Fall Farmhouse Retreat 2017

Come join WPWP fellows and friends for a social weekend of writing, sharing and relaxing, featuring two visiting writers with strong ties to the region: Jen Lee and Tony Norman.

Fall Retreat


JEN LEE: Jennifer Lee writes essays—personal and lyric, on art and silence and the body.

TONY NORMAN: “Tony Norman is a columnist and associate editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

WHO: You and your WPWP friends

WHAT: A weekend of fun, rejuvenation, and writing

WHERE: Beth Votlz’s family farmhouse (10-15 min past the Oglebay Resort)

WHEN: October 20-22, 2017


· Queen size bed, single occupancy, full weekend/workshop $160 (first come first serve)

· Double occupancy, queen size bed, full weekend/workshop $120 per person

· Workshop only (Saturday October 21st) $90

· Other – contact Oglebay Resort or other local hotels for accommodations and pay the workshop only fee.

DEADLINE: October 15, 2017

Click here for the full flyer.

TO REGISTER and indicate which workshop you will be attending, please email ccoleman1@pghboe.net or jernsthausen1@pghboe.net by Oct 15, 2017. Please send checks to the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project office at University of Pittsburgh 5518 Wesley W. Posvar Hall 230 South Bouquet Street Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Additional info will be forwarded to you after registration has been received.

2017 Westmoreland Professional Development Workshops – Part 2

Writing With Influence for Teachers

Maneuvering Across the Landscape of PA Core Writing Utilizing Mentor Texts:
Narrative, Information, and Opinion/Argument

Dates: July 31, August 1, and August 2, 2017

Location: Westmoreland Intermediate Unit

Register for this session by clicking on 2017 Courses/Workshops.

In this 3-day workshop for teachers of grades 2-8, learn to maneuver through the landscape and trek across the terrain of the 3 writing umbrellas of the PA Core: Narrative, Information, and Opinion/Argument. Engage in process writing utilizing the reciprocal and recursive stages of writing workshop including: collecting and rehearsing, drafting, revising, editing and celebrating. Work alongside well-known experts of the field as we study researched based methods from Lucy Calkins, Ralph Fletcher, Donald Graves and Don Murray. Reimagine your students’ writing potential as you engage in authentic writing tasks utilizing many mentor texts as models. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to be a critical part of what the standards have already begun to shape in our schools: the demand for the refocus of classroom instruction on student advancement towards proficiency in writing. This is currently the third cohort of Writing with Influence.

2017 Westmoreland Professional Development Workshops – Part 1

Writing With Influence for Principals

Principals as Curricular Leaders in Writing Instruction and Assessment

Date: August 3, 2017

Location: Westmoreland Intermediate Unit

Register for this session by clicking on 2017 Courses/Workshops.

This intensive one day workshop for principals and administrators will focus on learning how to support teachers in implementing quality writing instruction and creating and sustaining consistent writing progress across and within grade levels. Participants will explore:

  • Pa Core writing modes
  • What to look for in a writing workshop classroom
  • How to support teachers as writers and teachers of writers
  • Resources to assist teachers and students in writing workshop
  • Pre- and post assessments that guide next step teaching and learning
  • Norming grade level writing to establish a continuum of exemplars
  • Designing and implementing a Planned Course Outline in writing

In the words of Carol, Lauren, and Val

Piccini. YWI 2016 1

In the words of Carol Aten Frow, WPWP Fellow 2016

A Favorite Lesson for Middle School Students

One of my favorite lessons is to take a picture book and turn it into a writing lesson. I chose the book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” and my seventh graders have to do cause-and-effect writing. That’s the perfect book. If you give a mouse a cookie, then this is what is going to happen. I typed it up, as a document, and then we analyzed it as to how that structure is built into writing. What kind of transition words do you use? How do you punctuate that? Then they had to create a “If you give someone a something.”

While we were working on this project, we also read the sequels including, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.” The students pulled off that authorcraft of the alliteration and mimicked the structure. Our students created great books: “If you give a dog a donut,” “If you give a penguin a popsicle,” and “If You Give a hamster a Jalapeno,” for instance.

When we look at the piece of literature, whatever it can be, we can look at it for what it says, its actual message as a reader. We can also learn grammar, writing craft, and we can mimic it in our own writing. That benefits us as writers in the long run.

This is a great way to make participles real to kids to show how different kinds of words can be descriptive in their writing. When we think about how grammar is traditionally taught, that is so not it. Research shows that no one learns through a textbook and a worksheet, but if you can see it in the writing you can use, the lessons will stick.

What Val showed us in our workshops involved using mentor texts as an example for our kids. They can then analyze that piece as a reader, but then they also learn to analyze it as a writer. There is a great reciprocity between a reader and a writer.

Piccini. Teacher Workshops at the WIU 5 
In the Words of Lauren Spang, WPWP Fellow 2016

An Informational Writing Workshop

In our information writing workshops, Carol and I show various text structures, such as compare/contrast, pro/con, cause/effect, to reinforce the importance of teaching reading/writing together.  We use a variety of mentor texts that model each of the text structures and demonstrate how to organize student writing across those text structures.  In addition, I will model my own personal examples of writing that aligns with each of the text structures. 

