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Parent Helpers in Your Classroom

Research has demonstrated that parent involvement in the educational process impacts positively on the attitude and conduct of children in school. One significant vehicle for parent involvement is a structured volunteer program. Below you will find my tips on starting a parent volunteer program in your classroom. These are just some of the things that work for me. Also, you will see some other tips from other teachers. Read through this page a pick some of the ideas that would work for your classroom.

My Parent Helper Tips For You!!!

I recall my first year teaching and how I was so nervous about having parents in my room. What will I do with them? Will they cause problems in my routine? What is the best way to use their resources?

The first thing I did was create a list of the things I could see parents doing in my classroom:

  • Assist during our daily work time when the students are involved in a variety of activities in their classroom (Centers, Reading Group, and Daily Jobs)
  • Provide assistance for individual students to meet specific needs (Take a group of students to work on a specific skill or to practice a specific skill - sight words, time, money, math facts, oral reading...)
  • Compile classroom work and projects; including imputing data
  • Give short presentations of your choice (e.g. a dentist talking bout care of teeth, a baking demonstration, sharing information about a hobby or something of interest.)
  • Attend field trips.
  • Help students with editing in writing workshop
  • Listen to students practicing oral reading 
  • Assist in planning special days in the classroom (e.g. Fall party)
  • Book Orders (Filling out Classroom Order Form)
  • Technology Docents - Scanning/saving student work, organizing classroom pictures for website, etc
  • Office Helper - Make Copies, Check Daily Work, File Items, Check Moose Books, Get crafts ready...
    (If you can find yourself an awesome office helper, then you are set! One year I had a grandparent who loved doing these sort of things. Due to her help I left school most nights before dinner time.)

At the beginning of the year (Open House/Parent Night), I pass out a form that asks if parents are interested in helping out in the classroom. It is important to ask parents what kind of things they would like to do and what kind of things they would not like to do. I had a parent helper that refused to make copies and only wanted to work with kids. I had another parent helper that did not want to work with children. It is best to find all this information out before you start making a schedule for your parent helpers. Also, I allow Parents to choose times that are convenient to them and I make up a schedule that works with these times.  Generally, I like to have a parent in the classroom everyday for an hour or two, depending on our specialist schedule. My favorite time to have a parent helpers (that work with the kids) in my classroom is during Center. Daily Job, and Reading Group Time. It is easy for the parent to pull students at this time.

Once all the volunteer sheets are turned in, I begin to work on a schedule and a job description for each parent helper. Once this is done, I call each parent helper to go over the schedule and what I would like them to do in the classroom. I also invite them to a parent volunteer night.

Parent Volunteer Night - I have a short orientation meeting for parents who want to help in the classroom.  At this meeting I remind parents to please remember that my priority is to use parents to enhance the program for the students, and to assist me with daily tasks so that I can focus on the instruction of the students. This means that helpers may be asked to do something that will seem very repetitious to them. For example, parents may be doing the same activity for the whole time they are in my classroom with different groups of students; or they may have the same routine for volunteering each time you come. 

Also, at the meeting I handout various handouts that will be helpful to a parent helper. We discuss proper praise, how to read with children, some simple tutoring techniques, basic do's and don't, and I answer questions.

I have found that it is easier for me and the parent helper if I make a little to do list of the things I would like the parent to do while they are in my classroom. The list may look something like this.

Give Sue her spelling Test
Have Joey read a chapter from his book to you.
Pull Sally, Chris, and Patrick to play sight word bingo
Make 40 copies of the attached sheet.
Place Homework in Students MOOSE books.


I have been lucky to have great parent helpers through the years. I try my best to make sure they know how much I appreciate them. I write them little notes of thanks and once a quarter I get them a little gift (Starbucks Gift Card, Flower, Book...)

Best of luck to you as you decide on a parent volunteer plan that works for you! Colleen

Other Teachers Share Some Tips!!

