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College of Education

Center for Research in Writing and Literacy

Upstate Writing Project at Clemson University

The Upstate Writing Project is an official National Writing Project site. It is supported by financial and professional resources of Clemson University and local school districts. In keeping with the National Writing Project model, UWP has the following primary goals:

  • To improve students’ writing abilities by improving the teaching and learning of writing in the nation’s schools,
  • Provide professional development programs for classroom teachers,
  • Expand the professional roles of teachers.

The National Writing Project (NWP) is a nationwide professional development program for teachers, begun in 1974 at the University of California, Berkeley. The primary goal of the project is to improve student writing achievement by improving the teaching of writing in the nation's schools. The NWP receives federal funding which it currently grants to nearly 200 local sites in 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Collectively, these sites serve approximately 100,000 teachers every year, in all grades, in all disciplines. The NWP model is based on the belief that teachers are the key to education reform, teachers make the best teachers of other teachers, and teachers benefit from studying and conducting research.

  • Professional Development

    Upstate Writing Project has the greatest impact on the greatest number of teachers through its professional development programs. It is the National Writing Project's policy to offer workshops in series, not as single sessions. Professional development programs are designed to meet the needs of teachers and schools. A distinguishing characteristic of our program is teachers teaching teachers.

    We offer the following professional development options:

    Option 1

    Face-to-Face In-School PD Sessions

    Face-to-face monthly sessions with ELA teachers at elementary, middle, and high school levels, including classroom model lessons.

    Option 2

    Synchronous Virtual PD

    Synchronous virtual monthly PD sessions with ELA teachers at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

    Option 3

    Asynchronous Self-Paced PD

    7 asynchronous online modules completed by 4th-10th grade ELA teachers.

    Option 4

    Face-to-Face In-Classroom Coaching

    Face-to-face monthly sessions with ELA teachers at your elementary, middle, or high school, including classroom model lessons, debriefing, and planning.

    Option 5

    Customized PD

    Customize PD sessions for schools or teachers in ELA or content areas.

    Contact Tobi Pirolla, Professional Development Facilitator at for more information or to schedule professional development for your school.

    Additional Research

    Effective Teacher Professional Development

    Impact of the National Writing Project's College-Ready Writers Program on Teachers and Students

    Research Brief: SRI Finds Positive Effects of the College, Career, and Community Writer’s Program on Student Achievement

  • College Ready Writers Program

    Center for Research in Writing and Literacy has completed a three-year million dollar grant designed to increase rural South Carolina students’ writing achievements and college and career readiness. UWP worked with six school districts  Florence 2, Greenwood 51, Union, Anderson 3, Bamberg 2 and Orangeburg 4  as part of the National Writing Project College Ready Writers Program (CRWP), funded by the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant program. UWP was the only writing project in the Southeast selected to participate.

    Through the College Ready Writers Program, UWP has offered institutes, classroom demonstrations, and a study of effective practices in academic writing instruction with a particular focus on writing and reading arguments. The grant focused on ELA classrooms in grades 7-10 in Florence 2, Greenwood 51 and Union districts, with intensive professional development and coaching in the schools. Anderson 3, Bamberg 2 and Orangeburg 4 districts served as control districts for the first two years of the study so that researchers could evaluate the effectiveness of the professional development efforts. The three control districts received professional development from UWP during the 2015-2016 school year.

    Ultimately, CRWP had a positive, statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing – content, structure, stance, and conventions—measured by the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum for Source-Based Argument. In particular, CRWP students demonstrated greater proficiency in the quality of reasoning and use of evidence in their writing.

    In 2018, Upstate Writing Project launched Scale Up, an extension of the College Ready Writers Program into additional districts across South Carolina. The grant extends to teachers in grades 5-10, providing teachers in the target districts with professional development in the teaching of college and career-ready writing.

  • Our Book

    Raise your students’ academic writing results with proven effective teaching strategies.A New Reading/Writing Resource for Teaching Argument Writing

    Raise your students’ academic writing results with proven effective teaching strategies. The UWP College Ready Writers Program at Clemson University developed 32 research based argument reading and writing strategies to be used in your middle and high school ELA and Content classroom. Each strategy was proven effective to improve student academic writing during field testing in SC classrooms by trained Teacher Consultants. The resulting strategy lesson plans are ready for you to use in your classroom.

