5 Tips for Working with Parent Volunteers

kids-717168_1280It’s the beginning of a new school year – new students, new parents, and new volunteers. Make the most of the help parents and guardians offer by sending out a handout or online form to gather information about how they want to help in the classroom and the talents, skills they offer. This can help you organize tasks and events that can be done throughout the year.

While parent volunteers can help boost student engagement and achievement and foster parent/teacher relationships, devoting time to getting a parent volunteer up to speed can mean extra work for you, the teacher. Here are some effective ways to get the most out of the time parents spend with your class and ways to manage them easily without distracting from your teaching time.

1. Parent Pocket Chart Create a place that parents check on their own when they arrive in the classroom so you don’t have to take time to explain tasks for the day. A pocket chart with various task cards describing your needs for the week gives volunteers options to choose from that may fit their talents or mood. Maybe you need help making copies, organizing books, or putting together a book shelf. Maybe there are even tasks that the parents can do at home. With clear instructions, parents can easily complete the task without diverting your attention away from students. Designate one pocket of the chart for completed tasks. Parents can put their completed task cards in that pocket and leave any notes using sticky notes for you on the card.

2. Online Scheduling Tools Use online tools, such as SignUp.com (formerly VolunteerSpot.com), SignUpGenius.com, YourVolunteers.com to help you schedule parents for various tasks or allow them to easily sign up to donate items to the classroom or for a class party.

3. Reading Groups Parents don’t need a lot of training to listen to readers practice reading aloud. Practice makes perfect and incorporating parent volunteers into your center time or while you work with individual students is an effective way to help students practice the skills you discuss in class. Not to mention that it is often rewarding for parents to interact with students one-on- one.

4. Presentations You may have some pretty interesting parents in your classroom this year who would love to share information about their favorite book, career, or hobby. Guest speakers expose students to real-life experiences, encourage interest in new topics, and provide new perspectives. When gathering information about how parents want to volunteer, think about the units you will be teaching throughout the year and brainstorm how a guest speaker could enhance the lesson. Maybe a parent is a botanist or works in a greenhouse. They could be a real asset during your plant unit and may even be willing to help you schedule a field trip to their place of work. Be sure to contact guest speakers early so they can clear their schedule and prepare.

5. Field Trips Well-prepared chaperones can be the difference between a successful or stressful field trip. Letting parents know about upcoming field trips early helps them plan and schedule time off of work. Once you’ve lined up your chaperones for a field trip, give them a schedule of the day’s events, so they know where and when to meet at various times of the day. Share a list of the names of the students in their groups and if any students have medical concerns the parent should know about, i.e. allergies, an inhaler. If the students have assignments to complete during the field trip, give chaperones a copy of the assignment so they are prepared to support students.

Consider hosting a Parent Volunteer Night at the beginning of the year. Use this opportunity to gather all of the volunteers in one place and clearly outline your expectations. It is worth restating that their assistance is appreciated and important so that you can focus on instruction. This is a great time to also provide do’s and don’ts, basic tips for tutoring, how to give proper praise to students, and answer questions. This will start your parent volunteers off on the right foot for a successful year!

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