Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Preschool Graduation: 5 Tips To Successful End of the Year Preschool Programs

Moving on to Kindergarten is a big deal!  It's a transition that is exciting for the preschoolers, their families, and to US and it should be celebrated!

With that said there is something we need to remember:  The program can be either fun and enriching OR it can be streesful and a time of dread for all involved!  Which one will be determined by your focus during the planning!

I do not think we should "do" s program simply because "it's what we've always done" or "the parents think it's cute".

Don't get me wrong, I'm ALL about celebrating this milestones--as long as the children's abilities and needs are the main focus during our planning.

When planning preschool graduation, many times we foget some things.

We forget that our children are still preschoolers.

We forget that they have just recently learned how to engage succssfully in cooperative play.

We forget that a large, whole-group production may be beyond their mastery!!

Now, I repeat, I am not against group programs!  I LOVE them when done well and planned with the children's abilities in mind.

Your group last year may have reenacted a skit wonderfully.

This year, however, your children this year may be at a different level emotionally, choronologically and developmentally.  You may have children with much higher activity levels than you did last year!

Each group is different!  Don't become "stuck" on a specific program or think you need to do the same program every year.

I have some tips for you as you begin to plan your end of the year program!

Tip 1:  Base your program on what your children already know and love.

Choose their favorite theme, topic or story from the year.  Build your program with that as the base.

How about some of these themes:  

Preschool Is Hoppin'; Fairy Tales: Preschool Style; Baby, It's Cold Outside; It's A Zoo Around Here

They are all based on preschool favorite stories!  

You can read the details of each one here on my Preschool Plays Ideas page.  

Tip 2:  Choose Concert Songs based on what they ALREADY know.

Prepare well in advance.  Don't teach children new songs or plays to learn 3 weeks before a program date!  

There are many Concert Ideas you can create based on your students' favorites!  

A few favorites of ours have been:  
  • Preschool Movin & Goovin' Theme
  • Fun on the Farm; Nursery Rhyme Time
  • Splash 'n Sing Theme
  • Travel Time
  • Whole World Concert
  • Art Show & Concert Combo
A couple of colleagues also added these ideas:
  • Snoepie's Farmyard Fun
  • The Toyshop
You can read the details of each one here on my Preschool Concerts Ideas page.  

Tip 3:  Define Their Personal Space, but DON'T sweat the small stuff!  

Provide circle mats or carpet squares set up on the area you will use.  This allows the children to have their own personal space and allow families to see their child.

But, don't stress about scenarios such as: "What if a child starts hopping around during a song?"  

Just accept that it may or will happen!  Rather than planning how to prevent it, plan for what to do when it happens!

Remember, they are PRESCHOOLERS!  They will be excited during the program.  They will (some of them) be nervous during the program with all those adults watching them!

If a child starts hopping around, have a "bag of tricks" ready!  

You could change up the order of your program at the last minute!  Don't be afraid to do that!  The children are singing their favorite songs--THEY don't care about the order they sing them in!

More on this in Tip #5.

Tip 4:  Expect preschool behavior, not elementary behavior! 

Take a potty run before the program...and no, they can NOT hold it!  Take a walk to the bathroom before the program and insist that eachy child "tries" before the program.  

Expect one of your children to decide that their dress or shirt looks really cool when it flares out and they twirl around....and for them to twirl a couple of times! 

Expect them to be excited and wave to their family mid song!  

As Billy Dean sings, "Let Them Be Little" (get out the tissues before you listen to this song!). Yes, redirect them, but expect your preschoolers to act like preschoolers!

Tip 5:  Plan for the Wiggles:  They Happen! 

Expect them because they WILL happen in the middle of your program!  

There are many things you can do do handle the wiggles.  It's no different than what you might do to help children refocus during Circle Time!

Use some "tried and true" songs you've used throughout the year.  Here are several:  
  • Baby Bumblebee
  • If You're Happy and You Know I
  • This is the Way
  • Wiggle Moves
  • Wiggle Song
  • Point to Me
  • Open Shut Them
  • Wiggle Wobble
You can read the words to each here on my Working Out the Preschool Wiggles page 


Enjoy this fun transition time with your children and their families!  Plan it to be a celebration with the children and you won't feel stressed by it!

