Mark Twain’s fine arts program follows a comprehensive, sequential curriculum that is based on the NYS standards for the arts as delineated in the “Blueprint for the Arts.” Throughout the three years, students participate in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, collage making, 2D design and media technology. Emphasis is placed on literacy in the arts, and connections are made to the appropriate social studies topics through art historical discussions. Students are introduced to the many, fine art collections found in the city’s vast array of museums.
Throughout the year, art students are called upon to design tee shirts, posters, programs, and sets for drama and dance performances. They supply the yearbook with its cover as well as drawings used throughout the book. They participate in contests and host an annual art ceremony and art show in the spring of each year. Beginning in the 6th grade, portfolios are maintained in preparation for the LaGuardia, Murrow, Frank Sinatra, and Art and Design high school art entrance exams that take place in the 8th grade. Mark Twain has, for years, been the primary feeder school to these art programs. It is understood that entering students have varied backgrounds in art instruction. All students get personal attention to facilitate skill acquisition and art theory comprehension.
Mark Twain’s Athletic Talent program is designed to promote a strong foundation in the areas of physical fitness, cooperative learning and sport. Students will be exposed to a variety of fitness related activities and exercises, various sport skills practices, and of course, group games and tournaments. As part of the three year curriculum, students will engage in a diverse selection of team sports which are conducive for participation in a gymnasium setting.
In every grade, emphasis is placed on body conditioning as a means of developing and improving muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. Through exercise, students will enhance their athletic performance while broadening their knowledge and desire of fitness. This will translate into lifelong health benefits to students who are motivated to incorporate these practices into their daily lives.
In addition, students will participate in a 10-week bowling tournament each year. During one of their Athletic Talent class double periods on a given school day, students will be transported to a nearby bowling facility where they will bowl with their classmates in a team setting.
Applicants will be tested on their ability to perform two physical education activities (including soccer dribbling and baseball catching and throwing) designed to determine coordination and balance, physical fitness, hand-eye coordination, depth perception and motor skills. They are to report with sneakers and comfortable loose fitting pants (sweatpants or gym shorts) and a T-shirt.
Computer / Math Talent
Mark Twain once said, “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”
The use of instructional technology provides opportunites for our students to experience learning both inside and outside the school walls. In today’s fast-paced, competitive, high-tech society where our graduates are looking at a future of constant job changes across multiple fields, few students are better prepared for 21st century careers than those students in our most populous talent, encompassing over 20% of the student body.
In 2013, our existing program was recognized by the NYCDOE by being selected as one of ten middle schools to pilot a new Software Engineering Pilot or SEP curriculum for possible rollout to the rest of the city. Our three computer teachers have been actively attending over 400 hours of professional development geared towards making this program a success. This curriculum will form the foundation of the Mayor’s recent announcement that all K-12 schools will be offering all NYC students a healthy dose of computer programming and related skills in less than a decade. Though there’s some overlap between what we used to do and this new pilot curriculum, we’re making ongoing adjustments that fulfill the requirements of the curriculum as they impact our unique group of children.
Grade 6 starts with basic Programming skills using an age appropriate graphical programming language called Scratch developed by MIT. From there we introduce the students to HyperText Markup Langauge, HTML, a coding language that allows a web browser to render a basic web page. Basic graphics editing is introduced. And then after a brief foray into data structures introduced in Spreadsheets, we venture into Robotics where students build and program the EV3 Lego Mindstorms robots. Along the way our students participate in two favorites from our pre-existing curriculum, participation in the NYC regional Stock Market Game where they work as teams and learn basic economics concepts. And they gain some experience with 3D graphics and geometry using Google SketchUp. The vast majority of all this work resides on students’ online portfolios and Google Apps for Education is heavily employed throughout.
Grade 7 is introduced to Physical Computing using the Arduino, a single board Microcontroller. They’ll build on the graphical nature of Scratch and program their Arduino electrical circuits using Ardublocks and compare those programs to the equivalent text based programming language, Processing, which looks a lot like Java or Python. We build upon HTML by introducing Cascading Style Sheets, CSS, to make more complex web pages. And sound editing joins graphics editing to make the pages more robust. Game Design is introduced using a web site called GameStarMechanic. Mobile App Development is covered using a Microsoft designed programming language called TouchDevelop.
