2016 | Teaching in the Tongass

Friday, September 30, 2016

halloween in the classroom

It's the time of year that everything "pumpkin spice" turns up. Like it or not, it's here! So, I thought I'd get a head start and share some of my favorite Halloween read-alouds, Halloween activities and some tips and tricks I've learned over the last few years that might help the day go a little smoother! If you don't celebrate holidays in the classroom for whatever reason (hey, I've been there myself!), feel free to skip this post and I promise not to have hard feelings ;)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
halloween classroom activities

Like most teachers, I begin a month/holiday/theme by pulling out my collection of favorite read-alouds.  My October tub happens to be pretty large (not as large as Christmas/Winter...but that's another post coming soon...). I am a book hoarder and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I peruse the used book store children's section on a regular basis, make good use of my Amazon Prime account on the regular and use Scholastic book points to grow my collection. These titles are the select few that I absolutely love, and a few are new to me this year and will be in the read-aloud rotation from now on! 
halloween books read-alouds

I usually only have time for 1 "just for fun" (i.e. not part of our reading program) read-aloud per day, and it's my absolute favorite part of my day when I really do love the book. If a child has never heard that particular story before, I feel so honored and privileged to be the one reading it to them for the first time! I have such wonderful memories of my own teachers reading books that I now love as an adult, and it just reiterates the important part that we should remember to teach children to love books.  It's hard to remember sometimes when you're focusing on teaching students how to read that I often forget that there isn't always an innate love of reading in every child. So, here's my reminder (and yours if you need it!).

One of my favorite things to do when I celebrate Halloween in the classroom is to use "spooky" music whenever I can. Whether it's a cue to start cleaning up, during an activity or just to play quietly in the background while we read Halloween books with reading buddies, it's nice to change things up a bit and add some FUN to our routine!  I LOVE to use Kidz Bop Halloween because I know there won't be any language I have to worry about (if you have Prime, you can stream it FREE). 
I'm going to start with my most loved activity. We make these guys and hang them in the hall for a couple of weeks and they are just so darn CUTE. I have done Q-tip skeletons since my first year teaching and after using a Sharpie-drawn skull template for all of those years, I decided to make it a little more presentable and share it with you! 

You can grab the FREE template by clicking below.
halloween classroom activities
And a super easy and quick art project is oil pastel and watercolor pumpkins! I like to cut up the watercolor paper into quarters so kids have a few pieces to draw on. You can really use any color oil pastel, but I love to use the white one!
halloween art activities
Another fun activity I LOVE to do actually comes after the big day, but you'll need to prepare for it by sending a note home ahead of time so it's good to be ready for it. I've included a parent letter in this freebie, so that's one less thing to worry about. Basically, kids save their candy until the next day of school (alternatively you can just get some candy to do this) and then collect data on the type of candy they got while trick-or-treating.  Lots of parents have no problem making sure the candy isn't all eaten on Halloween, but I always keep a bag of surplus candy all year  for this occasion in case someone doesn't remember or just doesn't have any. 

Grab the FREE parent letter and sorting and graphing printables below.
halloween classroom activities
I also have these EDITABLE Strip Puzzles that you can use for words or numbers...whatever you're class is working on! I've pulled one of the Halloween pages from the main set for you to try out...I'd love to hear how it goes when you try it! Download the PREVIEW to grab this freebie.
halloween activities
Candy corn footprints are such an easy and ADORABLE craft that any age can do! Really! The trick to doing these with anyone that's not a baby is to use a fist and not the actual foot :) A fun little keepsake that's quick and easy! Just brush paint on as seen below and "stamp" onto paper. 

