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Tool: Facilitating parent volunteers

If you are lucky enough to find parents who are willing to assist in your classroom as volunteers, you will want to be sure to work with them in a friendly and efficient way. Adapting the two forms below can help you do that. The first one presents background information that any adult observing or volunteering in your classroom would want to know. The second is a sample letter describing the duties that you would like a voluteer to perform on a particular day.

1 of 2. What do parent volunteers need to know about your classroom and the curriculum? 

You could send information like this home ahead of time or give it to parents as they arrive:

Dear Volunteer,

Welcome! Thank you for your willingness to help out in our classroom! Below is some information about us, followed by an explanation of what you will be doing.  Please feel free to ask questions!                                                           

[your name]

What you will see in the classroom

Information about the [subject matter] program:  Give a 2-3 sentence overview of your goals for this subject matter area.

Kindergarten literacy example: Writing is an important part of the language arts program.  It helps children learn to express their thoughts and ideas; and it also helps them develop important knowledge for reading such as recognizing letter sounds. Each morning the children write in their journals, and then we have Authors Chair where a few students have the opportunity to share their writing. This gives me the opportunity to point out features of their writing (such as using capital letters and periods, or using a drawing to explain ideas) that others can learn from.

Information about the routines, participation structures and format for the lesson being observed: Parents need to know how the class period or day is organized so they know what to expect and understand when/why particular transitions are coming.

High school math example: When students come into the classroom, they see the “problem of the day” on the board. They know that they are supposed to work with the problem individually for about 10 minutes and then work with their problem-solving group to share their thinking. Then each group comes to the overhead to explain their approach to the problem and provide evidence for their thinking. This activity provides a springboard for that day’s lesson where I will either lead a discussion or ask the students to try out a different problem.

Information about behavior expectations:  Knowing about your rules and routines can help parents interpret how students move about the classroom, handle materials and understand what is expected of them.

Middle school social studies example: At the beginning of the school year, we developed a set of behavior expectations that you will see posted in the classroom. These expectations mirror many aspects of democratic participation such as showing respect for others’ ideas and property. In social studies we use both primary records (historical documents, diaries, journals) and secondary sources (textbook, magazines, newspapers) to try to understand historical events from many different perspectives. This means we spend time in groups working with materials and discussing different interpretations of them. Students are expected to handle the primary documents that I bring in with care. They also must show respect for others’ ideas by listening carefully and considering each group member’s viewpoint.



2 of 2. How will volunteers understand their responsibilities?

Because classrooms are busy places, it is often difficult for teachers to find time to talk at length with volunteers about what they will be doing in the classroom. The following example can be adapted to your situation and to several different types of responsibilities volunteers may take on. You could make it a permanent handout or create a form you fill out for specific volunteers on specific days.

Your role in the classroom

Subject: Writing Workshop

 

Type of support (individual, small group): individual assistance

Student needs:  Jessica and Juan signed up for publishing help today.

 

Location (classroom, library, hallway):  Please sit at the publishing table and students will come to you individually.

 

Type of assignment (homework, make-up work, today’s in-class task): You will assist students who are ready to publish their books. They will bring their drafts to you and you will help them edit them for spelling, grammar and punctuation. They will make their final copy and ask you to check their book again. Once you have checked it, the book can be put in the “publish” tray to be laminated.

 

Notes about how you can help:  Students have been encouraged to get their thoughts on paper and use “invented spelling” (they spell the word like it sounds). At the publishing stage, I usually circle misspelled words and ask the students to “have a go” at spelling them correctly.  We talk about which parts were correct (closest to standard spelling) before I give them the correct spelling.  For grammar and punctuation, we talk about each spot that needs correcting, what is missing or incorrect, and then I help them correct any errors.

 

MSWord version for revising .... RTF version for revising