13 Ways to Help Your Child's Teacher
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Helping in your child’s classroom isn’t limited to chaperoning field trips or bringing in birthday treats. From September through June, teachers welcome parent helpers for more than an extra pair of hands. “When parents volunteer, it builds that family and home connection," says Trina Francis, sixth grade teacher in Hampton, VA.
As a new school year starts, here are 13 ways that you can help your child’s teacher. All you have to do is ask!
- Sharpen Pencils. Elementary school teachers can spend a lot of time sharpening pencils. Stop in once a week for 15 minutes after school to sharpen pencils to fill all those pencil boxes.
- Help Around the Classroom. Parents in Francis’ classroom help file papers and organize report cards to go home. If you have time to spare during the week, you can help reorganize the classroom library, make copies, or wipe down desks, tables, and windows.
- Restock the Supply Closet. Around January, the supply closet that was fully stocked with Kleenex, baby wipes, and paper towels starts to go bare. Help restock the shelves with basics, and ask what other supplies teachers might need for science fairs or art projects.
- Be a Reading Buddy. If you have time during the school day, offer to come in and read with students during a set time each week. As you read with each student, encourage them to problem solve mistakes and ask them questions to help them develop reading fluency and comprehension skills (http://www.education.com/magazine/article/raising-fluent-reader/).
- Lead a Small Group. During reading or math time, offer to work with small groups or individual students on specific reading and math goals, such as learning sight words, spelling words, or practicing math facts.
- Lead a Book Club. During one school year, Beth Kruger-Sanders, a 6th grade teacher in Chicago, met with five families from her class in a monthly book club after school. The book club started with Sahara Special by Esme Codell, and continued with books chosen by participating parents and students. Reading books that the group chose, such as My Bloody Life by Reymundo Sanchez, says Kruger-Sanders, “was a way for parents to let their kids read more mature content in a safer setting.” Ultimately, parent engagement made the book club work. “Having strong parents who were excited about the book club and who made it an interesting social and academic event really did make it successful,” says Kruger-Sanders.
- Be a Bulletin Board Buddy. If your child’s teacher has a hallway bulletin board or classroom bulletin board that needs to be changed to showcase new student work or reinforce a new concept, offer to help put up new boards. Even better than volunteering your own bulletin board skills, ask your child if he wants to help design and put up a board. “That’d be a huge help, and is a great kid-parent activity,” says Kruger-Sanders, “so it’s a win-win.”
- Deliver A School Day Treat. At the start or end of the year when it’s hot outside, bring in cold juice boxes for students mid-afternoon. A cool treat, says Kruger-Sanders, is a big help and much better than sugary snacks.
- Provide IT Support. Just because students are Web-savvy with Facebook pages and video games, doesn’t mean they’re ready to use word processing and publishing programs. During writing, volunteer to monitor and help students write and edit their work.
- Bring Your Set of Skills. If you have a special set of skills, ask your child’s teacher if you can be of service. For example, if you’re a web developer, offer to help set up and manage a classroom site. If you have expertise doing home videos, offer to record and edit a classroom memories video.
- Teach a Lesson. If you have a skill that you use at work or for a hobby, consider bringing it into your child’s classroom for a special presentation. If you work in a laboratory, for example, bring in a simple science experiment. Or, if you work at a newspaper, teach a writing lesson about article leads. Before you bring in your expertise, connect with your child’s teacher to connect it to the curriculum.
- Make Use of At-Home Time. Ask your child’s teacher if you can cut out words for a word wall or prepare materials for a project while you watch TV at night or over the weekend.
- Record Your Favorite Stories. Akason suggests reading your child’s favorite stories onto CDs or MP3 files that can be used in the classroom listening center. Even better, have your child record books that she loved in previous years.
No matter how you help in your child’s classroom this year, every time you spend time putting up a bulletin board, reading with a child, or simply sharpening pencils, you’re strengthening your child’s connection with school.
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