On the first Friday of the 2020-2021 school year, Eureka Elementary
third-grade teacher Elizabeth Kealen let her students know that some visitors would be sitting in on their class.
During a whole-class Zoom, Kealen revealed her very special guests: color-picture cutouts of each of her 18 students, mounted in their very own picture frames and sitting politely in Kealen's classroom.
"The students laughed, and they were all excited to see themselves as part of our class," Kealen said. "I think it helped foster those positive student relationships that are so critical to develop during those first weeks of school. I shared pictures with families, and the parents got a kick out of it, too."
Kealen came up with the idea before the start of school Aug. 24 and asked class parents to send pictures of their students for a special project, the details of which she did not reveal.
Throughout the first few weeks of school, to help everyone get to know each other better during whole-class Zoom sessions, Kealen has used the cutouts to play short games of "Guess Who?" The students all submitted three fun facts about themselves to her, she reads them aloud to the class and gives students the opportunity to guess which classmate they're describing.
Students have asked if they can take their cutout home with them at the end of the school year. Kealen is more than happy to let them keep these souvenirs of an unconventional start to their third-grade year.
"I was trying to brainstorm ideas to make students feel like they were a part of the classroom even from a distance," Kealen said. "One thing I have always stressed in my classroom is to create a positive, welcoming classroom environment."