1. Donuts With Dads

Submitted by Rhiannon Dame (Greenbriar West Elementary, Virginia)

Something fun I do to get the dads involved is host Donuts With Dads once or twice a month; every time, with a different dad or two volunteers. He comes in with donuts and juice and does a presentation for the students. The dad and I work together on coming up with something he would be comfortable presenting and the students would be interested in. We have had presentations covering all topics from using an abacus to being an FBI agent to National Hispanic month. They also bring one of their favorite books and do a mini-book talk for the class about that book. The kids love seeing fathers involved in school, who traditionally aren't around schools much, and the dads love it because it is minimal commitment, just one morning a year!

2. Build a Parent Center

Submitted by Sarah Andres (Warren Elementary, Nevada)

I have always encouraged parents to join us in the classroom with the "threat" that they would be put to work if they do. After many years of teaching and having to stop and explain to parents what to do, I decided there must be a better way. So I devised the "Parent Center." Based on a learning center, I created a place in the room where parents are directed to go when they arrive. They have a notebook for signing in, keeping track of the days they volunteer. There are several pockets with cards in them. The pockets are labeled with the types of activities I need completed. For example, the labels may read: copies, homework packets, inventory, one-on-one, group activities, prep for craft, etc. The labels change according to my needs. In the pocket is a card or cards that describe what is needed and how to do it. I keep all the materials needed in the location of the Center, and they can simply "get to work" without my help. If I am going to do a special activity where I need extra hands, or if I want them to work with specific groups or children, I can then go to them during a natural break and let them know. I have gotten very good feedback from the parents in doing this. They feel more compelled to come in and help if they know they have a direction to go when I cannot get to them right away. There is also a notebook in the Center for them to write in to share their thoughts and ideas or to ask any question about the class or their students. They really like doing this, and it is a great additional communication tool.

3. The Perfect Task for Super-Busy Parents

Submitted by Tracie Bolin (Kids Turf Academy 2, Nevada)

Teaching in a kindergarten class for a couple of years now, I realize that there is one supply we always manage to run out of no matter how much I stock up at the beginning of the year: play dough! No matter how many canisters I get at the beginning of the year, we're always out by the middle of fall. To help with the play dough shortage, I initiated the Play Dough Maker's Club. At the beginning of the year I send out a survey asking the parents which volunteering activities they would like to participate in (if any), and I compile a list of members for our elite club of Play dough makers. When we run low, I pick a name on the list and send home the ingredients in a bag (all they need to add is oil and water) for the children to make the play dough at home then bring back to share with the class. That way, parents who work full time have the ability to give something back to the classroom, and I never run out of playdough! We even have a little poem to say as a thank you for the child that made us playdough:
"We thank you for the play dough, the play dough, the play dough.
We thank you for the play dough!"

4. Monthly Family Nights

Submitted by Lindsey Jackson (Ridgewood Elementary, Illinois)

This is my fifth year of teaching kindergarten, but my first year hosting a monthly family night. For September, I hosted Family Math Night. I sent home flyers asking parents for the times and dates that they would be available to attend. I also made sure that siblings were invited, so parents didn't have to arrange for babysitters. The children learned several math games, such as Disappearing Train, Spin-a-Number, Bowling for Subtraction, Number Bingo, and M&M Graphing. They got to be the teachers and teach their families how to play the games at Family Math Night. Each child who attended got to take home a packet for each game they played, along with bear counters, golf tees (for bowling for subtraction) and M&Ms for the graphing game.

For the month of October, I am hosting Family Reading Night. Again, I asked parents for the best times and dates. We are going to have a clue hunt for books. Each child who attends will be receiving a $0.95 book from Scholastic. The families will get to make a family book, a craft, and a make-and-take snack. If it works out, I will also be having a storyteller. Everything is free for the families, and, again, siblings are invited and get to be involved in the activities.

For the month of November, I will be hosting Family Science Night.

Since December is a shortened month, and so much is going on anyway, I won't be having a family night. I will start again in January.

I am also publishing a website for my families as soon as our tech guys get an address set up for me!

I had over half of my class attend the Family Math Night! I am hoping for even more families to attend on Family Reading Night.

5. Deputize a Mom

Submitted by Angela Lewis (Highland Heights Child Development Center, Virginia)

First and foremost, it is so important to make sure that the parents know how much you appreciate them, even on open house day. It's hard to talk to each parent in depth on that day, but a warm smile and sincere greeting seems to be the trick to make them feel welcome even though your room is swarming with excitement. In open view, I include a volunteer sign-up sheet with detailed information about upcoming class activities and special events. The next day, I make sure a "thank you" note is mailed to the parents which includes information about how they are able to reach me day or evening. After the first day of school, I contact each parent by phone so that I can get a feel for what is going on in their life, and if it is so full of activities that an extra committment may inconvenience them. After many prayers and viewing these details for a week, I approach a student's mother about taking on the responsibility of being the Class Mom.

The duty of this mother is to arrange a coffee/tea get-together with the other parents at least once a month for bonding and any class details or concerns that I may have listed. The Class Mom also meets with me once a month to go over any special event or class party details and is in charge of contacting the volunteers to make additional arrangements with them for upcoming events. This takes a huge amount of stress off of me and I feel really good that if I'm not available for questions, then someone is and it is extra help for me the day of the event with set up. I send "thank you" cards after each event/party to every parent, and at the end of the year, I will present the Class Mom with a gift of appreciation. Having someone in charge of this frees up extra time for me so that I can spend more time planning lessons, etc.