OHIO'S interscholastic WRITING LEAGUE for adolescents & young adults

This Site is No Longer Monitored by PenOhio Personnel

Please contact Jackie Lovelace, Executive Director at penohio1@gmail.com


"Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. And 40 percent of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to complete successfully a college-level English composition class, according to the company’s data."

That's a quote from an August 2, 2017, New York Times article by Dana Goldstein titled "Why Kids Can't Write", and it's well worth reading. 

Goldstein goes on to explain that the biggest failure is the lack of programs out there that teach teachers how to teach writing...which is exactly what PenOhio is designed to do. "The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves. 

According to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a scan of course syllabuses from 2,400 teacher preparation programs turned up little evidence that the teaching of writing was being covered in a widespread or systematic way."

Not only is PenOhio in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, we're having fun doing it.



What if some of the best books today aren't even books at all? Odd thought, hunh? It may well be true. Just ask Vi Hart.

Using little more than a Sharpie and a sheet of paper, Vi Hart breaks down topics like Fibonacci sequences, binary trees and hexaflexagons, turning doodling in math class into entertaining, thought-provoking videos. As a result, she's built an audience of over 600,000 subscribers in three years, with more than 43 million views for her YouTube videos. Go ahead and google Vi Hart, or visit her website at vihart.com. You'll see she's evolved into quite the writer and video producer on YouTube!!

The above video was recorded in September 2013 at XOXO, an arts and technology festival in Portland, Oregon celebrating independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love. For more, visit http://xoxofest.com.

Compare her numbers with YouTube guru James Wedmore (who teaches you how to succeed on YouTube)... he has, um, a little over 3 million views. We're not knocking James–he's doing good work. But, keep in mind Vi Hart doesn't follow any guru advice. And she's blown way past what he's accomplished on YouTube (at least in views). Her secret is to simply produce and deliver. Vi Hart does confess that she is not beyond using her body to get clicks (she says tongue in cheek while showing a video thumbnail with a picture of her hand on keyboard).

Some favorite Vi Hart quotes (be aware of the sarcasm factor):

  • "Audiences exist to be monetized."
  • "How to win at YouTube: say Like, say Subscribe, and cross-promote."
  • “If you don’t tell people to like your stuff, how will they know they like your stuff?"
  • And finally in all seriousness she says: "I get scared when user experience comes before content"
Vi Hart focuses on producing content. There's no silver bullet. All the formulas and best practices in the world are not going to work if we don't produce content people want to see.

Fair Use doctrine provides for limited use of copyrighted materials by nonprofit educational organizations for teaching and scholarly purposes and for the promotion of creative expression. United Fellowship of The Pen gratefully acknowledges the individual copyright holders, including Vi Hart, XOXO, TED Talks, the New York Times, and others for limited use of content for the betterment of teaching and learning in Ohio schools. 


Who says a writing prompt needs to be words or a question? Why can't a writing prompt be a picture?

Every day, The New York Times publishes Picture Prompts on its Learning Network. The above Picture Prompt is titled, The Giant Machine.  Perhaps, as an instructor, you simply show the image and provide no other instruction but to give writers 40 minutes to write a narrative in response to viewing the image. Alternatively, if you click on the link, The New York Times provides a written prompt to accompany the image. 

Please see the photo credit for this work on the linked page, and respect the author of this work, Felix Decombat. It's a really neat piece of art to study. Thanks also to The New York Times for a wonderful teaching aid! Well worth a subscription!!

Helpful tool, hunh?



PenOhio teams get ready for Winter writing tournaments by attending after-school practices the preceding Fall. Most school teams build their team practice sessions around PenOhio Workshops, which we provide free to member schools online. 

All PenOhio workshops, which air on YouTube, align with Ohio's New Writing Standards. Each workshop is in mini-lesson format, and is led by an award-winning PenOhio Writing Coach. 

Each lesson features a different theme, such as Building a Story Outline, Effective Use of Concrete Imagery, How to Write Using Dialogue, and much more... Learn more


PenOhio Interscholastic Writing Tournaments challenge students to compete both as individual writers, and in teams of six. We offer tournament competitions by grade level division (Grade 7, Grade 8, Junior Varsity [9/10], and Varsity [11/12]). 

At each tournament, writers compose three original narrative works, each in 40 minutes, to prompts not known to them in advance. Each writer is judged in a round against up to 5 other writers from other schools, and judged by a PenOhio coach not known to the writer. The writer receives Rank and Quality Scores for each submission, plus a rich, constructive, encouraging comment regarding his/her work. 

Based on score totals for all submissions, individual and team scores reveal top finishers. Depending on scoring, writers may qualify for State Competition, publication, and/or scholarship opportunities... Learn more


From PenOhio tournaments, the best writing in Ohio is identified. This writing is catalogued annually in PenOhio's eBook of Winners.

The eBook is designed with several audiences in mind. First, it is intended to serve students. Inside the current year's edition are 30 of the finest stories that were penned from over 1,000 submissions made during the past tournament season. It is a tribute to the students who wrote these stories; and intended as an inspiration to peers that great writing is well within grasp!

Second, the eBook is meant as a classroom tool for teachers, and has coupled with each story a page to help teachers use the story for instruction. This furthers PenOhio's goal of using program assets to change the way we teach writing in Ohio for the better... Learn more

  • PenOhio
    A United Fellowship of The Pen Program

    PO Box 13291 
    Akron, OH 44334


Copyright 2017-2018, United Fellowship of The Pen and Planetc, LLC. All rights reserved.
Original designs, ideas, and curriculum copyright 2016, Planetc, LLC. All rights reserved. Patent pending.

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