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How to Use Volunteers in Your Classroom

Sometimes teaching can feel a little overwhelming.  Papers to grade, to do list to tackle, copies to make, lessons to plan, laminating to cut, students to engage, and the list goes on!  So, let me let you in on a little secret…it's ok to ask for help!

Want me to let you in on an even BIGGER secret? You have an untapped resource right at your fingertips, just wanting and waiting to help!

Drum rollllll…..PARENTS!!!

Yes! It is OK to ask your students' family members for help!

I used to be so nervous about asking parents for help. I wasn't sure that I had time in my day to welcome classroom volunteers. It felt like one more thing to do, another thing to add to my list.  And to be honest, I actually never even considered the thought of sending anything home for families to help with.

But then I started to consider how volunteers could help me and actually save time, rather than thinking of it as something that would take time.  So, I took the plunge and I asked for help.

And guess what? Parents WANT to help! Not all of them want to help or have the time to help, and that's ok. The family members that do want to help are so happy to be asked.

*Before asking for volunteers for your classroom, check with your administration for the protocol your district uses for volunteers*

So, what kind of things can family members help with?

Volunteers in the classroom

Here are a few suggestions for classroom helpers:

  1. Read aloud– Have volunteers come in and read aloud to your students.  Students LOVE it, family members LOVE it…you will LOVE it.  You can take a second to plan for what you're doing next, grade a few papers, take down/hang up a bulletin board, or just relax and enjoy the book!
  2. Work with small groups– Volunteers can be a big help with small groups, especially at the beginning of the year when you are setting routines for small groups.  They can help with specific tasks in small groups or simply help monitor small group questions as you are working with your own group.
  3. Sit with book clubs– Just as volunteers can help with small groups, volunteers can be a huge help as you get book clubs started in your classroom.  You can have volunteers sit with book clubs as well as join in the discussions.  Having a volunteer ask questions about the book will give your students a chance to talk more about their books.  You can't be in more than one place at a time, but you can have a helper be the extra set of eyes and ears for you in small groups.
  4. Change bulletin boards-Volunteers can help out by taking down bulletin boards and setting up new ones.  Volunteers can cut and assemble parts for a bulletin board and even have them hang it for you.  This is such a time saver!!  Take pictures of bulletin boards that you have assembled this year as a reference for next year's helpers too!
  5. Hang student work-Similar to helping with bulletin boards, volunteers can hang student work or file work in portfolios.  Little things such as this end up saving you time to work on grading and planning during your breaks.
  6. Make copies-If you have a copier in your building and volunteers are allowed to use it, having helpers make copies for you is a huge time saver!!  So many times I have spent an entire planning period at the copier!
  7. Sort copies-Have volunteers sort copies too.  Sort into subjects, by groups, paper clip them, put them in a folder for each day of the week…however you organize your papers, volunteers can help!
  8. Organize student take home/Friday folders-Volunteers can help pass papers to student mailboxes, pack up folders, organize papers that come back in folders, etc.  I use Friday folders and have a helper come in on Friday afternoon to pack each child's work for the week from their mailbox and make sure that it ends up in their backpack.  While a parent is doing this, I am able to help with our classroom store or meet with students that are catching up on work.
  9. Set up/clean up for classroom parties-Volunteers are a huge help for parties and will not only help by sending in supplies but will also help setting up and cleaning up.  Holidays or class party days can be tiring, enlist help from volunteers to take some of the pressure off of you!

Volunteers at home

Here's a few suggestions at home helpers:

  1. Cutting-Volunteers can cut out pieces for bulletin boards, certificates for students, bookmarks, interactive notebook pages, game pieces…anything that needs cutting is a job that helpers can do from home!
  2. Sorting-Once things are cut, family members can help by organizing and sorting things from home.
  3. Labeling-If you are like me, I love to label all the things!  But it does take time, so don't be afraid to send things home with students for families to help!
  4. Organizing classroom parties and supplies-Volunteers can do all the behind the scenes for party organization!  There is an awesome site called Sign Up Genius and as a room mom for my own daughter's classroom, I have used it to help her teacher collect necessary supplies for a classroom party and also parents can sign up to volunteer too.  Ask for help with the set up and introduce them to Sign Up Genius to make everyone's lives easier!

The “at home” list may be a bit shorter, but those small tasks really can save you SO much time.  Don't be a afraid to send things home for families to help.  Many parents want to help but may not be available during the day, so they are willing to do small tasks at home to help.

To communicate with at home helpers, I send home a folder or a large envelope with directions on the front.  I laminate the form on the front so that I can erase it and use again.  I include the tasks that I would like completed inside the folder or envelope. It's an easy way for students to transport the tasks back and forth.

Welcoming family members into your classroom really helps build a wonderful classroom community; and I can also speak from a parent's point of view about how much it means to be welcomed into your child's classroom.

Inviting family members to your classroom does not need to be intimidating, it does not need to be a big production; just make it a part of your routine. Set up a system so parents know what is expected of them and things will run smoothly while also saving you some precious time!

If you want to invite volunteers to help in your classroom, subscribe below for a free pack full of forms for volunteers, labels for at home helpers, and printable sticky notes.

If you're looking for a complete pack to communicate with parents throughout the year, you can check out this complete pack in my TpT store

Happy Teaching!

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