Training Volunteers

When you train your volunteers, always model the kind of decorum, warmth, and creativity in presentation you hope to see from them. Begin every address to them with a big “Thank you!”  Make sure they know any rules and expectations, but don’t weigh them down with excessive bureaucracy or they will find another place to serve.  Here are some key ideas to convey in  your training.  See also our web page, “Tips for Volunteers.”

For a Good Volunteer Visit:

1. It is very important for you to sign in at the office and to wear your Grandee badge.
2. Be cheerful and enthusiastic.
3. Be loving – if touch is allowed, a hug or a pat on the shoulder are great for both the giver and the receiver.  One study indicated that praise given to a child accompanied by touch was more powerful than mere words.
4. Have illustrations, books, pictures, also things to feel, hear, touch, and smell.
5. Have a question and answer time. Friendships are begun this way.
6. Seek the advice of the teacher and adapt to the teacher’s plans and wishes.
7. Have jokes, riddles, and games sprinkled into your weekly visits.
8. Try to have meaningful, unforgettable, encouraging stories about real people. Tell about people in your life as well as people in history.
9. Encourage the children to go home and share with their family the stories, games, and riddles you have shared with them.
10. Do not get discouraged by thinking you are not doing much. Your loving presence on a regular basis means you love and care for the children. They want and need your love.
11. Meet with other Grandees after your classroom visit to share your experiences.
12. Don’t try to be just like another Grandee. Be yourself. The children will love you for who you are.

Training Session 2: Working with Children

1. Review the high points of training session 1.
2. Discuss Grandee 5M principles – Morals, Manners, Memory, Mirth and Motivation.
3. Share the Be A-L-I-V-E teachings and discuss how it fits into the Grandee program.
4. Have Grandees share with one another about themselves. This is preparation for the volunteer to present the same thing in their assigned classroom. Conclude at a set time and pre-arrange for a host and hostess to escort their Grandee to their assigned classroom.
5. Have the Grandees return to the training room and share their experiences with on another before leaving for the day. Have coffee and tea available and something to munch.

Suggestions for Effective Grandees–

See also our “Tips for Volunteers” page

1. Be warm and friendly – learn the children’s names and show interest in what they are doing and show them that your are very important as a listener.
2. When working with children, encourage them to do their own thinking – give them plenty of time to answer.  Silence often means they are thinking and organizing what they want to say or write.
3. If you don’t know an answer or are unsure of what to do, admit it to the children and work it out together – feel free to ask the teacher of the children for help when you need it.
4. Use tact and positive comments – encourage children – seek something worthy of a compliment, especially when children are having difficulties.
5. Accept each child as s/he is – you do not need to feel responsible for judging a child’s abilities, progress, or behavior.
6. If a child is upset, encourage him/her to talk the problem over with you – you need not solve the problem, but by listening and talking you help the child feel you care.
7. Respect a child’s privacy – if a child or a teacher reveals personal information, regard it as a confidence.
8. Maintain a sense of humor.
9. Be consistent with teacher’s rules for classroom behavior, schedule and atmosphere.
10. Wear comfortable clothes and don’t hesitate for “get down to a child’s level.”
11. If parents and friends ask about your work, tell them you enjoy working with the children and discuss the activities you do rather than specific information about the child, the teacher of the school.
12. Keep your commitment; the children will expect you and look forward to your coming. If you know you will be gone, tell them in advance. Keep all promises, and make none that you cannot keep – children never forget!


1. Activity. In two minutes have the Grandee write down all comments and actions that would lead children to conclude: “This Grandee is warm and friendly.”
2. Simulations. How would you respond to the question from a fifth grader, “What is 6 to the 4th power?”
3. Role play. Role-play what one would do with an upset child. 4. Handouts. Give the Grandee a copy of the list of ways of working with children. Divide into groups and brainstorm on additional ways to work with children.
5. Memorization. Divide into groups and have Grandees memorize and recite a good joke or riddle.
6. Employ as many senses as possible in the training. This will help demonstrate to the Grandees the need to do the same with children in the classroom.

* Developed in part by the Senior Citizen School Volunteer Program, Western Pennsylvania Gerontology Center.