Thursday, July 31, 2014


Hi all!

I'm at the lake with some friends, so my reflections are postponed until tomorrow. Thank you for participating in the challenge and I look forward to reading your blogs in the future!

I will report back tomorrow with my reflections. I learned lots!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Another edition of Letters from the Teacher's Desk! Please link up with me if you want to share your own letters!

Dear new blogging friend,
I'm so glad we are virtual friends and I can't wait to have lunch very soon! It's crazy the kinds of things you *get* when you blog! (And I can't wait for your post about our fave song!)

Dear readers,
There will be a blog hop going on the weekend of August 22nd! Get excited for posts from 20+ reading specialists and literacy coaches!

Dear sister, BIL, mom, stepdad, and kiddos,
I can't wait to visit you in Charlotte! I'm going to be doing some research and will have some requests for seeing your city next week!

Dear best friend,
I love you *and* I love your kids! Glad you could bring them over and hopefully there's a sleepover next time!

Dear Erin Condren,
I can't wait to get my new personalized notebook! I know it won't ship until August 6th, but I'm very excited and can't wait to see how it turned out! EEEeeeekkk! :-)

Dear Andi Dorfman,
I still think you should have picked the farmer. 

Dear Badass Teachers Association,
Thank you for marching to the US Department of Ed on Monday. You got to talk to Arne Duncan! That's so awesome! I'm proud to be part of your movement to bring teaching and learning back to the teachers and away from the corporate reformers!

Dear BTBC14 Bloggers,
Tomorrow is our last day! We did it! Thank you for participating, and I can't wait to read your reflections! (Make 'em good!)

That's all for tonight! I'm thinking of doing the Letters blog the first and third Sundays each month, so I'll be back with more on August 3rd if you want to link up!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

a perfect day

When I went to Europe last month, I had a perfect day. It was our second day in Paris and we had at least five hours to kill during our lunch, so I wanted to go find filming locations from Sex and the City (one of my all-time most favorite shows!) At the end of the series, Carrie goes to Paris to live with Petrovsky, and I found a website that lists some of the different places she is filmed at. So, what better way to spend the day than a scavenger hunt, in a city in Europe, where you don't speak the language, and you don't have wifi and google maps? Adventure!!

It started with a train ride to St. Germain:

We had to go from the center of the city all the way out, but we made it!

It was a super cute little cobblestoned street with shops and bakeries. But first, a Starbucks was necessary to get some wifi and talk to someone who could hopefully point us in the direction of this street:

Do you remember the scene where Carrie is walking down the street, all sad because Petrovsky is always working? It was this day and this ensemble:

(I love Carrie and all her magnificent outfits!)

Anyways, walking down the street, she smiles up at a little girl on her dad's shoulders and then the girl hits her on the head and then she steps in doggie-doo? Well, I really wanted to see a fountain that she washes her beautiful shoes off afterwards...and it said that there were lots of little shops here, too, so the fountain and shops sounded awesome!

We went on this long train ride out to St. Germain, but after talking with the girl at Starbucks, we found that there is also a neighborhood of downtown Paris with the same name, and we were in the wrong spot. Super bummed!

But, the little neighborhood we ended up in was so cute, that we stayed and had a great day!

We found a store with fascinators:

(I bought a red one!) And then this little shop which was like our Crabtree & Evelyn:

Heather got her girls a tea set and I got a little serving tray with the Eiffel Tower on it!

We found a bakery and bought macaroons:

And went into some other shops we found:

The time slipped by so fast, but we thought we could still maybe make it back to the real filming location, so we asked for help on the train:

And toasted our new travel destinations with a little treat:

We headed back to the city and made two transfers on the Metro, but eventually ended up at the right stop. We walked a few blocks at a time, and then would stop to ask if anyone knew where the street was that we were looking for, and eventually, we found it:

I wasn't looking for the street she stepped in the dog poop, but that's what we ended up finding. So after all that work, it was still a little street that Carrie Bradshaw walked down and my best friend and I found it! Definitely worth a photo-op:

Sometimes when things don't go right, the day still turns out awesome. I got to share six whole, uninterrupted hours with my best friend, go on an adventure, *and* have a macaroon from a bakery in Paris.