    Contact Tobi Pirolla at to order copies of Argument Reading and Writing Strategies for Middle and High School or to schedule professional development for your school or district.

  • Proven Results

    Sixteen independent studies demonstrate that the students of teachers who receive professional development from a National Writing Project site improve writing abilities in every measured attribute of writing (2008 & 2010, National Writing Project). Read the most recent report, which features the work of Upstate Writing Project.

    Research has shown that the Upstate Writing Project's work with the College Ready Writers Program positively impacted both teachers' instructional practice and student writing. Students of teachers who participated in the professional development revealed improved writing scores in the areas of content, structure, stance and conventions compared to control groups. Read more.

  • Contact Us

    Center for Research in Writing and Literacy at Clemson University
    225 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Suite D6
    Greenville, SC 29607
    Email Us

    Dr. Rebecca A. Kaminski: DirectorDr. Rebecca A. Kaminski: Director
    Dr. Kaminski founded the Center for Research in Writing and Literacy, an affiliate of the National Writing Project (NWP), in 2001. The Center for Research in Writing and Literacy offers an annual summer institute that has trained 300+ Teacher Consultants for SC schools. In 2016, she established the Clemson Center of Research for Writing and Literacy (CRWL). Dr. Kaminski’s recent work has been driven by her commitment to improve the teaching of academic writing and college readiness in South Carolina’s highest need school districts. In 2013-2016, she received a grant for UWP partnered with 6 rural school districts across the state. The College Career Ready Writing Program (CRWP) provided effective professional development that changed teacher practices and improved the argument writing of students in grades 6-12. Dr. Kaminski has just received a new 5-year grant College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) that will extend the UWP work into 4 additional rural school districts along the I-95 corridor. Her goal is to assure more teachers have the ability to teach college and career-ready writing with a specific emphasis on writing arguments based on nonfiction texts; an important skill every young adult needs. Rebecca is on the Literacy faculty in the College of Education and teaches undergrad and graduate courses relating to writing and literacy. Dr. Kaminski’s research focuses on improving students’ writing in grades K-12. Dr. Kaminski has published several articles on her work in major journals including the Research in the Teaching of English, Professional Development in Education, The Journal of Literacy and Technology and Journal of Research in Rural Education.

    Dr. Sarah Hunt-Barron: Co-Director of Grants and ResearchDr. Sarah Hunt-Barron: Co-Director of Grants and Research
    Sarah Hunt-Barron has been part of the Center for Research in Writing and Literacy since 2008. A teacher-consultant, she has worked with middle and high school students focused on argument writing for the past five years as part of the i3 C3WP work. An assistant professor of literacy at USC Upstate, she is the co-editor of Reading Matters, the journal of the South Carolina Affiliate of the International Literacy Association and her work has appeared in a several books as well as a variety of journals, including the Journal of Literacy Research, The Teacher Educator, and the Journal of Research in Rural Education.

    Dr. Emily HowellDr. Emily Howell: Co-Director of Outreach and Professional Development Innovation
    Emily Howell has been a part of the Center for Research in Writing and Literacy since 2013, first as a doctoral student and later as a faculty member in the College of Education at Clemson University. Emily has taught English and writing at the secondary and collegiate level and currently teaches pre-service teachers and graduate students in education. Her research interests include multiliteracies, adolescent literacy, writing instruction, and digital tools. Emily approaches research through partnerships with teachers using methodologies such as design-based research. Her research has been published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, The Reading Teacher, and Professional Development in Education.

    Tobi PirollaTobi Pirolla: Professional Learning CoordinatorTobi Pirolla is the Professional Learning Coordinator for the Center for Research in Writing and Literacy. She participated in the 2010 Summer Institute, after being a part of science and social studies content writing professional development provided through the Upstate Writing Project. Her work with UWP includes being a Teacher Consultant for the CRWP grant from 2013-2015, currently working with the C3WP grant for high need, rural school districts, as well as coordinating with local school districts to provide professional development, and is a mentor for our virtual writing camps. Tobi taught 6th grade Science and ELA and was an Instructional Coach at Sevier Middle School in Greenville County.

