Wooster City School District’s (WCSD) PenOhio team, which consists of a seventh-grade, eighth-grade, junior varsity and varsity team, looks forward to its upcoming competitive season. PenOhio is a grassroots, interscholastic writing competition for students in grades 7-12 that originated in northeast Ohio to encourage schools to field a writing team.
Wooster High School will host the PenOhio divisional tournament for grades 9-12 (junior varsity and varsity teams) on Saturday, March 9. Competing against local high schools from Summit, Wayne and various other counties, qualifying students will move onto compete at the state tournament later this year.
At the tournaments, students are given a creative writing prompt and have 40 minutes to compose their stories alongside five other students. After three rounds, students are scored on a holistic rubric out of 100 points per piece of writing and are ranked one through six, with one being the highest ranking. The scores are added together at the end of the tournament to determine both individual and team winners.
WCSD’s PenOhio team is advised by head coach Chelsey Porter, a WHS English and reading teacher, and assistant coach Michael Sexton, a language arts teacher at Edgewood Middle School. Wooster’s district-wide PenOhio club is made up of more than 40 students of all grade levels, and the competitive teams are selected by the coaches from the club.
“PenOhio prepares students for the future by helping them develop improvisational skills,” said Porter. “These skills are particularly important, as the students not only must improvise on a topic they have never seen, but they must also create a plan for this topic and focus on it for 40 minutes. Many prompts ask students to reflect on real societal issues and propose solutions (however imaginative) to these instances.”
This is the first year Wooster High School students grades 9-12 are able to be involved in PenOhio, which was an opportunity previously offered to only middle school students. Now, students have the possibility of being involved in the program for six years.
“By joining PenOhio, students gain stronger creative writing skills as they explore a variety of types of prompts,” said Porter. “This allows them to create a portfolio of writing from which many of my participants gather ideas for longer pieces of writing or even novels. I believe this strengthens their creative writing skills, as it forces them outside of their comfort zone in terms of genre, style, length and theme.”