I had a grandparent volunteer this year and she was wonderful. She would take about four of my kids at a time and work on reading skills with them. She listened to them read and went over sight words using flash cards. I had another parent who came in and worked with some kids on AR by reading to them or sitting with them at the computer to take the AR test. I liked for them to take these kids to other areas of the school such as the library (that is where the computers were) and that way it was not a distracton in the room. This worked well for us. Be sure to have a parent you can trust to do what you ask her to do and one that is capable. My volunteers came on Tuesday only. That way I always was prepared and ready for them. But in your case, with so many students you might need someone at least two days, maybe only for an hour or two. My volunteers
stayed for one hour only. - Valerie

It's great to have someone run off or get materials ready for projects/assignments, especially if you have to teach art. I wouldn't have them grade as somehow, at least here, it gets out who does/n't do well. This year I am having a Mom come in and story tell/read to them once a month relating to what we are learning. She is also going to try to come up with some kind of art project that will tie in with this. She LOVES doing this kind of thing. In the past I've had parents help with handwriting (correct formation but that's kdg.) The idea of taking some kids out and working in small groups is great. They've also cut out laminating, made games or manipulatives at home when they had time. - Sandy

Some of the things my grandparent helped with:
read with small groups/individuals
help students with any make up work
work with students who need remedial work
work on the computer with 1-2 at a time
help out (especially at the beginning of year) by just
roaming the room as students are doing their assisgnment
help out during big art projects
helped out in a center
played board games with small groups (cut down on the arguing)
and since my grandparent came at the same time/day..if there was an assembly going on during her time, she would help me by making paper books, getting art supplies ready, laminating, etc... I hope this helps you :)

My buddy teacher and I often have parent volunteers in the classroom to work with individuals and small groups during math and literacy center time. This year we had a little training session. My buddy teacher took all of the kids while I went over some guidelines for the volunteers. We talked about how they should handle it if a child was stuck on a word, asked for help spelling, misbehaved, etc. I also gave a short handout and answered any questions they had. We believe strongly in the strategies we're teaching the kids and wanted to make sure they were being consistently rein-forced. This seemed to help. - Lisa

At first I was totally at a loss as to what I could have them do, but after awhile it was great! I think that some of the
parents I worked with this year gave me such insight into how parents see school/teachers. Anyway, here is what I had them do, and they did it with a smile, nobody ever complained or said they wouldn't do it. It's all stuff I would do myself anyway if they weren't there:Make playdough
Stuff folders with notices
Run copies (if they took a training from our assistant
Laminate (same as above)
Clean tables
Use die-cut machine
Clean and stock art/writing center -clean glue bottles,
sharpen pencils, make sure markers had caps and were not dried out and replace as necessary, throw out old broken crayons and restock new ones, make little staple books for the kids in writing center, make sure dry erase markers were not dried out, clean little dry erase boards, make journals on binding machine, clean scissors if sticky from glue, sort and organize abc stamps, make sure ink pads for stamps were not dried out, stock writing paper-white and manilla, sort construction paper, fill paint pots, clean brushes, clean easel, stock paper at easel, fill glue bottles...Check Buddy Backpack (take home backpacks) and make sure everything was returned.Put up bulletin board displays/take down bulletin board displays Stamp our daily reading logs Check folders/backpacks for important notes Take students to nurse/clinic Work at a center with small groups on project Play a special board game with a small group- My parents especially liked this bec. I made it something special that the kids could only do when he/she was there. For example, when Mrs. C would come on Mondays the kids all knew she would play ABC bingo with them, and on Tuesdays when Mrs. T came they knew she would play Memory with them etc This really helped me when I was doing guided reading and needed to have them occupied.Clean manipulatives and toys on a rotating basis in bleach water(play food from dramatic play, legos, etc) Work on computers with individual childrenFeed/care for any class pets Water plants Anyway, I hope this helps, this is only a partial list of what I can remember right now. I love having volunteers in my classroom. At first, I didn't think I could give them so much to do, but then I slowly started to give them more and more, until they didn't need to even be told what to do anymore, they just came in and started working.Good luck,vanna/tx

I think involving parents in the classroom is the most beneficial thing you can do as an early childhood educator. Studies show that those who volunteer in the younger grades stay involved throughout their child's education. I also had a volunteer "drive" and orientation like the previous poster. I mentioned that we needed volunteers at our back to school orientation night. It worked like a charm, all I had to do was
let them know that I really WANTED them to come into the classroom. Many of them do not feel welcome so you have to make it known that you really want them to come. After that I started sending home flyers each week and then started face to face "recruiting". As Mom's started to sign up I would highlight them in our weekly newsletter as "Star Parents". I would go up to Mom's after school who I knew did not work or have babies at home and I would ask them what they were doing tomorrow or the next day. Usually they said "nothing" and then I hit them with the hard sell :)