Grab the little printable tag to attach to the footprints below.
halloween classroom activities
These have been a class hit for many years and parents are even sending them in now! It has to be because they are so easy to make!  Just draw a bunch of different jack-o-lantern faces on fruit cups and you're done!
halloween activities

And I made these fun little Halloween treat bag printable tags that are really easy to put together (we're making them for my son's preschool class this year) and they are perfect for a fun little snack to send home with your kiddos. I bought ghost "Peeps" to make a s'mores treat bag and a few other snacks to make a "Witch Brew" (gummy worms-rat tail, boston baked beans-rat eyes, chocolate covered raisins-shriveled lizard feet, chocolate eyeballs-crow eyes, candy corn-old witch nails). If you're a food-free school, see my post about treat alternatives here. Click below to grab the tag printable.
halloween treat tags
So that's it! What do you do to celebrate Halloween in the classroom? 
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Monday, September 5, 2016

powerpoint tips and tricks

I have a love/hate relationship with Powerpoint. Personally, I can't stand a presentation when someone reads the Powerpoint slides. It's not engaging and I hate it. So, for a long time I had an aversion to Powerpoint and cringed at the thought of it. Now, I use it every. single. day. So, this question gets asked a lot. Why do TpT authors use Powerpoint? If you're just getting started on TpT and you use Microsoft Word, this tutorial is for YOU. There are a couple of other software choices out there, but this is by far the most popular one so that's why this tutorial will be with Powerpoint. I am using a Mac, so if you have options that look a little different, that could be why. 
powerpoint tutorial
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Saturday, August 13, 2016

surviving the first week of school

I want to tell you a story. Imagine a bright-eyed, can-do, I'm-a-Stereotypical-Gonna-Stand-On-Desks-And-Change-The-World-With-My-Teaching attitude, with fresh ideas and materials, pencils sharpened and books leveled teacher. First day. Parents leave. Just the kids and me. I was born for this. I have wanted to teach since I was 7 years old (some people called me "bossy" and others called me a "leader"...you know what I'm talking about). This day was going to be one to remember. I went through my checklist of "get to know you" activities and icebreakers (thanks to some helpful friends on ProTeacher--remember Proteacher?!) and my notes from student teaching. I had attempted several of the activities and quickly figured out a few were too difficult for this group of 2nd graders. Aaaaand then I looked at the clock in horror. It was only 9:30. After I walked my class out to recess, I FREAKED out. I had nothing else planned. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. I calmly walked across the hall to one of the literacy coaches and told her my situation. She laughed and calmed me down. She brought over some "choice" activities (I had student taught in 4th grade and had never heard of "choice time" until right then) and easy literacy games (dry erase boards, sight word dice, etc.). I was nervous that I'd be in trouble for letting the kids play until I could figure out what other activities to do at lunch (totally oblivious to the fact that I had an old-school principal that was a huge proponent of centers and a more hands-on approach anyway). The kids were fine, and I don't even remember what I ended up doing the rest of the day. When my mom and former host-teacher came in to visit at the end of the day I burst into tears (I cry very easily...pretty much at any confrontation or ounce of discomfort and tears come to my eyes--super cool when you're trying to be professional). I remember feeling like I had made the biggest mistake someone could ever make and was in the wrong career because it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN ANYONE CAN IMAGINE. They reminded me that if I still felt like that at the end of the year I could try switching to an intermediate grade if one opened up (it did, and I stayed because, turns out, second grade is actually where my heart is!). I went home with that in mind and trudged through the rest of the fall and things certainly got better.  

I can laugh about it now of course, but back then that fear and anxiety and pressure was VERY real.  On my first day, I had a rude awakening. Teaching wasn't what I thought it would be. It wasn't even what my student-teaching self thought it would be. I remember thinking, "Gee, when my classes end and all I have to do is teach it will be so much easier." I was so naive. Soooo naive. If you're reading this, you are probably a teacher and you likely know what I'm talking about. So, my hope in this post is twofold. 1.) I want to remind myself what it's like to be a new teacher (which, we basically all are every fall) and 2.) help other teachers prepare for the day they are most likely to go home crying (not parent-teacher conferences, that's another post for another time). Even if new kids are added to your roster after you've labeled and alphabetized it all. You'll be okay. Promise. 

first day of school activities

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Monday, August 8, 2016

anchor chart alternatives

Over the past 2 years I've worked on covering as many topics as we address in reading and writing in various anchor charts. So, what is an anchor chart you may ask? Well, really it is a poster that students can use to reference while they are working. My favorite kind are the ones we create together. I print and glue down the foundation pieces (like the title and decorative pieces) and and the students fill in (I hold the marker though) with the information that we come up with together (and more realistically, in some instances, that I prompt them like crazy to come up with haha!). In that process, I've created over 50 different anchor charts to use in various ways (for individual students and for whole class viewing) throughout the year. So, here are 11 different ways you can use reading and writing anchor charts in your classroom (I'm using the same one throughout this post so you can see the multiple ways you can use them).  