What could be better?

Monday, July 28, 2014

workin' on my fitness

Hello there readers! We are in the home stretch of the BigTime Blogging Challenge and today we're talking about workin' out! I got a Jaw Bone last week and I want to tell you all about it!

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I was in the market for a Fit Bit or something of that nature. But, I had at least three friends tell me that their Fit Bit broke within 6-12 months of buying it, so I did some more research and finally decided on the UP24 by Jaw Bone:

It's a bracelet that you wear and it's BlueTooth enabled, so all the data it records are sent to the app on your phone throughout the day. It has one button and on it - that's for setting it to day or night mode. And then, the other end comes off so you can charge it.

All the data goes to the app. The home screen of the app looks like this:

The two main bars are for your sleep (purple) and your steps (orange). I set my goals to get 8 hours of sleep a night and get 10,000 steps during the day. So, on the home screen, it will show you what percentage of your goals you've met. Additionally, on the bottom you get little notes with tips and cheers when you meet your goals, etc.

Like I already mentioned, the Blue Tooth syncs everything - so you don't have to worry about plugging it in...except for charging it, which takes about an hour once a week.

Once you click on the two bars, you get screens like these:

To the left, you see the sleep schedule. Once you push the button on the bracelet, it goes into sleep mode, so your time to sleep every night is tracked. The light blue bars represent light sleep and dark blue represents sound sleep. Orange bars are the awake moments. 

Prior to having this data, I thought I would be getting way more sound sleep than what I'm finding. I've had it for a week and I think only one night I got four hours of sound sleep - and that was the best night! Perhaps once I get back more into a scheduled routine when school starts that will improve.

On the right side, you see the step goal - the number of steps taken, how many miles that is equivalent to, and do you see that little running guy? The app for the Jaw Bone syncs with Run Keeper, which is another app I use to track all my walks, runs, and bike rides. It automatically syncs them together so it includes anything you do activity wise!

Okay, just two more screens. When you swipe the home screen left and right, you get these screens:

There's a lot I haven't really done with, but just a few things to point out - keep track of your weight and other personal settings (which you can make public or private!) Also, the trends will be cool once I get more data in the app. On the right, you can see that there's a Smart Alarm. So you set it and then the wristband wakes you up (vibrating) within 20 or 30 minutes of your alarm, depending on if you're in deep or light sleep. Cool, right?

None of my people in facebook, twitter, or in my contacts have a Jaw Bone, but it would be cool if someone did so we can follow one another! I know that every time I complete a run with Run Keeper and someone says good job, it's super motivating! So, if you're on the hunt for one of these, make it an UP24 and we'll be workout buddies!

Do you have a Fit Bit or any other device like this? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

are we still a democracy?

are we?

Just read that Chris Christie gave Bruce Rauner $2.8 million yesterday at a charity fundraiser. People in a group I follow were asking if Quinn even had a chance.

Also heard that Rahm raised $7 million in 7 days a few weeks ago for his campaign. The girl who is running against him, Amara Enyia, well, the media won't even recognize her. Bill Moller of WGN radio interviewed her and kinda scoffed at the fact that she had only $4,000 in her election account. Amara went on to tell him that she wants this position so she can serve her community, asking why does she need to raise millions to work in a public office? Check out that interview here.

So if you have to raise millions to get into office, is that really a democracy? Do we even live in one anymore?

Rauner will destroy public education in our state. He wants to make Illinois a right-to-work state and do away with unions. He wants to fund more charters, which would take money away from public schools. Check out this video on Rauner:

This guy can't get into office! I'm not sure who I want to be in office, but definitely not Rauner!

Another change that needs to happen is for Rahm to pack up his stuff and get out of the mayor's office. In his place, I whole-heartedly support Amara Enyia. She's got a degree in Education Policy Studies and a law degree. She worked under Mayor Daley and then did grassroots work on the west side. She also owns her own business! Meet her in this video...just watched and it gave me goosebumps!

I'm just wondering about our government. If you have to raise millions to win an election, how is that a democracy? Isn't that more like an oligarchy - when all the people with lots of money help one another to stay in office? It just doesn't seem fair.

