Parent Volunteers: How to Utilize Them

by Rachel Stepp

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Do you have parents that want to assist you in your classroom? It can be rewarding for you and your students if parents volunteer their time to come and help out. Here are a few ways to invite parents into your classroom:

Snacks

About halfway through the day, students begin to get hungry and unfocused. Lunch was either hours ago or it’s still hours away. You may already provide a snack time, where students are allowed to eat a “nutritious” snack from home, but what if you asked parent volunteers to sign up for a special whole-class snack time periodically?

You can set up a snack schedule so that parents know in advance when to pack snacks for the class. Parents can either be helpers by simply providing the food, or they can actually come into the classroom during snack time and help pass out the snacks. This gives parents time to observe their children socializing and to see what is going on in the classroom.

Reading Buddies

One of my favorite ways to bring parent volunteers into the classroom is to ask them to be reading buddies to your students. Parents will come in once a week during reading time and pull students to the hallway or the back of the room to read one-on-one with them. This gives students the extra attention that they might need. You can give your parent volunteer some materials or activities that they could do with the students. Both your students and parents will benefit from the time spent mentoring.

Lunch Monitors

If your lunch period and cafeteria seem a bit out of control and hectic each day, it might be a good idea to ask a parent to come be a lunchroom monitor. Parents could sign up for any time slot that they wanted to come help. Lunchroom monitors could help students with their trays, make sure students have all of their utensils and are able to open all of their food, and help control cafeteria volume.

Bulletin Board Sign-Up

Do you have a bulletin board in your classroom? If so, you know how time consuming it can be to put it up and take it down regularly. What if you had parents sign up to be responsible for the bulletin board all year? A different parent could take the board every month, and–sticking to an academically relevant theme that you provide–they create and decorate the bulletin board for the class. You could also provide them with student work or thematic poster sets to incorporate…or not! This idea always leads to the MOST creative bulletin boards. Believe me, moms take this task very seriously (especially those who are gifted scrapbookers!!).

Celebrations

Around the holidays, you may celebrate the holidays of the season–or even celebrate a culture or tradition that your class has been learning about. While most of us allow (or ask!) parents to send in materials and supplies for our celebrations, you may also want to ask several trusty parents to come in to monitor, crowd control, and help keep the celebration organized. It is fun to have some creative time in your classroom, but it is more fun when you do not have to worry about all the details yourself!

However you decide to incorporate parent volunteers into your classroom, make sure that you have your school’s permission to do so. Parents might need to sign forms and possibly even get background checks to come into your classroom and work with your students. This might seem like a hassle, but it is for the safety of the students and will benefit everyone involved. So go ahead and pass out those volunteer sign up sheets!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience. Lucky us!

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3 Comments

Filed under Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Parenting

3 responses to “Parent Volunteers: How to Utilize Them

  1. Connie Wiley

    Thanks Rachel. I love my parent volunteers. I use parent volunteers during my Reading Workshop. My parent helper takes a small group of students and completes a fun learning activity. They also help with cute displays outside of my classroom. Use parents…they do want to help.

  2. Kay Wallin

    Parent volunteers can also help with the little stuff that takes up a lot of a teacher’s time. . .things like making copies, cutting things out, assembling materials for activities, etc. With older elementary students, parent volunteers sometimes make great tutors–especially with math.

  3. Peggy Hernandez

    Rachel,
    I agree that parents are a valuable resource for teachers. I do not know what I would do without them. I have parents come in and help with all projects. We just completed a Native American unit and I had 3 parents and one grandparent come in and help the class sew canoes and some Indian Stichery. We also had some fall centers where we painted pumpkins, made caramel apples, graphed bone candy, made candy corn magnets, and bats. I couldn’t even begin to pull these centers off without parent help. Parents love to be in the class helping. So many parents can not help due to work, but love to send in items needed. I take lots of pictures of our activities so these parents can see all the fun we had in class. Use those parents! Great PR for the school too. So many parents tell me, “I couldn’t do your job everyday!” Those people that think teaching is easy need to follow one around for a day! They will change their mind very quickly!