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Soft Starts for Teacher Professional Development

How do you start your day? Do you head straight for the kitchen to enjoy that first cup of coffee? Do you grab your phone and start scrolling through your feed? Perhaps you hit ‘snooze’ and settle in for just a few more minutes? The way we start our day sets the tone for what is to come. I have been reading Harvey 'Smokey' Daniel’s The Curious Classroom and was immediately struck by how important it is to tend the beginning parts of our day to set ourselves up for success and empowered learning. By giving yourself, and your students, the gift of a ‘soft start’ to the day, you give yourself a “thoughtful, personalized entry into the flow of learning”.  As I contemplated my own life, I realized just how much I value those soft starts. My steaming cup of coffee that I enjoy in front of my social media feed as I browse new blog posts gives me energy and purpose for the day. Others might play music, sneak in some reading, play with their kids or simply just be still as we prepare for the challenges of the day.

As always, I thought about how I could share these ideas with teachers and their students. I could tell them about soft starts and why they are important. I could provide them with articles or posts describing how teachers are changing their morning routines. But, the best way to help teachers learn about a new idea for the classroom is for them to experience it themselves. So, I have decided to start my next couple of professional development sessions with teachers with ‘soft starts’. Here are a few I have come up with:

Start with music: Play music as teachers enter the room to set the tone and vary the musical genre based on your content. Play relaxing music to help teachers unwind. Play upbeat tunes to get teachers energized. Play music students like to remind teachers of the importance of learning about student interests. What is on your PD playlist? Send your ideas to @AffinitoLit!

Showcase a QR code: Link an engaging website, resource to share or classroom idea to a QR code and encourage teachers to scan the code and explore as they wait for the session to begin. Start the session with a brief discussion and generate additional ideas for the classroom.

Start with books: Place stacks of new children’s literature on the tables for teachers to browse as they enter the room. Encourage teachers to borrow one to boost their own reading life or to share with their students.

Get artsy: There is a reason why there are so many coloring books for adults! Scatter coloring pages and colored pencils on the tables for your teachers to enjoy while waiting for the session to begin or even during the session to help focus. Want to take it a step further? Inspired by Elizabeth at Heinemann, add craft materials to the table and see what teachers can create!

Social Media Scroll: Post a hashtag for teachers to browse and explore. My favorite feeds?

Start your session by showcasing teachers’ finds and encourage teachers to stay connected.

Wonder Together: Pull up Wonderopolis’s Wonder of the Day and get curious! Model curious learning for teachers and challenge them to share the wonder with their class.

Those are just a few ideas and I would love to add more to my collection. Please add your ideas to the comments or tag me on Twitter at @AffinitoLit. I’ll compile all of the great ideas into a Google Doc or Padlet wall and will tag you into the post on social media.

Join me!


  1. Great ideas! I use music in my PL sessions to encourage a relaxed atmosphere and allow for meet and greet during transitions and start up. I have used QR codes for the final response and feedback survey. While I have often promoted twitter accounts to increase teacher growth, I will now add these hashtags to allow on the spot surfing. Book browsing is an additional plus that could spark much teacher conversation. Feeling PL ready!!!!


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