the child’s elementary experience and Mark Twain. Teachers are involved not only in their traditional role of instructor, but as a learner and a researcher as well.

The LDC class is a “protected time” to observe children in an active learning setting, where the teacher-student ratio is cut in half. It is the perfect opportunity for the teachers to see and participate in using new teaching strategies. It is an ongoing professional development model that builds a strong sense of community between students and teachers. It has become a “safe place” for all involved to take the “risks” that are necessary for academic and professional growth.


 dual language

Two Worlds, One Vision

Mark Twain Elementary offers an exciting and innovative program called the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program (TWBIP), also know as the Dual Language Program.  The program’s main objective is to provide a cohesive bilingual, biliterate and bicultural environment for an equal number of Spanish speaking and English speaking students in each grade level.  There is an emphasis on literacy in Spanish for both groups, enrichment through a technological component and encouragement of strong parental participation.

Once the application is submitted to Mark Twain, the student may need to come in for oral language testing to determine the dominant language. They will then be placed in the English or Spanish dominant group.  Students are chosen by lottery and after the positions have been filled, everyone else will be placed on the wait list. If any of the students selected decline a spot in the program, we will call the next student on the wait list.

The applications are available in the Mark Twain office. 

Questions and comments can be sent to the Dual Language Coordinator, Graciela Martinez,

PTO Contact Jessica de Jong at

Dos Mundos, Una Visión

La escuela primaria de Mark Twain ofrece un programa estimulante e innovador; el Programa de Inmersión Bilingüe de Dos Vías (TWBIP), también conocido como el Programa de Doble Vía.  El objetivo del programa es el de proveer un ambiente bilingüe, biletrado y bicultural, en cada nivel de la educación, con la participación de un mismo número de estudiantes que hablen Español y esos que hablen Inglés.  Se hace un énfasis en la alfabetización en español para ambos grupos, enriquecido por medio de un componente tecnológico y un incentivo de participación por parte de los padres.

Una vez presentada su solicitud a Mark Twain, el estudiante puede ser requerido para presentarse a tomar un examen de lenguaje oral y determinar su idioma dominante. A continuación, el estudiante será colocado en el grupo dominante que le corresponda, sea este inglés o español. Los estudiantes serán elegidos por lotería y después de haberse completado el número de vacancias disponibles, los demás serán colocados en la lista de espera. Si alguno de los estudiantes seleccionados declina un lugar en el programa, llamaremos al siguiente estudiante en la lista de espera.

Las aplicaciones están disponibles en la oficina de Mark Twain. No hay aplicaciones disponibles en la internet para el Programa de Doble Vía de Mark Twain.


 community partnerships

No Place for Hate – an Anti-Defamation League initiative that requires three school-wide projects each year that teach about the necessity of anti-bias and diversity in our lives. These projects extend from action taken by students in their IB units of inquiry.

Adopt-a-Monument – A program developed by the Houston Arts Foundation to encourage civic pride and contribute to the conservation of the Houston’s public art. Mark Twain is the first HISD school to participate with our adoption of the Henry Moore sculpture, Large Spindle Piece along Allen Parkway.

Rice University School Literacy & Culture Project – Ongoing professional development in collaboration with our Literacy Development Center.

For more information contact Kathleen Blackeslee


 strings program

Mark Twain Elementary is proud to offer an amazing opportunity to students. Within the school day (and after school) budding musicians can join our fun Strings Program. Over 125 kids study violin, cello and guitar. Each year, we host two concerts, a recital, and a musical field trip.


Private lessons are held during the school day. Group lessons are held after school until 4:10pm. Classes generally start during the 4th week of school.


The cost for private and group instruction is $750 for the entire year ($375/semester). Families can pay in 1, 2 or 4 installments.


It is recommended that students rent violins and cellos. Our favorite shops are listed below. The cost is about $20 per month. Regarding guitars, most children require a ¾ size guitar. Some smaller kindergarten children may need a ½ size.

