Thursday, July 12, 2012

Volunteers in the Classroom & A Freebie

 I always need a helping hand. Don't you?! However, we don't always want lots of helping hands IN the classroom all the time. It's like taking your 2 year old to your classroom to get some work done on the weekend. Work is the last thing that happens! Anyway, here are a few of my tips & tricks for incorporating helping hands in (or out!) of your classroom, that will hopefully help you kick off the beginning of your school year!

For me, one of the most important beginning of the year MUST-DO's is figure out a way to gain parent support and participation---volunteering! In my school and classroom, there are a variety of ways for parents to volunteer. 

Here's a few ways that volunteering can happen. You might be familiar with....
1. In the classroom - parties, events, literacy stations, etc.
2. Field trips
3. Library
4. Mentoring
5. Donating supplies

Additionally, there are other ways that parents can volunteer. When you are a busy teacher/mother/wife/team parent/committee member, etc. you have to pull out all the creative stops to get parents on your team and assisting you throughout the year. How can you not? You simply cannot do it all---though we do try all too often! Feel free to delegate some things to ready and willing parents. 

At the beginning of the year, at open house, or on the first day, I send home a volunteer "Help Wanted" form. You can get it HERE. I explain to parents that I simply want them to fill it out and return it---even if they do not think they can volunteer. Something might come up during the year---a day off, a great field trip, a special project that I might need their help just never know! 

Some parents work full time and think that they do not have time during the school day to volunteer, which is completely understandable. I've seen more than my fair share of mothers whose first born is entering my classroom and a school setting for the first time and it breaks their heart that they think they are going to miss out on being able to help with school related things. For this, I have a solution: help from home! 

Helping from home is a great way for working parents, stay-at-home parents with younger children, or parents with no vehicle/transportation, for example. I love being able to find a trustworthy mom/dad that I can send home a bundle of laminated items, a quick note that says when I need it back, and a gallon size ziplock bag to return in all! It's a big step being able to let it leave your hands and hope you get your beloved laminated items back---but once you find just the right will never regret it! Tell parents just tuck the kids in bed and cut away while watching their favorite TV shows---just like we do! :) 

You can also have parents help from home by: 
  • Stapling reproducible books
  • Sawing full length pencils in 1/2 to golf pencil size (You know there's a handy dad in the group somewhere!)
  • Cutting dry erase boards out of shower board if you are making a classroom set
  • Making slanted dry erase boards out of shower board & PVC pipe
  • Packaging up materials for individual students for crafts/projects---so that each students has all necessary pieces in one spot. 
And lastly....if you still have a FREE CHOICE dramatic play time (I really hope you do!), consider inviting/scheduling a parent to come for that time of day (OCCASIONALLY!). Have a specific job/plan for them while they are there. For instance, you have a group of students that love the block area, and choose to go there all the time. They love the matchbox cars and blocks---but you haven't yet seen them take it to the next level and build ramps. Bring in a dad who might enjoy spending some time in the block area, getting down on the floor, making car noises, and showing that group of students how to build ramps, ask questions, predict, create, test, and re-create. 

Bottom line...KNOW your students' parents just as well as you know your students! Know their careers, interests, hobbies, talents, schedules and levels of willingness to participate and volunteer in whatever form! Utilize them in your classroom or for your classroom needs in any way that benefits you, and is a win-win for everyone! 

I hope this helps kick start welcoming parents into your classroom! Any way that we can help parents get involved and stay involved is welcomed for the greater good of our little learners!

I'm DO YOU gain parent support and volunteers? Any tips & tricks for me? Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear from you!


  1. These are some excellent ideas! I plan to put some of them in my parent handbook! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You are most welcome! I am glad you can utilize the ideas :)

  2. Love these ideas. Thanks. I've really been wanting to find ways to utilize volunteers more. Your ideas and letter give a me a jumping off place. Do you have very many ELL students in your class? Just wondering if you did and how their families respond to volunteering.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Kindergarten

    1. Thank you, Ms. Kerri! I do not have ELL students, as we are not a diverse community. In the few instances that I have, I typically ask the parents if they'd be interested in coming in for a presentation to teach us about their culture, language, etc. I had parents from Fiji come in and make leis with us, brought native food, artifacts, pictures, and other interesting items. They also taught us traditional dances! It was so much fun, and the students LOVED IT! I think most ELL parents would be most comfortable helping out with something that they are familiar and comfortable with! You could also leave an option for them to tell you if they have ideas on how they could best help out in your classroom! :)