OHIO'S interscholastic WRITING LEAGUE for adolescents & young adults

Only PenOhio offers Schools a Curriculum linked to Ohio's New Writing Standards for Grades 7-12, plus Tournaments leading to Nationals!

Ohio schools have a choice which writing program they choose to join this year. But before you register, consider carefully what you're buying. 
PenOhio's 7-12 model tracks in exact unison with Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Licensure for English Language Arts Teachers, and with ODE's total instructional package for learners. So wherever a teacher or learner transfers in the State, PenOhio remains relevant. 
Our interactive eBook celebrates award-winning creative works from past tournaments, links to ODE Writing Standards, and provides teaching tips for each winning work.

PenOhio offers teachers and students an 8-week online workshop written and supported by masters-level curriculum & instruction specialists.
Plus, PenOhio offers outstanding tournament experiences with the promise of National Finals soon to come.
The competition offers none of these advantages to Ohio's students, teachers, and schools.
Invest your community's dollars wisely.  Think and ask questions before you register
Welcome to PenOhio.
We're in it for the kids.

What penohio is all about

PenOhio, and its parent organization, United Fellowship of The Pen, is driven to reconceptualize ways in which teachers and learners experience writing instruction so that all school communities are afforded the opportunity to make optimum meaning and worth from time invested mastering the life skill of narrative self-expression.

That's our Mission Statement. That's what we're all about. 

We make sure we deliver our promise by helping teachers focus on Inspiring, Praising, and Rewarding young writers. Because we've learned over the years that Positivity is how young writers become great writers.

Our emphasis isn't just on tournaments. It's on teaching teachers how to inspire students with the thrill of competition, then use the fruits of competition as a teaching tool in classrooms to help all learners. All that we encourage is in lock step with what Ohio encourages of our educators and schools to do. 


"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.


New York Times Best-Selling Author D. Watkins from Baltimore congratulates winning Division 7/8 teams at the 2018 PenOhio Oberlin Regional Championships on March 21, 2018, at Warner Concert Hall on the campus of Oberlin College & Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin College will kick off the 2018-2019 PenOhio Tournament series on January 18-19, 2019, with a Dual-Division Regional and Bootcamp Professional Conference for English Teachers. Last year's event drew in excess of 450 participants.


BUILDING YOUR BOOKSHELF: Best-Selling Author Anne Lamott has taught writing workshops for many years and has stockpiled (like most seasoned writing teachers) a bag of tricks, which are not so much exercises as attitudes -- the "short assignment" epitomized by a one-inch picture frame (just fill that amount of space with words), for example, or the use of index cards, both of which make writing less intimidating. Setting euphemism firmly aside in breaking down the writing process, Ms. Lamott calls a bird a bird and a bad first draft what it deserves to be called. If you don't already have Bird by Bird on your Bookshelf, add it to your classroom today! "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" is a great read for anyone who writes or wants to write. Ms. Lamott stresses commitment to the process itself. "The real payoff is the writing itself, that a day when you have gotten your work done is a good day, that total dedication is the point." 

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 Anne Lamott, TED Talks, the New York Times, and others for limited use of content for the betterment of teaching and learning in Ohio schools. 


Wouldn't it be great if Red Pens got outlawed? We think so. In fact, PenOhio is based on the belief that negative comments on writing (1) kill the confidence of the writer; and (2) do not produce positive gains in writing.

What does help writers? Southeast Missouri State University has some fantastic material available on Holistic Evaluation, which is the form of evaluation PenOhio uses in tournament competition.

In holistic scoring, essays are not given low scores just because they contain many mechanical errors, nor are they given high scores just because they are well organized. The reader considers the overall impression created by the student's writing sample and assigns a score consistent with that overall impression.

If there is an Achilles' Heel to PenOhio's model for narrative writing assessment, it is the difficulty of getting teachers from many places to evaluate and appreciate work consistently.

Evaluation of self-expression is, after all, subjective (rather than objective). What you like and prefer in your choice of books or essays can differ entirely from what the next teacher values. 

But still, there are some basic ground rules we can all adhere to; and ground zero for our efforts to evaluate work with a common, shared perspective exists in the instructions we provide on the award of Quality and Rank Points, plus Rich Comments at tournament competition.

To reach a common ground, PenOhio will be holding a series of online workshops in the fall for Teacher/Coaches. "Teacher Tuesdays" will run for 8 weeks beginning October 9 online. All PenOhio member Teacher/Coaches may attend these after-school instructional sessions. Please see the Workshops Tab for more details.



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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