Computer-Math Talent involves writing, peer tutoring, collaborative projects, and computer/network troubleshooting. There’s no question that students are capable of excelling with either strong math or computer backgrounds. Students work cooperatively to support and extend their very different levels of individual expertise.
When making the decision to apply to this talent, it is critical to note that this is a computer intensive program and no longer has a separate Math component. Instead the applied mathematics concepts are sprinkled throughout. So when we do 3D graphics, we’re heavily invested in 2D/3D geometry. When students play the stock market game, we’re analyzing charts and graphs, making mental calculations. Programming is chock full of algebraic concepts like equations, variables, Cartesian Coordinates and of course basic problem solving. Arduino is largely about the design of electric circuits and physics formulae. Robotics uses sensors and motors to turn math into specific distances with rotating wheels and gears and mathematical feeback from the real world.
There is no best method of preparation for the Math portion of the test. Some questions are similar to Math Team competition questions. Some might be recognizable as similar to those on IQ tests. We’re not just looking for good math students. We’re looking for students who can apply the math concepts to unusual situations.
The best preparation for the Computer portion is lots of web browsing, an effort to use the computer for things other than chatting and videogames and some familiarity with computer and internet terminology. Good review sites include: whatis.techtarget.com, computer.howstuffworks.com, cnet.com and theverge.com.
Typically, half of the students who test for Twain make Computer/Math Talent one of their 2 talent selections, so it’s quite competitive. Students with strong computer skills can compensate for less than outstanding math skills, but this is really a talent test that challenges even Level 4 Math students.
Creative Writing Talent
Students in Creative Writing enjoy expressing, in words, their ideas and emotions. They use their superior facility with language to create vivid characters and unique plots. The writers’ workshop method is used to critique one another’s work and make necessary revisions, whether students are working on poems, short stories, memoirs or even novels.
Sixth graders are introduced to a variety of genres. They study each genre by reading and analyzing successful examples and then writing their own works and sharing with their peers. They typically study poetry, mythology, mystery, play writing and fantasy. They also work on expanding their knowledge of the world through the power of observation. Self-examination reminds them of their uniqueness as individuals and their commonality as members of society.
Seventh grade Creative Writing students study the elements of journalism prior to publishing our award-winning school newspaper, the Pilot. They also continue an intensive investigation of poetry, short stories and the novel, culminating in the creation of their own individual novellas.
Eighth graders use their expertise to write the entire award-winning school yearbook, Reflections. One editor and two assistant editors are chosen from each eighth grade Creative Writing class. All creative writing students interview staff and students, observe classes and school events, and write articles and photo captions. The editorial staff then works on proofreading, revising and offering suggestions on layout. Most of our yearbooks have won 1st place in a nationwide contest sponsored by American Scholastic Press Association. In addition to producing the yearbook, the seniors of the creative writing program also study and write young adult fiction, children’s literature, memoirs and historical fiction.
The writers in all grades use journals as a method of collecting ideas and exploring new avenues of creativity. In addition, they use The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students by Mignon Fogarty as a reference tool inenhancing their understanding of proper writing mechanics. They also subscribe to Read/Scope and Teen Ink magazines, where they have had success in getting work published. They enter various poetry & essay contests throughout the school year, on local and national levels. Author visits andclass trips to view performances of pieces that are read in class are enriching experiences that students remember fondly for years to come.
Elements of our dance curriculum include the study of:
Dance classes are held in a mirrored, barred, wooden-floored studio. Emphasis is on the development and refinement of movement ability and the exposure to diversified dance forms. Some goals include the improvement of technique, the experience of choreography and performance, the study of the use of the moving body, the fostering of creative expression, and the enjoyment of dance.
- Various movement techniques such as ballet, jazz, modern, tap, ethnic, and social dance.
- The parts of movement including rhythm, tempo, level, direction, space, expression, etc.