    Heather Sox: Program CoordinatorHeather Sox: Program Coordinator
    Heather Sox teaches fifth grade as the Instructional Lead Teacher at Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, VA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and her master’s degree in Literacy with an emphasis in English as a Second Language from Clemson University. This is her eleventh year teaching, and her second year teaching in Arlington. Prior to moving to Washington, DC, Heather taught in Greenville, SC for nine years where she was a Digital Teacher Leader for her school, Teacher of the Year, and First Runner up for Teacher of the Year for Greenville County School District. She is a Teacher Consultant with Upstate Writing Project where she continues her work with professional development, youth camps, and the C3WP grant. Her focus as a teacher is engaging students in meaningful, engaging instruction while encouraging them to be who they are and use their voice. She has presented at school, district, and state conferences on literacy strategies and technology. Education is a huge part of her life, but when she’s not teaching or learning, she loves to read, travel with friends, and spend time with her dog Carson.

Invitational Summer Institute


Write, Collaborate, Inspire

This summer you could be one of the exemplary teachers who gather for the rigorous Upstate Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute. During the SI you will have the opportunity to examine your classroom practice, study the latest research on teaching writing, explore best practices, develop your writing skills, and network with an expanding, diverse writing community. This institute will be held virtually this summer, offering teachers the opportunity to write, collaborate, and inspire others as writing educators.

Who? Any K-12 teacher who wants to examine roles as a writer, teacher, and leader through reading, writing, and critical conversations.

When? June 19-23, 2023 9:00 am - 2:00 pm 
Pre-Institute Meeting Monday, June 5 (4-5 pm)

Where? Virtually on Zoom

Why? To re-energize your teaching and writing!

How much does it cost? NOTHING. Teachers who participate will receive 30 hours of PD credit and materials are free.

How do I apply? Complete the application online here: UWP SI Application by May 15th.


This is a decorative image of a teacher teaching a student

“UWP has impacted my instruction of writing greatly. By applying the skills and instruction from classes I took through the UWP, I was made aware of my areas of weakness and strengths as a writing teacher. Also, because of the opportunities afforded me by the UWP, I am able to engage and share with other writing teachers across the country.”

Summer Institute Attendee
Teacher / Educator
Upstate Elementary School


Virtual Fall Youth Writing Workshops

Youth Writing Camps

Skill Building Workshop

Are you ready to take your writing to another level? During each session, you will learn how to improve your writing and add to your writing toolbox. Get ready to learn new strategies to boost your writing skills. Each session you will level up your writing skills with strategies that generate ideas and improve your drafts. Put your game face on and prepare to power up your writing. Participants will earn badges each session they attend.

For: Children in Grades 4-5
Dates: October 20, 27, November 3, 10
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Instructor: Tobi Pirolla
Cost: $100

Mythology Writing Workshop

In this four-week virtual workshop, participants will explore the world of mythology through the world of Tristan Strong by Kwame Mbalia. Each week, we will analyze our mentor text, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky to create original myths. In these four, one-hour sessions, participants will brainstorm and develop a plan for writing on their own.Each week, time will be set aside for feedback and sharing in our virtual author’s chair.

For: Children in Grades 6-8
Dates: October 25, November 1, 8, and 15
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Instructor: Laurie Schmotze
Cost: $100

Horror Writing Workshop

Do you love scary things? Do you love mysteries and suspense? Come explore what it's like to be a horror writer and poet. During this one-day-only workshop you will explore what scares you and why, and how to use that to your advantage. Get ready to explore movies, short stories, and poetry, as well as monsters, spooky settings, and more. We will be tapping into our real life experiences, and asking ourselves "What's the worst that could happen?"

For: Children in Grades 7-12
Dates: October 30
Time: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Instructor: Kyle McHugh
Cost: $75

Novel Writing Workshop

Have you dreamed of writing a novel, but didn't know where to start? This is the workshop series for you! You'll brainstorm story ideas, determine the point of view, setting, characters, and conflict for your novel. In each of the workshop sessions, we'll share mentor texts, have time to write, reflect, and get feedback. You'll develop a strong novel outline and set goals for completing and publishing your novel.

For: Children in Grades 6-10
Dates: October 5, 12, 19, 26
Time: 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Instructor: Tobi Pirolla
Cost: $100

QUESTIONS? Contact Us.

Upstate Writing Project at Clemson University
225 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Suite D1
Greenville, SC 20607

Tobi Pirolla, UWP Outreach Manager
(864) 350-0172

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