(this post contains affiliate links)
 First, all of these anchor charts are the same. I did this intentionally to show you how you can use the same information in various ways. You can download the FREE Writing Hooks Anchor Chart here. You can see the whole collection of reading and writing anchor charts here.
1.) This is my favorite method of displaying a whole class anchor chart. Basically, it's 4 pages cut and taped together to make a poster. You can watch how easy it is to assemble here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
2.) Another FANTASTIC way to display these is with my new best friend, MAGNETIC PAPER. Whaaaatt?! If you have a magnetic white board, this is a MUST. You can find it here.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
3-5.) I'm sure you've seen these displays before, but just in case you haven't...the clear plexiglass ones are for 8.5x11 print sizes and 5x7 print sizes. You can find them here and here. My crafty husband whipped up the pvc pipe stand in 10 minutes and I added some book rings...voila! Perfect for a writing center or for students to carry to their desk! Just print at a reduced size (use the percentage tool when you open the PDF to print) to fit however big you make it (these small ones are printed at 70%).
reading and writing anchor chart ideas

 6-7.) And if your students use composition or spiral notebooks, just print at a reduced size and have them cut/glue in--they'll have no excuse NOT to use them as a reference tool if they're right where they are working!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
8.) Another binder ring favorite. Just print 4/page, double-side them, laminate and hole-punch! I love this because you can keep it in your teacher binder to use when you are conferencing and need to remind a student of a concept--or, even better, you can leave it somewhere for them to take to their desk.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
9.) Create a mobile using the provided bigger pieces to cut out! I used fishing line to make this one, but any sort of ribbon or string would work. You can hang it against a wall or from your ceiling.
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
10.) This is probably the easiest way to provide them to your students (if you use binders like me). Slip them into a page protector and you're set! Easy peasy!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
11.) Using the provided cut apart pieces, pop into your favorite anchor chart (you can find this black pocket chart here) and you're set!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
12.) And because ALL of my sets come with the pieces to build your own, you can still create them WITH your class and not have to worry about the drawing or your writing not fitting on the page/slanting towards one side!


You can grab this FREE binder cover/spine if you want to keep all of your anchor charts in one place.
And here they all are on one Pinterest friendly image for you if you want to pin and come back later!
reading and writing anchor chart ideas
And if video is more your style, you can watch as I go through each of these:
So that's it! I hope you enjoyed these different ways and are inspired to have a little fun with your anchor charts! You can purchase the money-saving Writing Workshop Anchor Chart bundle by visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers store or by purchasing the direct download by clicking below. Due to the nature of this being a digital download and nonreturnable, no refunds will be given.




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teaching about the election

Teaching about Election Day!
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

fine motor fun

Fine motor control is the ability to coordinate and control the small movements we use every day, such as holding a pencil or picking something up with our fingers.  It's using those little tiny muscles. It can be the hands, the feet or the face, but usually in education we're using our hands. We don't often think about them until we see a student that lacks the ability to do things with increased functionality (like when your child uses his fist to tie his shoes and has trouble with holding the laces with his fingers). This is a pretty comprehensive list of milestones by age for both fine and gross motor.
Fine motor skills are what help children button and zip, hold a pencil, turn a page, dip a french fry, type on a keyboard, and the list goes on. Children need a lot of practice to develop these skills. The more practice a child gets doing an activity, the more likely they'll develop muscle memory and they won't have to think too hard about coordinating them (this automaticity is how I can type and not think about each letter I need to press on my keyboard). 
Practice, practice, practice. There are a variety of things you can do to improve fine motor control, and the majority of them are actually fun. You can find a list of free ideas here. I've compiled a little list of things we use at home (there are a whole lot more I didn't even include!). These are just our favorites. I keep #11 in the car at all times for my toddler boys!