To introduce my students to informational writing, I modeled topics and facts on which I consider myself to be an expert.  I personally enjoy long-distance running (currently training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon) and I use this as a topic with them a lot.  I shared my knowledge of running and gave them tons of facts that I know about the topic.  

Throughout the mini-lessons, I brainstormed, organized, and drafted my essay right in front of my kids.  I showed them how easy it is to be considered an “expert” and inform the reader about facts. I guess this is her writing, but facts by definition are true! They loved it –after all, everybody knows a lot about someone or something!  It was very relatable to them and really boosted their confidence.  From there, I give them more standard writing prompts–structured toward PSSA preparations–for the next pieces of informational writing.  They are excited and confident in their ability to write.  

Many of the strategies presented are ideas that both Carol and I implemented into our classrooms the previous year.  I have found the brainstorming and organization process of informational writing to flow more smoothly because of these strategies.

Individual student sharing with the whole class has been a big hit in my classroom during the informational writing. If anything, I have noticed that a lot of these strategies really build student confidence and help kids enjoy writing.

In the Words of Valerie Piccini, WPWP Fellow 2016

Fueling the Fire for Teachers

My strong love for and dedication to both reading and writing has cultivated my desire to develop lifelong readers and writers in my students. Including my colleagues on this journey makes my efforts that much more meaningful. In partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and with the inexhaustible support of my administrator, Rob Buffone, and my dedicated colleagues at Heritage Elementary, I’m fully equipped to immerse my young writers in this important work. This work is realized in the Literacy Labs I am fortunate to facilitate. Globally, Writers of Westmoreland encapsulates a shared vision and that is simply to inspire both teachers of writing and student writers to explore multiple genres of writing in a supportive and stimulating community of thinkers and learners.

For anyone interested in building this kind of a community for writers, I would recommend they begin by having a sense of urgency to do all they can to build the effectiveness of teachers as writers and as leaders of writing -everywhere!  This supports the philosophy of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project which states, “The best teachers of writing are the teachers who write.” We are not blessed as educators to simply be blessed; we are blessed to be a blessing to others.


Scholastic Writing Awards – Pittsburgh Region 2017

Congratulations to this year’s Scholastic winners! To see if your piece won an award, please visit this page. If your name and piece are listed but you did not receive an email from smf89@pitt.edu with information about the Awards Ceremony, please notify us by emailing smf89@pitt.edu with the subject line “Awards Ceremony Information Request”.

For those who did not win this year, please know that your writing was appreciated, and please continue to write. We would love to see more of your writing next year for the 2018 competition.

Westmoreland Workshops: Writing with Influence

WPWP teacher-leader Val Piccini will be leading two cohorts of practitioners, grades 3-8 through Writing with Influence, August 1-3, and 4-5, 2016 at the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. The subtitle of the workshop is as follows: Maneuvering Across the Landscape of PA Core Writing–Narrative, Information, and Opinion/Argument Utilizing Mentor Texts.  For more information, go to


Valerie Piccini currently works as a certified reading specialist in the Franklin Regional School District.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Duquesne University and her Master’s degree in Reading with Disabilities from Wilmington University.  Valerie has also studied with Lucy Calkins at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, New York City.

Scholastic Writing Awards – Pittsburgh Region 2016

Thanks to all who participated in the Pittsburgh Regional Scholastic Writing Awards! This year the Pittsburgh region received over 400 entries, spanning ten different genres of writing.  The judges were very impressed with the volume and quality of the submissions.

The 2016 winners can be viewed here.

Pittsburgh Regional Scholastic Writing Awards will be distributed at the Regional Writing Awards Ceremony on Saturday, February 27, 2016 from 2-4PM at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

2016 Summer Institute for Teachers–Application Available

Interested in joining a national network of education innovators?  Or know a friend who would love to be involved in the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project? Check out the 2016 Western Pennsylvania Writing Project Summer Institute for Teachers.  Here is the brochure:


Here is the application form:

SIT 2016 application

For more information, talk to a WPWP teacher-consultant, or e-mail Laura Roop at laurroop@pitt.edu

Scholastic Writing Awards: Deadline, December 18, 2015

Don’t forget to encourage your students to enter the Scholastic Writing Awards!  Students, please enter your best work!

Here is a link to information about deadlines and entry requirements for the Pittsburgh region:


Here is the link to the home page for Scholastic Art and Writing Awards:


Here is a poster with information about preparing and submitting entries:




WPWP Holiday Party 2015

The Western Pennsylvania Writing Project will hold its annual Holiday Party on Saturday, December 12, from 4:00-8:00 p.m.  The event will be held at 120 Parise Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15221, at the home of Laura Roop and Richard Koch.  Feel free to bring a treat to share.  There will be Drew’s chicken and lasagna, salad, beer, wine, soft drinks, and Laura’s chocolate raspberry cheesecake.