6 Ways to Effectively Use Volunteers in Your Classroom

You have so much to do and not enough time to do it...so why not use volunteers in your classroom. Here are 6 ways you can use these eager parents, relatives, friends, grandparents in your classroom...I think you will really like number 4.

Hi there, it is me again this time coming to you with a tip that I feel is sooooo important! The topic may be a thought that crosses your mind at least once a day while you are teaching, maybe twice a day, but I bet especially a lot around the holidays, you are thinking it every minute as you work your tail end off everyday trying to fit everything into the week, day, hour, second...that thought is probably "I need some help here to get all of this done or I will be here until midnight or have to bring everything home only to never get to it and drag my bag right back to my classroom the next morning with the bag still full of things to do!"

Has this thought ever crossed your mind? Well, if you are like me, I am sure it has and when I was teaching, this is how I solved this problem almost every year for at least 25 years of my teaching career. The solution is: Have VOLUNTEERS help in the classroom!!! I know some of you are probably thinking..wait you mean have people watching me in the classroom or have THAT parent who is so overbearing in my classroom? Well, if you handle it correctly...you will not feel that way and you will have volunteers helping you get things done that, at times, are hard to get to everyday!

Let's think about it: Do you want to get student work mounted and up in the hallway as soon as you can? Do you want books organized in your library on days that it just looks messy? How about organizing those reams of construction paper? Do you want student work in folders? papers stapled? lamination cut? All the great stuff that you buy from TpT sorted and organized into folders and files? How about help with getting crafts completed or someone to simply listen to kids read? Volunteers, can and are willing to help you with this and more!

 So here you go...6 Ways to Effectively Use Volunteers in Your Classroom: ( please know that once I get started, it is hard for me to stop, but I promise only to give you 6 ideas..cross my heart!)

1. First, if you are nervous about having volunteers, parent or otherwise come into your classroom, then send things home for parents to complete for you. I would send an information page home at the beginning of the year or at Parent's Night asking parents to sign up to assist with projects or help from home. So, for those parents, who could not come into the classroom, but wanted to support the class in some way, I would send home lamination to cut with a sticky note on how to complete it or a quick phone call with directions. At times I had kid stories that I needed typed; so I would simply have these parents type them in a certain font with directions on paper layout etc. The 5 minutes it took me to write a note or chat was well worth the time since these activities would definitely take much longer than that!


2.  Second, for parents who are able to give consistent time in the classroom, depending on the parent, grandparent, aunt or whoever, have them simply listen to children read. This is especially helpful for ELL children or even have students select their favorite story to read and work on fluency. Make sure to give your volunteers cards with types of questions to ask and decoding strategies to use as they work with students so your kiddos are receiving consistent language when reading. Many times there are retired teachers, librarians, superintendents, principals or moms, who had a teaching degree, but are now home with their kiddos who re looking for this type of activity to put a spark back into their life.  This is a win win situation in my opinion.  Plus these volunteers are always willing to lend a hand with anything that needs to get done because they understand the time restraints of teaching!  You may have some grandparents or parents who are in this situation right now...seek them out to help YOU out!


 3. Third, for special projects like Pumpkin Math or crafty type stations around the holidays, set up one day and have students rotate to 4-5 stations that are holiday related and have a volunteer at each table to support each group. The children rotate to each station. The volunteers after working with each group with the craft, writing, reading or a less academic chore can then mount, cut or finish up anything that the activities need in order to be display ready etc...and voila...all projects can be completed in a day or two!

4. Fourth, if you have some parents who have minimal language or parents of ELL students, but they would like to help out, pick a day that is best for them and have them cut, mount and sort through papers without names or that need to be organized in some visual way. You will be surprised how much these parents will appreciate this small gesture! 2 years ago when I had a volunteer who did not have English mastered, she loved coming in to do these types of activities and then also saw first hand how her child was in school, which for some parents is something they need to see especially if the child is having some type of issue or not.

5. The fifth idea is an easy one requiring little prep. Every Friday or on a specific day that works best for your schedule have a "Guest Reader"come into the classroom for last 20 minutes of the day and share their child's favorite book and, in some cases, the child can share with parental support if needed. The parent and child can select a book and then read it to the class.  Stay close to the reading area to monitor behavior issues but try to get a few things accomplished during this reading time. I have found through my experience with this that many parents always brought a treat or activity for the kids. I had my homeroom Moms set up the schedule, which made life much easier for me!


6. There you go easy peasy...right? Wrong...you DO want to make sure you use the right volunteers for the right jobs. Volunteers who will work and not want to chat; ones whose child will not act differently when they are in the classroom, ones who understand that they are not coming in to work with their child only, ones who understand your policies, ones who can hang work up straight on the wall (seriously, I had this happen once. The work hung up looked like a preschooler helped me! Obviously, I just had her mount and cut from then on!!)
So, my last piece of advice for using volunteers is to be PICKY. Differentiate who will do what and in some cases just use those volunteers to help out with group projects or special stations.
Also, it is important to make up a list and basket with what needs to be completed and a sheet with ideas and expectations for the volunteer. The few minutes it takes to do this is well worth it!!

I would LOVE to hear some ideas on how you use volunteers in your classroom or how you have volunteered in your child's classroom. Just write a comment below!

PS Now that I am retired, I volunteer in my daughter's Kindergarten SPED class and love it. I do all kinds of things from working with students to getting projects ready...Maybe there is a retired teacher you know who wants to come in a few days a week to help you?

Note: I realize that now, in the state of Pennsylvania for certain, volunteers need to have their clearances, which is pretty simple, however it does cost money, but this is a small price to pay for the services you will receive.

So while you are sitting on the beach with your feet up, relaxing in the sun, make a mental note about how you can use volunteers in your classroom this fall!!


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5 comments

  1. I had a volunteer one year who graded every single paper the kids did! She was wonderful!

    Primary On The Prowl

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    1. I am sure that made your life much easier!!!

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  2. I used to have volunteers help out, listening to kids read or working with them on math problems - even in 6th grade. Haven't done it in the last few years because of clearances, but you're convincing me to give it some more thought!

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  3. I am so lucky to work in a school with an amazing volunteer base. Couldn't do my job without them! Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

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  4. Hi Kathy, I have volunteers work with my low kiddos on sight words and help out during Writer's Workshop - you can never have enough friends in the room ready to listen to children's stories. You are right, though- you have to make sure you get the right volunteer for th job! I use a YouTube video I made to show them how to work on sight words and I bring them in to train them how to provide effective feedback during WW. Love this topic and your great suggestions!

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