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December 20, 2010

Planning for Classroom Volunteers

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Planning and Preparing for Classroom Volunteers

Planning and Preparing for Classroom Volunteers

Parent and community volunteers can be a huge help when it comes to getting things done in the classroom. In order to maximize the time when they are there (or helping from home!), you need to plan ahead. Having projects and clear expectations about what you need and want volunteers to work on, will make their experience in the classroom much more pleasant for them and much more productive for you. When we asked some really good teachers how they plan for classroom volunteers, they gave us some great ideas. Check out the suggestions below to start your volunteers off on the right foot in the new year.

Projects and Ideas for Planning for Classroom Volunteers

Handbook Sets Positive Tone for Parent Volunteers

This really good idea comes from Janice, a Grades 3 and 4 Teacher, in Warsaw, Indiana. She says:

“To help communicate information and expectations – plus appreciation- to my parent volunteers, I developed a small handbook of Parent Volunteer Tips from A to T. Here are some sample items from this handy publication:


Arrival – I use the basket on my desk labeled “Volunteer Work” to store work and notes for my volunteers to attend to. If I’m busy teaching, please check there first, unless we’ve made other arrangements.

Attention – Please feel free to say hello to your child, while also encouraging him or her to stay focused on any work at hand. If your child offers to help you with your work, please suggest that he or she return to his or her job so you can do yours.


Field Trips – We always need parents along on field trips. I usually divide the class up so you will be responsible for a small group of children. Even though it can be tempting to chat with other parents during a presentation or tour, please model for your children how to be attentive and polite during a lesson, performance, or demonstration.
Other entries include Art Supplies, Bathroom Procedures, Who’s Who in Our School, etc.

The last entry in the booklet reads: ‘Thank You! Your help is much appreciated. Even small jobs can be time-consuming for teachers. The children and I are grateful for your care and support.'”

Parent Project!

Never be caught by surprise by a spontaneous volunteer again! This really good idea comes from Tracy, a Kindergarten Teacher, in Corona, California. Here is how she handles unplanned volunteers:

I have a lot of parents who, while dropping their child off in my class, spontaneously announce, “I can stay and help you today.” While I appreciate the offer, I felt uncomfortable detaining them while I fumbled for something for them to do–especially while a class full of 4- and 5- year-olds was waiting for my attention as well.

So, this year I created “parent project” baskets filled with large manila envelopes. Each envelope has all the supplies needed for a certain project (i.e., cutting and stapling mini books, coloring file folder games, cutting and prepping an art project), including the scissors, glue, etc. I store the basket on a shelf by my classroom door. This way, if a parent shows up ready to help, he or she knows to just grab a container and get to work without direction from me. It’s also convenient for parents with little ones who can’t stay but want to help–they just grab an envelope and head home. (Tip: I also have a supply of inexpensive Thank You cards on hand. Upon learning that an envelope task has been completed and returned to me, I immediately jot a card, address it to the parent volunteer, hand it to him or her or send it home with that parent’s child.)

How do you organize your classroom volunteers?

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  • Rebecca S.
    December 20, 2010

    Great ideas, I often struggle to find things for my parent volunteers to do. I try to have a few things on hand: flash cards, math practice, reading a book with a student, but I’m always looking for a way to use my classroom volunteers in a more productive way.

  • Reagan B
    December 20, 2010

    I love these ideas! With all of the budget cuts in our state, we may not have as many teacher assistants in the next few years and utilizing parent volunteers is going to become more important than ever before. These ideas are a great way of letting parents know that you do need them around and they can be a big help!

  • Glo
    December 20, 2010

    We plan for the whole 6 weeks and place To Do Things in
    big baggies(sample of item included).
    if a parent comes in to volunteer our instructional aides
    gives them a To Do Baggie.The parents may take
    work home or work in parent workroom.

  • Karen Greenberg
    December 20, 2010

    Great ideas! As a new teacher waiting to get my first classroom, I have had experience being the volunteer but not the teacher using volunteers. From both perspectives, using baskets with instructions ready to go seems logical and ideal. Too many times as a volunteer I felt like I was in the teacher’s way while she was finding more for me to do. I can’t wait to try this out in my own classroom!

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