I also like to use these pin-it activities I made with my toddler. I bought this corkboard (I prefer the sheets over the roll so I don't have to clamp it down to prevent the roll from curling) and a clipboard. I used tacky glue to secure it to the clipboard, but you don't even really need to. I have a few Jumbo tack sets and he likes to alternate which colors he uses (hey, whatever floats your fine motor control boat, buddy).  Loads of fun practice for him, and bonus, it's a quiet activity we can work on while his brother naps! We sometimes like to hang them on the window to see the light through the holes :) 
You can grab the whole bundle at a discount by clicking below.

And before you go, be sure to grab this FREEBIE in honor of a fun little promotion we're having! Merry Christmas in July friends!
And what would Christmas (in July) be without a sale to stock up on some goodies?
This is a great time to grab anything that's on your wishlist, particularly BIG bundles that are already discounted like these:
And you should definitely enter this AMAZING giveaway some blogger friends and I are having! See what you could win?! And yes, that's a $100 gift certificate to clipart in my store! What would you buy??!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway






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Sunday, June 12, 2016

how to flatten

So, depending on how long you've been creating resources on either sharing or selling online, you may have heard the term "flatten." Friends, I'm here to help with this quick and easy tutorial. It's easier for me to explain with visuals, so please read on if you a.) have no idea what I'm talking about, or b.) think you have an idea and want to see if you're doing it right. Either way, it's minutes that could potentially save you hours upon hours.
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Monday, May 2, 2016

is your wishlist or cart ready?

In case you haven't heard, TpT is having a SITEWIDE SALE on Tuesday and Wednesday!!! These don't happen often, so it's no surprise that we all go a little bit bonkers when it happens, and for good reason! That means 28% off on everything in my store, including my BIG bundles! This is a great time to save on anything in your wishlist, and, even BETTER...if it's a teacher resource and you're a teacher, it's tax deductible! If you're a seller and it's clipart, it's tax deductible!  Feel free to shop guilt-free while you're saving!

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

spring into reading giveaway

Hi friends! I'm teaming up with some fabulous teacher blogger friends to bring you another fun giveaway!

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

classroom management tips

If there's one thing I've heard over and over throughout teaching, it's that I have great classroom management (toot toot--that's the sound of me tooting my own horn). Now, I don't know how accurate that is, but I do know I'll take any compliment I can get in this job.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty to learn and there are MANY other aspects of teaching that I am still growing in, as we all should be. But, I thought I'd be reflective and figure out exactly what I do that makes behavior management effective in my classroom. I'm not perfect by any means, and I've made a ton of mistakes, but that's just part of the job--growing from those mistakes is what will make all of us the best educators we can possibly be! So, I've compiled a list of things I think make for an easier time teaching and learning. 

I think a lot of a teacher's frustration can be credited to the fact that we are adults. We KNOW it's respectful to be quiet when others are working quietly. We KNOW running indoors isn't safe. We KNOW it's kind to give others a hand. We KNOW it's responsible to throw away our garbage. But, not all students have learned these everyday ordinary life skills. Not all students have the same parents that have taught them how to behave in all the various situations that will happen in their day, let alone in the school environment. I can be silly in class sometimes, but not others? I couldn't get up and throw my snack away until snack was over in 2nd grade, but this teacher wants me to throw it away as soon as I'm finished? We have to be quiet in library every day, but today there's a guest speaker and we can be silly? It's confusing, especially for young kids.  So, the first step in managing behavior, is to remember that a kid might honestly have no idea how you expect them to behave. It's your job to guide them into figuring it out.
The basic idea behind any effective classroom management is that you change your language and attention to a positive focus. If you are in a PBIS school, you are probably already doing this.  Instead of saying, "Don't run in the hall!" you say, "It's safe to walk in the hall." Basic, yet so effective.  You really don't have to be a PBIS school to implement that, and it's not rocket science so I highly recommend it to any teacher.  With that being said, PBIS really works best if your entire school is involved and the staff remains consistent with it (and by that I mean practicing what they preach).  This is especially helpful as each student moves from grade to grade and teachers are using the same language and behavior management practices.  A large, easy to read behavior matrix is also ideal in teaching students what the expectations are in each area and throughout different times of the day.
You can check out my Behavior Matrix by clicking here.
pbis behavior matrix