Once I rounded up my potential group of volunteers I wrote up a volunteer "handbook" and organized a lunch time orientation session. We all met and reviewed the handbook and we showed them the copier, laminator, die-cutter, and gave tours of the school. I signed them up for different days, it worked out that I had a mom for every am and pm class Mon-Fri!!! Sometimes I ended up with two. When one couldn't come she would call another and they would trade, it was absolutely amazing!!! I try to have a list of things ready for the parents to do each day (that was the hard part) in addition to their "regular" duties like cleaning the tables, stocking the writing center etc.. The AM volunteer would cross off anything she did from the list and then the PM volunteer would finish it off. The only problem I had was that sometimes the AM parent was so energetic she would finish everything I had. It got to a point where I had things prepared for lessons I wasn't going to do for 2 or 3 weeks!

We have a volunteer breakfast at the end of the year and we took pictures of our classes holding a sign that read "Thank You" and had them framed for each of the volunteers. We also gave them flowers and a class made book, it was really sweet. This year I will have a few of last year's volunteers coming back to help out the first few days/weeks of school bec. it's difficult in the beginning to have the parents in the room until the kids have become settled into the routine.Good Luck!HTHvanna/tx

At the beginning of the year I really took advantage of parents, knowing that most only volunteer for a few weeks and then quit.... I have a ton of student versions of books for them to color and take home (for keeps). I have parents making these. I also have them prepare art projects- most especially TLC art projects and tear out pages from workbooks and file them in hanging file folders. After this is done, parents will work with children if they come during teaching time (I have some that would come during lunch or recess because that's the
only time they could) with students 1-on-1, remedial work, make up activities, computers, and board games. There has been the occassional time I have had to pick a trusting worthy parent to help with some of the easier testing such as having the child rote count or retell a story or recite a nursery rhyme. But that is rare and only done with a parent I trust to do it correctly. -
Terri F.

On curriculum night I hand out volunteer sheets in our K info packet. They can sign up to chaparone on a field trip, be a guest reader, do something at home (eg make playdough), share something unique(eg share career or other interest) or work with small groups at one of our I Care centers. If they've signed up for centers, they have noted their available days by preference.

I don't have parents volunteer until we've been in school a month. At that time I have a training/orientation session for center volunteers (mst. impt.!) and hand out a schedule for the month. Some volunteers are in weekly, others once a month or a quarter. I never have more than one parent in at a time because they end up chatting to one another. If centers are scheduled for 2:00, I have them come at about 1:45 so they can sit in on my explaination and /or modeling of that day's centers so that I don't have to take time to explain their role for that day.

Last year was my first year in K. I had wonderful parents,at least one a day and most days two, and an EA. The aide was first time in K, not skilled, and could not learn (72 yrs old!!), so the parents became the mainstays of my program. I wrote out directions for each parent, for each day, for each group, for each activity. I put it on a clipboard, along with the materials needed for their particular activity. It took some time each morning, but they were able to run reading groups, reinforce math concepts, help with writing, do art projects, etc.

This year (if I get some parents), I will have a parent training time and a handbook on general procedures that I'd like them to follow with reading groups, and on other routine sorts of things. I will also have a new EA...unknown at this point.

My best advice...*know* what you want them to do, *spell it out* for them, and let them know it's OK if they don't "get it" and they needfurther explanation - Robyn/OR

Last year I held an early morning coffee for all of the parents who signed up to help. I supplied coffee and assorted doughnuts. After we ate, I had them fill out a short, simple sheet to indicate what things they would like to do or not do in the classroom. Some indicated that they loved to cut/color, while others said they were not artistic and would rather make copies. This made it easy to have projects ready for each person. For some reason, I have been blessed with awesome helpers. Some even return the next year if I need them.

This year I am going to have an incentive to work towards. If they come at least 10 times during the year, they will get a personalized coffee cup (we have a cheap ceramic shop in my town), if they come 20 times, they will get a large personalized canvas bad, and the yearlong helpers will get a personalized sweatshirt.

Our school also held an appreciation tea at the end of the year. Anyone who had helped during the year was invited. The teachers signed up to bring food, a committee was in charge of decorations, entertainment, special certificates,media.

I hope these ideas help. Posted by Barbie on 7/27/02

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