Soft Starts in the Upper Grade Classroom

If you're looking to launch soft starts, grab these HERE.
When you enter your classroom each morning, do you immediately get to work or do you take a second to unpack, chat, or tidy up?  I watched my own behaviors and realized that when *I* start my day in a softer way, it affects the tone of the whole day.

And basically, that's what a soft start is: a gentle invitation into the day.

Initially, I implemented these to give students an opportunity to begin their day with choices they can make.  But over time, I've realized that they provide SO much more.
Anything that promotes collaboration is a win!
But first, let me back up and talk about what a soft start looks like in OUR fifth grade classroom.

We do them once a week, on Fridays, but you could do them as often as what works for you.  I chose Fridays because we typically have several quizzes and I know students can feel anxious about that.  I wanted to give them time to acclimate, relax, and get their minds ready.

Our first bell rings at 7:57 and the second one rings at 8:00.  My students line up outside and I always greet them at 8:00 on the dot.  They enter, unpack, and make a soft start selection.  I line up that day's options and they choose.
We store our options in these bins.  I use THESE from Target.  Bigger items are in the cloth boxes.
The options MOSTLY stay the same but I'll swap out things to keep it fresh.  The easiest (and one of the biggest hits) is to pick up a new puzzle at the Dollar Tree and add it to the table.  So simple but they love puzzles!
Speed cubes are perfect because there are no stickers that can peel off!
Other big hits are Legos (I actually have the generic ones from the Target dollar spot), hashtag blocks, magnetic building sticks, speed cubes, logic puzzles (THIS one is fun), and puzzles.  They also love if I put out drawing paper and fresh colored pencils, random crossword puzzles, decks of cards, or Sudoku puzzles.  I also have board games; they love Jenga but Blocks Rock is their absolute fave.
Sometimes they'll choose to quiz each other instead of doing an activity.
If students want to use this time instead for quiet reading or studying, that's fine, too!  They'll usually find a quiet corner and just do their thing.
I *do* let them keep puzzles out to work on throughout the day on Friday.  10 minutes isn't always enough to complete one.
By the time they all come in and make choices, it's usually about 8:02 and I give them 10-15 minutes for soft starts.  When it's over, I ring our chime or doorbell and they know to begin cleaning up.  They have two minutes to pack it all up and have everything stored away.  We then begin our morning meeting and jump into the routine of our day.

So yes, it's such an awesome way to get acclimated to the day but it has also had this other huge, and arguably even bigger, impact on our classroom.

It's built our community in a completely unique way.

Not all kids have a lot of friends.  Some kids struggle socially.  Some need a gentle push to meet new friends.  I promise you when I say: Soft starts help in all these areas.

It's a social setting but there's the support of me.  I hover, I pop in, I join conversations.  I watch as new little groups form because they're all naturally interested in the same thing.  I hope I'm fostering new friendships, while supporting those that might need a little help from me.

It's just all really great and I look forward to every single Friday.  I've noticed that there are very few (if any) tardies on Fridays because they don't want to miss it.  So that's a bonus, too!

If you're looking for some materials to help you get started, check out THIS.

To shop many of these items, visit my storefront HERE!

Have you tried it?  What are your thoughts on soft starts?


  1. What happens when it is time to end the soft start time? Do they just clean up the puzzles and Legos that they are building or do you save it for the next day?

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