- Dance history
- Dance vocabulary
- Careers in the dance field
- Current events
- Creative movement
The Drama Talent entrance exam consists of two parts. First, applicants will prepare and perform a monologue. The monologue will be posted on our is239.schoolwires.com website before testing begins. Students must memorize the monologue and perform it in front of two judges. Props, costumes, etc. may be used in order to make your child’s performance more believable, but it is not required. Please help your child to prepare for this part of the exam.
Second, your child will be asked to do a cold reading. A cold reading is a scene given to performers at an audition so that judges can gauge their acting instincts. Your child will be grouped with other applicants to participate in this activity.
For the exam, students will be judged on the following criteria: diction, expression, poise, characterization, interpretation, creativity, voice quality, ability to follow stage directions, concentration, and timing.
The curriculum for the Drama Talent students consists of developing principles, techniques, and processes of drama. The program demonstrates both literacy and professionalism in the theater.
- To foster students’ initiative and cooperation via frequently participating in individual and group activities (i.e. charades, pantomimes, improvisations, scene work, script writing, discussions, and performances).
- To express ideas and venture creatively, orally, and in writing.
- To help develop character, setting, and dramatic action.
- To establish professionalism in the theatre.
- To work independently and collaboratively, and to assume theatrical responsibility.
- To perform theatre-related tasks (i.e. handling props, set design and construction, application of makeup and costume design).
- To compare and contrast human experience to theatre, both orally and in writing.
- To improvise observational skills and self-confidence via journal entries, reports and presentations.
- To improve body coordination and flexibility via relaxation exercises and choreographed dancing.
- To stimulate responses, constructive criticism, and self/peer critiquing.
Media Talent is an important component of the NYS Visual Arts curriculum, which offers students another creative form of expression. The arts give life to a child’s creativity, and human creativity is the essence of art. Enriching a child’s life with art enables them to develop and thrive as a student and as a person of the world.
Media Talent is an intensive photography program involving both film and digital camera equipment and their varying processes. Our photography laboratory contains eleven professional Beseler enlargers and a darkroom processing sink for students to process their own black and white film and enlarged photographic images. Our outer room is utilized for general classroom and digital lab work. Apple computers containing digital editing and word-processing programs are used. Students will also attend moving image classes.
Media students will learn how to use small-format photographic equipment and concentration will be on learning traditional methods of darkroom chemical processing. Students will learn how to compose and create thought provoking images by “painting with light”. They will work extensively in our professional photographic darkroom, learning basic to advanced processing techniques. They will also learn how to successfully edit digital images (still and moving) on our classroom computers using digital equipment and computer technologies utilized in the industry. Students will study the historical influences and works of master artists throughout this three-year program while developing their own personal artistic voices.
Media Talent students are responsible for recording school events and functions throughout the school year to be published and showcased in our school’s Reflections yearbook; our school newspaper, The Pilot; our is239.schoolwires.com web site; our video yearbook; and our yearly in-house Visual Arts Show. Students are also responsible for completing a portfolio of their finest work achieved while attending Mark Twain, for high school entrance examinations and syllabus completion. Photographic images created by Media Talent students are entered in various contests and competitions throughout their attendance, with the ultimate goal of exhibiting in New York galleries and museums throughout the city.
Knowledge of the subject area is recommended but not required for the Media Talent examination. We are testing a student’s ability to identify what they are seeing when observing a photograph or moving image, in both content and genre. Applicants should be able to recognize and interpret the various effects that camera angle, lighting, subject-placement, sound, and special effects can have on the mood, content, and overall quality of an image or scene.
Music Talents (Strings, Winds, Vocal)
The Mark Twain Music Talents are a sequential three year program. The students in sixth and seventh grade receive five periods of instructional time per week, while eighth grade receives seven periods per week.
No experience on an instrument or singing is required to test for the Mark Twain music programs. Sixth graders are considered beginners if learning a new instrument or vocal technique. If your child comes into Mark Twain as an experienced strings, band, or vocal performer, they are considered “advanced.” Each teacher provides advanced students with different opportunities to show their skills.
Further details about this test is available on the last page of this booklet.