As you know, coming back from breaks, whether long or short or even the weekend, can be a difficult transition for many students. They can forget the expectations. They need constant reminders throughout the year. Make a point to schedule in going over your behavior expectations either right before you begin an activity ("We remain in our seats with a zero voice for the first five minutes of writing workshop") or as a whole concept with your behavior matrix ("Who can tell me how to be respectful during in-between times?"--show how to find the answer on the matrix).
You probably already know that consistency is key. It's one thing to say it, it's another to actually do it. If you expect your students to be absolutely silent during math centers, then you can't be okay with one student whispering to another and get upset when someone else starts talking. Your students push boundaries, right? If you expect them to be silent, then you have to show them it's the expectation. Every time. Not just when you have a headache (guilty!).  And because blurting out and telling me a "bellybutton statement" (as in, toddlers point out they have a bellybutton when you ask them their favorite color) when I ask what the main idea in the story was is one of my biggest teacher pet peeves, I made this reference tool (like I was just saying, you have to be consistent with making them raise their hand with the symbols though!). Grab it FREE below.
Another system I LOVE to use for keeping "small behaviors" (think blurting, getting up when you're not supposed to be out of your seat, talking during independent work time, etc.) is Think Time.  This is another component of PBIS.  Usually, it's done throughout your building or if need be, with a teaching partner nearby.  Have you heard of it? I'll give you a little run-down in case you don't already know.

You know that student that is blurting out? Or doing some other minor thing that is disrespectful, unkind, irresponsible, or unsafe? Think Time is the perfect solution. Basically, you give Sassy Sara a warning (typically nonverbal, like an eye raise or touch of the shoulder). Still happens? Verbal warning, "Check your behavior." Still? Hand her the Think Time pass (but there's no time attached--it's all based on how long a student chooses to "think" about their behavior), she goes to another teacher's room, fills out a form, verbally answers the questions from the other teacher, returns to your classroom, and gets back on task. This, of course, is all sorted out ahead of time with the other teachers around you.  It gives you, the instructor, a break from a situation that may be frustrating you and a moment to clear your thinking about how to handle a situation. It gives the student that's making a bad choice time to do the same. And, equally important, it gives the other students in your class the opportunity to continue learning.  
We do not call home to parents when students get a regular Think Time. Parents are informed that our school uses Think Time and what it is, so most of them understand that blurting out is not something we will call home for.  However, if a student gets 4 Think Times in a 7 day period, we call home and students are given lunch detention.  Students are made aware that parents will not be called unless they get an Admin Think Time.