So to you, my friends, be informed! The people can definitely beat out the 1% who hold large bank accounts....we just have to be knowledgeable about what's going on and use our votes to get the right people in office!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

passing along a great post

So turns out that I don't have much to say today (which is also why this post is even later than usual) but I did read a fantastic blog by Kylene Beers that I wanted to share with you. Please click here to read her beautiful post, and keep this in mind as your first day of school draws near.

Friday, July 25, 2014

lift the level of classroom talk

I've been reading this book:

getting ready for a PD I'm doing next week with one of the other Lit Coaches in my district. It's really good and I'm going to share five cool things I've learned!

(Funny story - yesterday's post was five reasons why I think The Giver (the movie) will fall far below my expectations. Definitely wrote that because I thought Friday was yesterday. You know it's summer when you don't know what day it is! and that's awesome! Anyways, if you want to check that out, click here!)

But now, five things you can do to lift the level of conversation in your classroom this upcoming school year:

A Paradigm Shift

It's not about sharing right answers but about growing ideas. Children need to get their thoughts out. It's so important when building a classroom of purposeful talk that lifts thinking from literal retells to inferential thinking that children know that instead of trying to share the right answer, they are instead listening to their peers with intent, pursuing a line of thinking, and negotiating meaning together. It's about growing ideas!

It starts with the way we engage students in conversation. Instead of asking kids to tell their partner something, ask them to "build a conversation" around a specific topic. Nichols explains why: "'Build a conversation with your partner' conveys a very different message than does 'Tell your partner what you are thinking.' Tell is a one-way experience, building a conversation implies give and take of thought that grows" (p.49).

This "build a conversation" is one of the biggest take-aways I have from this book. It's amazing how the way we phrase things can make something as simple as the turn and talk so much more powerful!

Listen With Intent

Is this you: You have a discussion with your whole group of kids and as the teacher, you want to make the ideas of the class very comprehensible for everyone, so you repeat and/or rephrase what the kids say out to the whole group? I totally did that. Probably all the time. Now that I've read this book, I will definitely...

hahhah #oldschool

If you're a kid in the class of a teacher who restates everything, do you think you'll listen to your peers? Of course not - you know your teacher is going to stay it again, and better, so it's okay to *not* listen to your peers. In a classroom where accountable talk lifts thinking to higher levels of learning, children are taught to listen to their peers and to clarify when they need to.

Nichols says, "To listen with intent, children must learn that, once someone starts talking, their hands go down; they temporarily 'park' their thinking, and focus on the idea being shared. Most certainly, some children will forget their thought as they listen, but the process of learning to listen with intent is far more valuable than one idea about one text. And, over time, the children do become stronger at holding on to their own thinking while simultaneously listening to others and engaging with the others' thoughts" (p. 42).

Now, this is not to say that you should never clarify. It just can't happen all the time. Kids have to be held accountable for listening to their peers!

Keeping Lines of Thinking Alive

I mentioned above that children need to be taught to pursue a line of thinking. You know how you try to have a discussion with your class? And, especially with the younger kiddos, they all want to share things on topic, but all different answers that don't go together? As a teacher, it's hard - you want to value everyone's ideas, so you want to hear from everyone, but at the same time, you want to build an idea with the whole class. Here's a non-negotiable for a classroom where talk lifts learning: We have to expect that students will listen with intent and then stay focused on a single idea.

In the book it reminds us, "So, when Miriam shares her thoughts, we cannot allow Samuel to say, 'Well, I think....' and go off in a different direction. We have to say, 'Hold on - what do you think about Miriam's idea?' (p. 43)

It's time to model, practice, and provide feedback on students so that they get used to following one line of thinking until the idea is built to it's capacity.

Negotiate Meaning

This is the heart of accountable talk - the place where we want to get kids. To get here though, kids have to listen with intent and follow a line of thinking. But once they can do that, then the real magic happens! 

We know that reading is an interpretation that is based on the knowledge and experiences we each bring to the text as we read it. Because of that, each person with see the text through a slightly different lens, shaded by all that they bring with them. When a group shares a text, there will be varying interpretations, and that's great! So, while sharing a story, children will be encouraged to bring their ideas to the group, ground them with evidence from the text, but then be flexible in their thinking as they hear the thoughts of others. 