Although applicants are allowed to audition on piano and guitar for both string and wind talent areas, note that there is no long-term instruction on either guitar or piano at Mark Twain. Children who are accepted will have to learn one of the other many instruments currently in use in our programs.
Expectations for all Music Talents are high. Students are expected to perform at a high level. Students are challenged to be the best musician and performer they can be as individuals and as an ensemble player. Students are expected to maintain at least an 85 average. The ensembles require discipline to practice a half hour per night on their instrument/vocal production, as well as work on written assignments, quizzes, and playing exams to understand music theory and vocabulary. Students learn to be solid sight-readers as well as learn how to read music.
Students are required to perform in two culminating concerts per year (December & May). All groups perform in the concerts. The Music Department is asked to perform in many out of school performances such as Brooklyn Borough Hall, local senior homes, Lincoln Center, and Hofstra.
Each year, directors of each talent choose an ensemble to participate in the New York State School Music Association Major Organization Festival in June. Students perform on specific levels to achieve a rating based on their
performances. Recent years have been very successful for our students who have achieved 6 Gold with Distinctions (the highest honor given) and 2 Gold!
Strings Talent (String Orchestra): Students, regardless of what instrument they audition on, will be playing either Violin, Viola, Cello, or Double bass. Students experience differing genres throughout their 3 years in Twain. Concert pieces range from Baroque (Handel, Bach) to Classical (Mozart) to Modern (Richard Meyer) to Broadway and Movie Themes.
Vocal Talent (Choir): The Mark Twain Choirs perform in many languages throughout the three years including Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, French, English, Russian and Japanese. The students will study youth group choral literature with a rich harmonic texture and is appropriate for an accomplished youth choral ensemble.
Winds Talent (Band): Students will choose to play either a woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument regardless of what instrument they audition on. Students have the opportunity to not only perform in the regular wind ensembles, but also the Jazz Band in the eighth grade.
Our Music Department has a successful history, and if your child wants to be a part of an exciting and challenging music world, have them audition for the Mark Twain Music Department’s three Talents.
The Science Talent program is a three-year spiral curriculum course of study that focuses on the biological and chemical sciences.
Components of this program include:
6th Grade (Year One) — Students are introduced to the analytical and observational skills of a working laboratory. Extensive training using specialized equipment is accomplished through both individual and group experimentation. Topics covered include metrics, scientific method, phases of matter, Periodic Table, atomic structure, formula writing, graph construction/analysis, and a well-grounded introduction to biology, chemistry and biochemistry. Expertise in the use of the microscope will be developed through the study
- Higher Level mathematics, extensive writing, reading and public speaking skills integrated.
- Advanced laboratory skills and techniques
- Meet 4 days/week for 5 periods (1 day is a double period)
- Metric system used exclusively
- Oral presentations and formal lab reports required
- Group and independent study projects
of cellular biology, bacteriology, and living specimens. Cell structures and cellular reproduction are covered. By the end of the year, students are well grounded in biology and chemistry and are ready for complex and advanced study.
7th Grade (Year Two) — Students will be furthering their studies of chemistry and biology and their respective relationship to human biology and genetics. The Laws of Mendelian Genetics will be studied along with DNA structure and genomics. An introduction to DNA Analysis through electrophoresis will be begun. An expansion of the nature of chemistry includes stoichiometry, chemical equations, types of reactions and radioactivity. Forensic science techniques will be initiated. All topics include sophisticated laboratory experimentation using state of the art equipment.
8th Grade (Year Three) — Science Talent students will be expected to advance their knowledge and laboratory skills as we build upon our foundations in biology and chemistry. Detailed DNA structure, replication, transcription and translation to proteins will be covered. DNA analysis will become more intricate, involving intensified electrophoresis activities such as cancer gene and genetic disease detection.
Topics of human genetic disorders-history, symptoms, current treatments and future possibilities will be addressed. Evolutionary trends, both molecular and anatomical are discussed. Forensic science techniques will be continued and will focus on crime scene analysis. Topics in organic chemistry and labs involving product production will be introduced. Studies of comparative anatomy will be performed using dissection skills. Dissections may be done using actual specimens, models or computer labs. Identification, preparation and staining of microbiological specimens will be performed.