Students Create Digital Tools to Improve Popular Scrabble Program

Published from the UNC Charlotte College of Education website: 

Making learning fun is a consistent ambition for many educators, and starting this fall, resources developed by two College of Education students will make reaching that goal a little bit easier.

Elementary Education major Katrina Buchanan and Child and Family Development major Kierra Boyd built a set of online resources to supplement popular Scrabble Clubs at 12 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CIS) launched the program last year. Scrabble in Schools pairs students up into teams to play the board game for 40 minutes a week. CIS aims to engage students in an activity that they enjoy while building important language and math skills.

This summer, Buchannan and Boyd put together a website with vocabulary tips and Scrabble strategies for students and evaluation tools for teachers. The site is meant to “provide an assessment with meaningful results for teachers and coordinators while still keeping the fun in it for the students,” Buchannan said. Boyd echoed Buchannan’s thoughts, saying she was drawn to the program to “help young children learn and grow through something fun”

The pair’s work was made possible through the Charlotte Community Scholars program, a new initiative that pays for students to spend the summer on community-based research projects.

The UNC Charlotte Center for Adolescent Literacies supported Buchannan and Boyd’s efforts on the website. Dr. Bruce Taylor, the Center’s director, said though students have many opportunities to be involved in schools, the community scholars program “takes that kind of involvement to a new level.”

“Kierra and Katrina have been agents of change to help improve the quality of this co-curricular program. They’ve not only brought value to the program, but also enhanced it through their own scholarship and creative work.”

Frederico Rios is Director of Elementary Schools and Immigrant Services at CIS. He said though it’s not yet clear how the Scrabble in Schools program will affect academic scores, there have been encouraging signs.

“We do consider it successful from the standpoint of seeing kids get enthusiastic about a game that involves vocabulary, word knowledge, team work, problem solving, math and that critical thinking piece, that is so crucial to learning.”

Katrina Buchanan also noticed that enthusiasm. She recalled meeting a little boy at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary who was particularly excited about playing Scrabble.

“He had downloaded the app on his phone to play when he isn’t at school,” she said, “The fact that these kids truly enjoyed the program inspired me to create these assessments in a way that they were not aware that they are being assessed.”

Dr. Taylor advised the COED students on the project, and said they exceeded his expectations in every way.

“It’s clear that these students have a passion for education and are already thinking about their work beyond graduation. They understand the impact that teaching and programs that foster community support can have on students.”

Buchannan and Boyd’s website makes it easier for CIS site supervisors at individual schools measure and standardize the program, which will help the organization improve Scrabble in Schools over time.

“Dr. Taylor, Kierra and Katrina’s work has really revamped the whole focus of the initiative. It answers so many of our implementation questions and helps us to make the most of our program by standardizing it and giving our staff the tools they need to be successful,” said Rios, the CIS director.

Communities in Schools is looking for volunteers for the upcoming academic year. If you’re interested, contact Federico Rios at

Scrabble Tiles” by Joe King is licensed under CC by 2.0

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RWS Tutor Training scheduled for Sept. 13, 2014


United Way of Central Carolinas and the Center for Adolescent Literacies is co-hosting another ReadWriteServe tutor/mentor training. The training will be held on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Bliss Hall.

St. Peter’s is located at 507 S. Tryon Street, Charlotte, N.C. 28202.

The training, Tutoring 101, is an initial tutor and mentor training for adult tutors and mentors and those working with Project 1,000, a United Way program to recruit, train and support 1,000 tutors, mentors and readers in the community. Others are welcome but seating is limited. Contact Sarah Degnan of the United Way of Central Carolinas at for more information.

Help Team Cam and United Way of Central Carolinas Win On and Off the Field

 As you know, United Way of Central Carolinas has been working to recruit, place, and train volunteer readers, tutors and mentors to help students in our area become academically successful. The effort is in collaboration with United Way Worldwide and TEAM NFL.

This weekend and in the upcoming weeks, we have a unique opportunity to reach more volunteers and earn dollars to support this effort. United Way Worldwide is encouraging all United Way TEAM NFL player reps, teams, and local United Ways to boost their volunteer efforts (readers, tutors and mentors) with a post season challenge that “plays off” the NFL Playoffs. Starting this weekend, Wild Card Weekend, the top 12 performing NFL player representatives leading in volunteer recruitment will compete for the title of United Way Team NFL Super Recruiter. Currently, our very own Cam Newton is #9 out of 12 with 1,205 volunteers who have signed up online to be part of Team Cam. 

During the five weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the pool wanes from 12 players to 2, based on the number of pledges logged on at The two finalists will be invited to New York during the week of the Super Bowl for a series of media and recognition opportunities. PLUS, the United Way in the winning market will receive a $10,000 grant to advance youth success with their respective NFL Team.

Another part of the program encourages volunteers to participate in the +3 Network where they can log in the number of hours they volunteer. The volunteer with the most hours will receive some incentives.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP! Please post this Facebook message and Twitter message TODAY on your social media channels. We need to get the message out over the weekend. And stay tuned for more ways to help promote as Cam advances to the next level, thanks to your support!

Partnering with the United Way on Project 1,000

The Center for Adolescent Literacies at UNC Charlotte has partnered with the United Way of Central Carolinas to provide training to tutors, mentors, and readers in the Project 1,000 initiative. Recognizing that students spend just 20% of their time in the classroom and 80% outside the classroom, the United Way understands the role that afterschool and out-of-school efforts play in children’s academic success. Visit the Project 1,000 website for more information about how to get involved.