Nichols continues, "When keeping a line of thinking alive and negotiating meaning, total agreement is neither necessary no always possible. What children do need to learn is a healthy respect for differences of opinion when the other point of view has strong evidence, and a willingness to consider alternative views even if they are not swayed in the end. Listening to ideas that are different from ours helps us to look at situations with new eyes" (p. 46).

It's great when we can see situations in new ways. Just yesterday on my blog, I shared an interpretation of the ending of The Giver that I didn't know about until the third time I read the book. That new idea changed my line of thinking about the ending and made me love it even more. I would have never had that idea without having a conversation with the librarian that I worked with my first year of teaching! We constantly negotiate meaning as we learn, and need to share that with our students!

The Classroom Environment

This kind of work cannot take place without a classroom environment that supports it. First and foremost, a gathering place is needed, one where students can sit in a circle and all see each other. It's essential to create this kind of space in your classroom if you hope for your conversations to flourish in this way! Nichols points out that "facing each other strengthens communication by allowing for eye contact and nonverbal communication, and allows us to weigh the reactions of others to our ideas" (p. 38).

So that's just the tip of the iceberg with this book, but if you are a D100 teacher, please join Lauren and I next Tuesday at noon for 3 hours on accountable talk!

What do you all think? Are any of these ideas new for you, too? Please share!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

low expectations & five reasons for it!

Have you read The Giver? Well, it's easily my favorite book of all time. And, just a heads up, I'm going to talk lots about the book here, so there might be a spoiler. You might want to skip this post till you read the book. But, your call!

I think this book was the beginning of all the Hunger Games, Divergent, kids-who-think-they-can-do-whatever-they-want books. (Hektor calls them that. As we left the movie Divergent, he said, "Yeah, if kids keep watching these movies, they're going to just do whatever, like punch someone for no reason. and then when someone asks them why, their response? You know what it will be?  <he stops, stands with his hands on his hips and all authoritatively says> I'm divergent." hahhahaa


The premise: Jonah lives in a perfect community. The people of this community live in peace because they have learned the lessons of the past. There is no hunger, there is no war, there is no conflict. There is also no choice.

In the story, children go to school until age 12. During this time, they are observed carefully by the elders, and then placed into a job that suits them. When they are old enough, they apply for a spouse and are placed with someone. When the couple is ready for children, they apply and may have up to two kids. Everything is perfectly planned and executed.

So, there's no choice.

But there is also no pain.

Jonas' assignment (job) when he turns 12 is to be the new Receiver of Memory. So Jonas learns the past and all of the bad stuff that happened that made his community go to this no choice, nothing bad system. He also learns what love is. And sees color for the first time in his life. And enjoys simple delights like sledding and laying on a beach.

You can see how Jonas is put in this strange situation knowing what he learns...

I've been hoping for this to become a move for years. It's now time. Here's the trailer:

So yesterday, when my bff posted the trailer on my facebook asking me if I saw the trailer, I was like, "Yeah! Can't wait!" Then, facebook suggested I read this article:

And yes, I have some of the same concerns. Like.....

Color - in the book, in Jonas' community, no one sees in color. Jonas begins to suspect he is different when an apple that he is tossing around with his best friend starts to change, but he can't explain how. When he meets The Giver (the man who will pass all the memories of the world to him) he finally learns what color is and the Giver shares all of the colors with him. Jonas had no idea what he'd been missing out on.

In the movie - it looks like the color thing may not have been attended to. Not cool. This was one of the big surprises that kids reading the book with me always enjoyed finding out about!

Jonas is supposed to have light eyes - all kids with the ability to receive memories have light eyes. In the movie - looks like he has dark eyes. Was this really that hard to fix? Give the main actor some contacts or pick someone else!

The Daily Injections - It looks like in the movie there are some kind of daily injections. This is not like the book. In the book, the kids had to take a pill daily once they hit puberty - a pill so that their hormones wouldn't go crazy and attract them to someone else. You know, since they apply for babies and all, you can guess that they don't make their own babies, so gotta put a stop to having any feelings toward anyone who isn't your assigned spouse.

