Parent partnerships are crucial! Creating a variety of opportunities for parents to volunteer throughout the year can truly change the dynamic of the classroom for the better. Rather than using parent volunteers for standard organizational tasks only, integrate opportunities for them to truly support instruction. They can provide the additional help you might require to execute an extra special learning opportunity. Seeking their assistance can increase the overall feeling of classroom community as well. So essentially, you get extra help…students learn more…and parents feel connected. It’s a win-win-win situation!
Tip: At the start of the year (perhaps at Open House), have parents fill out a survey to gauge their interests in the types of volunteer opportunities available. Ask them to share their occupations/areas of expertise as well. Having this information handy will help when planning unique learning activities throughout the year.
For example, one year I had a father who was a city park planner do a lesson on map skills. He asked students for feedback about the layout of an athletic park the city was designing, while both modeling and encouraging map symbols/cardinal directions with the students. How’s that for a little real-world application?
Anyhow, here is a list of ways to leverage learning through the use of parent volunteers! I hope these ideas ignite a spark or two.
- Live Audience: Celebrate learning by inviting parents in to witness it! Let parents who are available watch things like readers’ theater, project presentations, or author’s chair. Video record it if need be. This generates excitement and increases investment in the activity.
- Community Helpers: Are any of your students’ parents police officers, firefighters, or in the military? Do any of them provide unique services to the community? Have them visit! This community/career awareness is important and promotes responsibility.
- Door Decorator: Recruit one of your artistic parents to create seasonal/thematic doors throughout the year that correlate with your learning targets. Encourage the parent to find ways to have the students contribute to the door décor somehow. This visual for learning will mean more that way.
- Fun Philanthropy: Are any of your parents connected to charitable organizations? With their help, have students make and sell something to raise funds for a reputable cause. See a special project my class did here.
- Pinteresty Parent: Share your Pinterest page and a curriculum pacing guide with a crafty parent and have him/her send you pins tied to current learning topics. When you see a winning idea, invite the parent in to assist with the carry-out to avoid yet another epic Pinterest fail ( I speak from experience).
- Reading Tutor: Arrange for a few parents to come in during your small-group reading block to listen to students read. Provide developmentally appropriate texts as well as comprehension and word attack strategy resources for them to reinforce during this extra independent reading time.
- Party Planners: Integrate learning into each seasonal/holiday party. Communicate possible ideas to your room parents or volunteers and let them have at it!
- Grand Storytelling: Grandparents are infinitely wise! Finds ways to use them as informational resources. For example: One year I invited grandparents in to share stories/artifacts from ‘long ago’ to reinforce our unit on ‘Then and Now’.
- Guest or Mystery Readers: Invite family members in to read a picture book aloud to the class. It’s easy to coordinate and promotes a love of books. Keeping it a surprise is sometimes fun, too, as it builds anticipation.
- Meet the Expert: Use the survey information you gathered early in the year and think creatively about ways your parents’ expertise might be able to reinforce topics of study. If necessary, schedule a Skype call or Google Hangout session.
- All Hands on Desk: Ever wish you had a few extra sets of hands while braving a special project? Well…invite some parents in to help. It never hurts to ask!
- Home Helpers: Some parents might want to contribute, but just aren’t available during the day. Send home classroom items that require preparation. Request inexpensive materials, such as used books to enhance the classroom library!
- Book Publisher: Students invest in their writing so much more when they know it’s going to be ‘published’. Teach a parent how to laminate, bind, and/or digitalize student work. Keep all published books in a special spot of your classroom library so students feel like real authors.
- Cultural Show-and-Tell: Celebrate diversity by inviting parents in to share about unique customs, traditions, etc.
- Field Trip Chaperone: Enough said!
Have any other great ideas??? Share the wealth in the comments section below!