Soft Start

Recap: “Let’s chat about “big kids.” I will be teaching 4th grade next year and those are considered, by most people, as big kids. I agree.⁣

However, I have a real problem with the stigma that big kids don’t need picture books, exploratory play, and time to use their imagination.⁣

I have a real problem with the stigma that picture books, play dough, puzzles, and building blocks are for little kids only. ⁣

My school does this incredible thing with our 4th graders. It is called SOFT START. The students come in, grab a Soft Start Bin for about 15 minutes, and PLAY. Yes. Play. They visit with their friends, construct, imagine, and create. ⁣

I was OVER THE DANG MOON when I heard about this! It’s not a new concept, I know. But, it is getting phased out more and more. ⁣

It gives kids time to adjust. Get ready mentally for the day. Shake off any trouble from home. I could go on. ⁣

So, I’m preparing my bins! As simple as it seems, this might be the project that has brought me the most joy thus far!”

Now, if you are still reading, you know I posted all of those words in Instagram and Facebook a yesterday. I almost rewrote them, but why? They were my feelings then and guess what, I still feel that way 24 hours later.

However, many of you asked me to go into more detail of what my bins were going to include. I am here to do just that! Most of the links I am including are affiliate links. I do earn a few cents off each purchase made when clicking on my affiliate links!

1. Molding Bin

I wanted to include a few things in this bin. I love the Crayola Molding Dough. It is very similar to play dough but the containers are oh so cute and the texture is a tad different. It is also less expensive than most other play dough types. I also included Mad Mattr (you will notice I spelled it Mad Matter on the cards in the next few pictures because I knew the real spelling would confuse my students.) Mad Mattr never dries out and has the oddest consistency. The kids will love it!

While I do want to give them freedom, I did want to include something for them to do WITH the dough/matter. I included these doodle cards. The idea is for the students to fill in the doodle picture with dough or matter. The doodle cards are free if you want them. I made them using A Perfect Blend’s amazing Doodle Font!

2. Domino Math

Just because I teach ELA doesn’t mean my students can’t do math during soft start time. These math dominoes are the perfect bin for practicing math facts and having fun at the same time!

The bin has Addition Dominoes and Multiplication Dominoes. I can just imagine my sweet kids visiting and playing with these. It makes me happy.

3. Building Bins

Even though these are in two separate bins because of space, I will group them into one category.

First, these are called Plus Plus. They are similar to those hashtag tiles that were in the dollar section at Target. I like these because they come with a TON of pieces (400) and a booklet that shows you different things you can make.

In another bin, I have Legos. I got the a box of the basic Legos. Most kids love Legos! These have a booklet that comes with it also to give them students ideas of what they can create with the Legos they are given.

4. Shapes Bin

The next bin I created deals with shapes. There are two activities in this one bin. The students can choose which one they want to do. The first one is this awesome game by Think Fun called Shape by Shape. I love the way it is organized, it gives you hints, and really gets your brain going!

PS. If you have never bought games by Think Fun, DO IT! We have about 4 different games in our house from them! They are incredible!

See how it has a little drawer for the cards? Then, if you have trouble making the shape on the card, you can flip the card over and it gives you hints. Such a great concept!

The next thing I included was of course Pattern Blocks. I printed off these Pattern Block pictures from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs. I will say, I had a heck of a time getting them to print the right size for normal sized pattern blocks. I finally got mine to work by opening it in Internet Explorer instead of a JPEG, doing print preview, shrinking to 30%, and printing. Yikes. I am not sure it will work that way on every computer, but hopefully that helps.

5. Letter Bin

Finally, I made a letter bin. I wanted it to be meaningful for 4th graders aka “big kids.” I also still wanted it to be fun. I ended up buying a few of those Banana Gram sets because they were 75% off the day I bought them.

However, I will link a few other options that are cheaper.

I already had these storage bowls and I cannot remember where I got them. However, these snack containers work great too!

Okay, back to the activity. I made these Stock Photo Task Cards to go with the letter tiles. The students will choose a card and create words based on looking at the picture. Then, with a dry erase marker, they will write down the words they formed. I have provided them for free for you if you would like to use them too! Just print and laminate!

Multiple students can do this at the same time. There are four bowls and if needed, the students could even share bowls.

I think that is another thing I love about these bins. There isn’t a limit on the number of students that can participate. I mean sure, all 23 can’t go to one bin but you get the picture.

Over all, I can see how much fun the students are going to have during the first 15-20 minutes of the day and that makes me so happy. Starting the day off positive makes a world of difference!

If you would like to grab what I use in my classroom, here is my Soft Start Set!

I hope you have found this helpful! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

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Have a Great Week!


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