The Injections in the book were for Release - a much more permanent solution to some "problems" the community faced. I'll leave it at that, as this is a big issue in the book!

The spaceship that is catching Jonas in the end of the trailer? Unless this is some dream sequence, this is so not how things happened. But that baby Jonas has, that's legit. I hope they did that part right!

and one little thing I can deal with - When the Giver passes the memories to the movie it's through their hands grabbing one another. I don't know if I just made it up or it was in the book that Jonas would lie down, face down, and the Give would put his hands on his back to transmit the memories. Now, this isn't something that is making me as upset as the other changes, but in trying to round out five things here, there you go.

Jury's still out on this one....

Well, I know the movie is definitely not going to meet my expectations. I guess the movie producers thought that they had to have more action and drama to sell it, but it makes me sad it's not going to be true to the book. But, what movie ever is?

Finally, I share with you my interpretation of the ending. I actually didn't like the book until I thought about it in this way! Shoutout to Val Grimes for this enlightenment! :-)

You know Jonas leaves the community for Elsewhere with Gabriel? They're out traveling a long time and then it ends by Jonas and Gabe sledding down a hill and arriving at a house. And they look in the windows. And he sees love, and he has some certain feeling towards the family inside. He sees a few different generations and feels like he fits in there.

Well what I think? I think when he left the community and went on that journey, he was gone for about a year. And that in his travels, he did a loop somehow, and he ended up back where he started. But, since he left, all the memories went back out to the general population. Over the course of the year, they dealt with them and now that he's arriving back, he recognizes the family because they are his family, waiting for him.

and so it's a happy ending!

This is the thing about reading - it's always interpretation! If I have any debaters, I'll go find the book and give you some hard evidence, but that's what I think it's all about! :-)

Are you going to see the movie? Have you read the book? What do you think?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


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Remember the Rule of 3!

i'm stuck
brain's empty
no ideas - clever, smart, funny, or otherwise
tired, too
writing every day is hard work
i don't want to write from the prompt
(but there are many good things about my job!)
i just want to make sure
the post is up
in a

so bloggers
new and seasoned
please reassure me...
you have days like this
days when the ideas don't pour from your

today is that day
for me

i show up
because i know
that writing will come much more easy
the more i stick to it
(if only
i could commit like
to my running!)

more to come

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

summer bucket list

I know, I know. This should have been posted hours ago! Sorry it's so late being published, but I've been really enjoying sleeping in! You understand, right? :-)

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I saw that one of my friends wrote a summer bucket list and as I was reading it, I was nodding along with her - she said she had a mental list in her head when summer started (me too) and that she wanted to put it down and figure out what she still needs to do. So, Just Jantz, thanks for the idea! (You know, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?) :-) Anyways, here's my summer bucket list...

1. Go to Europe - well you all know that is done, but it was on my list and I got all prepared and went. Kinda wish there was another fancy excursion on my list still!

2. Plan and present PDs with the other Literacy Coaches - I've got four down and one to go. Need to keep on reading this book today:

3. Order an Erin Condren Notebook - that's on my list to do today... so excited!

4. Reread The Daily Five - ehhh, didn't do this. I was also planning on reading all of the Lucy Calkins new curriculum for third through fifth, and I don't think that is going to happen....but I already read a lot of her stuff from The Art of Teaching Reading, so I think I'm okay. Plus the awesome Lit Coaches from D100 taught me tons!

5. Do a blogging challenge with all of you - in progress!


6. Get a group together to play volleyball at the beach - not sure when this is going to happen, but I really really want to play still!

7. Get a bike - done and done! Yesterday I took my bike to a shady spot on the lake to do my reading and it was awesome!

Office for the day!
8. Get a Jawbone UP24 - did it! It's like a fitbit and it tracks your steps, sleep, and exercise. You can can also put your food into it. It's all bluetooth enabled, so the only reason you have to plug it in is to charge it once a week. It's really cool and I'm going to write about it after I have some more data in the app. Plus - did you know Best Buy will price match to Amazon? They do and it saved me 20 bones!