So you might be thinking, "Yeah right. There's no way I can hand a Think Time Pass to Sassy Sara and she's going to actually leave the room, let alone fill out a stupid form." You're right, there is a Plan B. If a student is unable to complete these steps (let's say they throw a tantrum, crawls under a table or slams the door on their way out), they get an "Admin Think Time."  You call the office (or counselor, or principal--they need to be familiar with the process already) and that person comes to retrieve the student (the student fills out an "Admin Think Time Form") until they are ready to complete the original Think Time. The key to making it work and eventually minimizing those behaviors is to be consistent with it. In my experience over the last 7 years of Think Time, the majority of students that get a Think Time only need a few reminders before they "get" it. 
Let's say you're a teacher with a special treasure box full of goodies. Is your classroom management working? If so, great! If not, change it up! Get rid of the treasure box and try rewards that aren't tangible (sit in the teacher's chair, 5 extra minutes of recess, 10 minutes of GoNoodle time, lunch with the principal, etc.). Or maybe you have a rewards system that honors the whole class (marble jar, spelling out a word on the whiteboard for a party/award, etc.) and it's lost its appeal. Don't worry, you don't always have to take it away. Maybe your class needs table group awards as well. Or more individual incentives. My point is this, if you remain stagnant and have an "idea" of the rewards system type of teacher you are, you may not enjoy teaching this year. Don't get so stuck on how you've always done it that you are making yourself (and your kids) miserable.  In my own classroom, I've tried pretty much every reward/consequence system I've seen. I know what works for me (table group and whole class rewards) and what doesn't (individual sticker/star charts--I always forget to do it).  If you have yet to try a table group reward system, here's a FREE chart (pop into a page protector to use a dry erase marker). I let my kids name their table group (I think it gives them ownership), but that's up to you. I change up the goal amount as needed and when a group completes it, they get some sort of reward and the whole board gets erased so it's a fresh start for everyone.
Kids thrive on routine. So, if you can help it at all, try to not change it as often. Yes, I know you have to go that assembly and yes, that field trip is a class favorite. But, there are other times when your routine doesn't NEED to change. Weigh your risks and benefits. If you have the opportunity to keep your daily routine and not change things, do it. Or, if you don't, think about any ways you can maintain as much of your routine as possible. That could mean instead of tying shoes in the classroom because the substitute gym teacher is late, you go with your class to the gym and spare 5 minutes of your prep tying shoes so they start off in the place they normally start off. Situations like that are all about thinking ahead and preventing. Which leads me to...
If you've been teaching long enough, you probably already do this. It's all about anticipating what can happen (usually this is based on your past experiences). That one time Joker Jacob tried to de-pants Shy Suzie at the concert? Well, now you know which kid to stand next to and provide some extra behavior support. Think ahead. Teachers that excel at behavior and classroom management don't assume the worst, they prepare for the best.
So, Cussing Cade has had 4 Think Times in one day. What can you do? If something has been tried (and you've documented all of your attempts--keep those Think Time Debriefing forms and anecdotal notes), you're likely ready to seek out additional help. Your school probably has a system in place, but maybe not. Speak to your Principal. Find out your options. Maybe they aren't supportive and start talking about how things were "back in the day" or you leave feeling just as lost, if not more, than you did when you walked in. Find out if your school or district has a psychologist or counselor you can talk to about your situation. See if you can schedule them to come in and do an observation of the student. Another set of eyes can be incredibly informative. Be prepared to receive feedback on what you can do to change the situation, and don't be offended if you truly want things to change. If nobody seems to offer any solid advice, I highly recommend turning to an online community. Blog posts, websites, even Facebook groups that are specifically for teachers in your grade level (just search your grade level and "tribe" and you might find one to join). My point is: don't give up. You aren't alone.
I have always made it a point to be clear about my role in a student's life. I am their teacher, not their friend.  I am intentional in this. I don't even refer to them as "friends," when I'm asking them to do something (I say, "Class..." instead). You can make personal connections with students that are incredibly meaningful without being their friend.  You can hug and be friendly without overdoing it and sending them conflicting ideas. If you're always holding a hand in the hallway, think about how that child could perceive it. Are you supporting them to make sure they're walking or are you doing it because it's sweet?  Be cautious in how you want to be perceived or it can really backfire (it's confusing to kids when their "friends" tell them they have to come inside for math--what kind of friend bosses you around like that?! I'm just going to go play a bit more...).
And finally, this is the hardest one. Students may be looking for negative attention from you, but that doesn't mean you need to take it personally yourself. Remind yourself that you are a professional and that this, although emotional and exhausting, is a career.  Just because a student might try to get a rise out of you doesn't mean they don't like you or your cute shoes. When Bobby Blurtsalot interrupts your reading lesson for the 3rd time, he doesn't know how much time you spent on it or that it was your favorite part of the story.  He just knows he was excited about that frog and it reminded him of a frog he caught at this Grandpa's house last summer with his cousin and they had s'mores and ....Think Time pass. 

So, like I said in the beginning, I'm not perfect. I'm not an expert. These are just my own thoughts and not research based or anything. What works for you? What doesn't? Feel free to comment or leave a question below!
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