Lisle Violin Shop, 2450 Bissonnet, 77005, 713-526-4005

Amati Violin Shop, 2315 University, 77005, 713-666-6461

Southpaw Guitar, 5813 Bellaire Blvd, 77081, 713-667-5791

Sign Up (online sign-up form not yet available for 2019-2020 school year)

Print the application form and turn it into Vicki Sanchez in the office, with your payment. Checks may be written to Mark Twain Elementary School.



 art a la carte

An innovative program designed to expand students’ appreciation of historically significant art and architecture, Art a la Carte introduces kindergartners through fifth graders to the visual arts. With parent volunteer as their guides, students learn about famous artists, painting, sculpture and architecture, often in a historical context. Each lesson plan includes an overview, samples and a finished product for the students to take home.

Parent volunteers teach eight lessons throughout the school year starting in October and finishing in May. Lessons cover the principles and elements of art. Through this program, students learn to ask informed art-related questions and to approach art as educated critics, all the while building confidence and inspiring their own creativity.

Sign up sheets should be available outside your classroom or contact Calli or Jen, the Art a la Carte coordinators, if you are interested in being a volunteer for a class or have any questions regarding the monthly AALC lesson plans. Individual training sessions are available, if needed.

K – 2 Jessie Fair,

3 – 5 Calli Christenson,


 odyssey of the mind

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.  Click here for a description of this year’s problems.

What are the benefits of Odyssey of the Mind?

  • Students develop team-building skills by working in groups of as many as seven students per team.

  • Students learn to examine problems and to identify the real challenge without limiting the possible solutions and their potential success.

  • The creative-thinking process is nurtured and developed as a problem-solving tool.

  • Students of all types will find something that will appeal to them.

  • The fun of participation leads to an elevated interest in regular classroom curricula.

  • Students are exposed to long-term team-based problems which more closely resembles “real life” projects and helps provide students with a well-rounded education.


name that book

Each year Mark Twain ES participates in the Houston Independent School District’s Name that Book contests.  It is a district-wide reading contest sponsored by HISD’s Library Services. The Name That Book (NTB) contest serves to acquaint HISD students with contemporary and classic literature as well as contemporary award-winning books, representing a variety of genres.  Most of the titles are new and are chosen from the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 and Bluebonnet lists.

The goal is for students to have fun reading, but Name That Book is also a competition.  Students must be selected for the NTB team. There are two teams: K-2 and 3-5. Students interested in participating in the contests should begin reading books from the appropriate NTB list (see link below).  This list involves a significant amount of reading, so students are encouraged to get an early start.

There will be an informational meeting in October for students that are interested and the team selection will occur in December or January.  The selection process will be different this year and more details will be given out at the October meeting. Once the teams are selected, members should expect to practice one to two times a week until the competition in March.

For more information, please contact PTO representative Kat Liddle at


Engineering And Robotics Learned Young (EARLY) is a program that exposes our youth to engineering.  EARLY provides 7 to 12 year olds the opportunity to participate in a robotics competition every fall and spring.

Mark Twain typically has 4-5 teams with approximately 4 students and one coach per team. Teams meet weekly after school to construct and practice operating Lego built robots in preparation for tournaments at the ends of each Semester.  There will be a Fall and Spring school tournament, the top scorers of which will advance to area meets.

For more information about Robotics visit Early Robotics or contact Coach Jody


 after school program

The Extended Day Program provides care for your child at Mark Twain until 4:10 pm (half-time) or 6:00 pm (full time), depending on your needs. If you do not need Extended Day care every day, we offer 35 full-time days or 10-day packages.

Once the fall semester begins, we must receive registration forms and half the payment per semester for your child at least 2 days prior to their time in Extended Day.

The Extended Day program is overseen by the Mark Twain Elementary Administration and is managed by Mark Twain Elementary. For questions, please email Stacey Karr at