9. Make this awesome school-spirit wreath for football season:

Found out about this through one of my new blogging friends - Confessions of a Teachaholic - but now my ASU friend Kristy and I are going to have a craft date to make maroon and gold ones. Joann Fabric didn't carry the maroon deco mesh, so I had to order from Amazon, but so excited to make this and put it on the door! (Side note: Offered to make the boyfriend a UF wreath in orange and blue and he told me that he couldn't hang anything on his door per the HOA. Then I said, "Well, I think your neighbors do...look there are hooks on their doors!" Well, he was just being nice....this is clearly too girly!)

10. Visit my family in Charlotte - doing this next month but excited to see my Mom and stepdad, Rob, and my sister and her whole family, and her new house. It's been more than a year since we've all been together!

11. Take a quick weekend trip with the bf - we kinda talked about going to Cedar Point or Milwaukee or Lake Geneva. Jury is still out on this, but that would be a fun weekend for sure!

12. Finish the running records for TpT - I wish I was better at TpT, but if I can pick anything else to do, I'll probably do the other thing. So, maybe I'll make one today - I think I'm close to finishing the first grade set!

13. Buy some school supplies - Bought a few so far, but I love back to school time. (Random: Was talking to the boyfriend. Me: ohhhhemmgeee, I love back to school sales, don't you? Him: No, why? They bring back all these feelings of anxiety!) hahhahaa, I couldn't disagree more! Markers and folders and new pens...yes please!

14. Meet up with my new blogging friend, Erin, from Miss Lifesaver - not done yet, but hopefully plans are in the works! It's so cool what kind of opportunities blogging opens up to you. I have some virtual friends who write amazing blogs and I feel like I know them just because I read their blogs all the time. Was hoping to make a Midwest Blogger Meetup, but it's going to be the weekend I'm in Vegas for a wedding, so Erin, let's hang out soon!

15. Spend a little more time with these two:

I saw them for about an hour yesterday and I LOVE them - they are one of my best friends' kids and they are awesome - at the age where they have personalities and they're funny and they love to play games and do yoga and just super cool little people. I love that Heather takes time to let them talk to me on the phone and FaceTime sometimes, because even though they live in San Diego, they still remember Auntie Michelle. Can't wait to see them next week and have a new adventure in the city!

I was shooting for 15 things, but I just remembered one more, so it's a list of 16 now!

16. Figure out how Just Jantz and I are going to decorate our office. I am definitely going to buy a new lamp and a new bulletin board this year and maybe some other little decorative things to make our office feel like home away from home...can't wait to figure all that out!

Well, that's my list. What's on yours? Feel free to compose a list and link it up here!

Monday, July 21, 2014

reading preferences

Good morning! Another summer morning to be thankful for...easy days of summer let us wake up a little later, sip coffee a little longer, and write a new blog while watching GMA!

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Today's prompt is about reading preferences - iPad, Kindle, real books? I have had a few eReaders, and have an iPad from school, but I still just prefer old school books. Well, sometimes I prefer my phone, but we'll get to that.

I really thought I would love the eReader - you know, have one and take with me and always have a few books on me. and, I do have a few eBooks from B&N, but I always go back to real books.

And, if the book is a nonfiction book - like a teaching PD book - I always want that in book form. I like to highlight and make notes, and I'm not about to do that on an iPad (even if they do have new technology that allows us to do so!)

Maybe it's because I have an Amazon Prime account, so I can get books so quickly delivered right to school, and then I can put them on my bookshelf at home when I finish them:

I do like the iPad for when I travel, although last trip I took, I bought a book on it and then didn't read on the iPad anymore. I'm kinda noticing a trend here!

I do like to use my phone for Twitter, Facebook, and Bloglovin, though. Usually when I wake up, I stay in bed a little longer and read away. Love to have time to do this during the lazy days of summer!

I guess this is something to take into consideration with our students, too. Just like we have preferences for reading, our students will probably grow to develop those preferences, too. It wouldn't be fair to make them always read real books if they preferred an electronic sources or vice versa.

With that being said, I just updated my reading survey with this question and added it as a freebie to my TpT store, so head on over there for a little somethin-somethin from yours truly as a thank you for stopping by today!

Have a fabulous Monday!

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