Saturday, February 8, 2020

Using Volunteers in Your Classroom

Using volunteers in my classroom has enabled me to focus more on teaching. I use them often in lots of different ways.  If you're feeling that it's too intrusive or you're simply not comfortable, I got you!  I list four ways to use them IN your classroom and six ways to have them volunteer at home.  Either way, volunteers can save you time and MONEY.  Read on! 

10 Ways To Use Volunteers In Your Classroom

1. Fluency Friends

Although I meet with my struggling readers every day, it’s never enough! Your struggling readers need eyes on print as much as possible to succeed. That's where FLUENCY FRIENDS comes in!  I've been using parents and school staff as Fluency Friends for years with success.  It's simply having your little ones reread their guided reading/pouch books to an adult so they can practice reading. The more practice, the more fluent they become.  Each child meets with their fluency Friend for about 7-10 minutes.  Does it make a difference?  You betcha!  Parents read with the kids in the hallway.  It’s not always struggling readers that need the fluency practice.

2. Manage Workstations / Centers

This is the one that is most often met with groans when I suggest it. Teachers often say, "I don't want them watching me teach."  For the most part, I can assure you they aren't watching you.  Maybe their child...but not you.   During Writing Workshop last year, I had the same parent come in for the 90 minutes period THREE times a week. She’d bring her THREE iPads with our apps (RAZ and EPIC among others) installed with her, act as a Fluency Friend, problem solve iPad/headphone problems (I had 8 of my own)  and set them up for next kids, refocus name it.  Me?  I got to meet, uninterrupted, with my guided reading groups. She was even there for an observation and my Supervisor couldn’t believe all she did that allowed me to be totally present in my group.  For math, I have my room in three zones: Math with Teacher, Math with Partner, Math with Self.  Sometimes Math with Partners gets loud.  My solution?  My volunteer monitored them in the hallway.  Having only two groups in the room was helpful. NOTE: See #6 on previous post about preparing your students for volunteers.

3. Class Photographer

Enjoy your parties and events without having to constantly snap photos. I usually have one that focuses on capturing pics of the kids AND printing out pictures for a bulletin board outside my room that says Picture Perfect. I upload photos on Twitter, use in newsletters and projects, and send link to Shutterfly home.  NOTE: I love outside pictures in fall/spring but hate giving up my lunch period to get them.  I get approval from school and have my volunteer to take these pics for me.  (They are always way more creative and fun than if I had taken them.)

4. Take Down Bulletin Boards

Such a mundane task but one that needs to be done.  I timed myself taking down one once.  Twenty-six minutes by the time I took it down, removed staples from everything and popped the art/writing into their mailboxes.  Time I could have spent doing something more important.  Let a parent do it.  NOTE: I made the mistake of having them in during a prep period once and I spent all my time chatting with them.  Not the best use of my time. Now I have them come in when I'm working with groups and kids have Stamina.  Nice and quiet. 

5. Library Liason

Looking to bulk up your classroom library?  Need books to support a unit? Obviously, visit your school library first.  But when your grade level needs the same books, you may need to head out to the Public Library.  But that's time consuming.  Let your Library Liason handle it.  Easy to implement: I send a list of GENERAL Topics I need and they go get them and deliver to my classroom. When I’m done with the books, I have them ready to go in the office for the parent to pick up and return. Sometimes my list would have specific titles and other times it looked more like: Books by Peter Brown, Snow-themed picture books, Animals that Hibernate Nonfiction and fiction.  It's sort of like Christmas morning when I see those bags of books arrive and I want to tear open the packages to see what I got!

6. Create Playlists

The first time a parent created a playlist for me was a surprise.  In my newsletter, I asked if anyone had any instrumental classical music I could borrow to use during Writing Workshop.  She sent in a collection of not only Mozart and Beethovan but instrumental Beatles and Simon and Garfunkle CD.  Awesome.  Yes, I know it's easier now with Spotify which I LOVE but it still takes time to curate the perfect list.  Need a list for Halloween?  Welcome Songs? Pump Up music?  Want current music but instrumental only?  Let your parent spend the time curating the perfect list.  Isn't that music to your ears?  NOTE: If the music is background while they work, stick to instrumental music so the kids don't start singing.  Save popular instrumental songs or real songs for other times like making art projects.

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7. Secretarial Work

Those Scholastic Magazines and Book Orders don't separate themselves!  Send home.  Easy.  I send home pencils to be sharpened, too. Yep.  Really.  I send home around 100 new pencils and they come back sharpened.  (Check to be sure they have sharpener)  Centers need to be cut out? Send home. Labels need to be made? Send home.  (Parent does template with names, shares via Google Drive, I print at school.)  Need a Friend Finder Contact List for class?  (Our PTO doesn’t provide.) Sending these tasks home doesn't mean you're lazy.  It means you are focusing on more important tasks like prepping lessons.

8. Make Holiday Games/Treats

Pinterest makes this so easy and you can prepare months ahead of time and let parents work at their own pace.  Know you need treats for Read Across America? Games for holiday party?  Link parents to popular boards and tell them to contact you if they can fulfill the request. I've gotten some adorable games that I never would have had (and can reuse year to year) had I not asked parents.  (Or send link with SPECIFIC things you want.)  Huge time saver and another thing to take off your plate. 

9.  Research new Class Trips

This doesn't always apply but if you are looking for a new destination or looking for some FREE resources that visit schools, ask a parent to help.  Example: You may have a new unit on space.  Have them research what's out there with some guidelines.  (Within 30 miles, can accommodate 50 kids, etc.)  I am not suggesting parents book trips but it takes so much research to find a trip and get all the required info, why not have them do the groundwork?  Even calling to ask if certain dates are open will save you 10-15 minutes.  Remember, Parent Volunteers are all about saving you time.

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10. Donate Needed Items

Some parents don't have time to volunteer in or out of school BUT still want to be involved.  These are usually the ones that send in requested items.  Lots of teachers I know ask for items at the beginning of the year only.  Not me.  I ask for things and usually get them throughout the year.  A former colleaaue once said, "But I feel guilty asking them to send things in."  Why?  It is FOR THE KIDS.  Not you.  I don't ask for things for me ever.  I simply state a class need. During my first ever BTSN, I mentioned I was looking for a classroom carpet to make room cozier.  I left at 10 pm.  When I walked into my room the next day, an apple green rug was already in place.  I was so touched!  I never thought to put it out there to parents and honestly was looking myself.  Who knew the family owned a warehouse full of carpets?  I didn't.  He not only saved me the time of searching for it and lugging it into the classroom but a ton of money!  And that's what DONATIONS for me come down to: Saving MONEY!  Spoons? Donate.  Games for Rainy Days? Donated.  I ask if anyone has specific games we can borrow.  Some parents buy for me to keep.  On a Friday email, I recently asked if anyone had any Valentine/heart erasers for center games.  On Monday, I got four packs gifted to MY KIDS. 

Parents are vital to my program.  It’s a true partnership.  Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or find yourself doing a time consuming task that adds no VALUE to your teaching day, source it out to one of your parent volunteers!

This post is part of my Ten Under Ten Series.  To see the video, click pic below. 

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