You'll find links to all the pages in this article here on my main Preschool Concerts and Plays Page 


I have always had mixed age groups and wanted different diplomas and/or certificates for each group of children and sometimes different ones for different children.  

For example, in my 3-5 year old class, they all received a certificate of completion but some of our my students were moving on to Kindergarten.  I wanted those children's diplomas to reflect that but wanted all the diplomas to have the same style.  

There were colleagues who also wanted diplomas for their children who were completing Kindergarten.

I created a packet of EDITABLE Preschool Graduation Diplomas.  
You can check them out here on my Preschool Diploma Page here  

I also have many articles all about Preschool Graduation covering ideas for gifts to make for and with the children, how to plan your Graduation Speech that you'll deliver to the parents, graduation activities, poems and more!

You'll find those articles here on my Preschool Graduation 101 page

Happy Planning!


About the author
Cheryl Hatch has taught and directed preschool programs for over 20 years.  She is the Creator and Owner of Preschool Plan It, a website dedicated to sharing preschool themes, activities, articles and training with early childhood educators.  She volunteers as the coordinator and teacher of the MOPPETS program in her town (a preschool program for the M.O.P.S.--Mothers of Preschoolers Program).  She has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education.  Cheryl has been an active, integral member and leader within the Teachers.Net Early Childhood community for many years, moderating live chats and providing peer support on the Preschool Teachers Chatboard.  You can read Cheryl’s articles, activities and themed preschool lesson plans at www.preschool-plan-it.com 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why Teaching Ethics IS part of STEAM

Last week, I was doing a workshop on using music to teach Science & Math.  As I scrolled on my iPod to get to a song, another song appeared.  It was about telling the truth.  I paused for a moment and thought, "This song has nothing to do with STEAM." Then, I realized, it had a lot to do with STEAM.  And, music is a vehicle to teach the ethics needed to be good scientists and mathematicians!!
Imagine a world where scientists and mathematicians were never taught the value of honesty.  After spending years on research, things didn't come out as was hoped.  One must be truthful, willing to let go of years of research if the findings do not support the hypothesis.  The public must be able to trust the released results.  Lives could depend on it.  Imagine doctors who were comfortable with false reports or accountants who switched around numbers to make things work.
             It would just throw everything OfF.  We NEED to depend on one another.  

It shouldn't be easy to lie; it should make you uncoMfortable.  This is not something that just comes into being without being nurtured.  For most, human nature plays the part of making us feel badly when we are being dishonest.  Good parenting and good teachers help children understand those feelings and mold the character.  I produced a song called "Tell the Truth" .   In it, a young girl talks about how she lied and couldn't sleep.  When she told the truth, she felt better.  (I did have one parent question me about that.  Would I REALLY tell a child their belly would hurt and they wouldn't be able to sleep if they lied?  Absolutely!)

Pam Schiller has a wonderful book out called The Values Book .  It has many helpful ways to teach values and build character.

"The Boy Who Cried 'Wolf!'" is a song on my CD "The Wide-mouthed Bullfrog (and other Stories I Like to Sing)".  Children are capable of discussing the story and what it means and the consequences of his words.  Talking it out gives the brain a chance to work it out from different angles and totally comprehend the concept.

Value systems are set in place by the age of approximately 7.  Children must have an understanding of the importance of keeping their word because people are relying on them.  For the world to run well, we need a moral compass we can depend on.  When we are unsure, we feel unsafe.

Sing songs in your classrooms (homes) that value VALUES.  Am I idealistic?  At times.  I truly believe in the importance of using music as a vehicle to teach ethics and that goes hand-in-hand with being good people all around - whether we are Scientists, Mathematicians, Doctors, Accountants, Teachers, Parents or any occupation.  It just makes a better world.
                                                WHAT DO YOU THINK????

Maryann "Mar." Harman
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reuse Leftover Paintings

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

The other day I walked into my classroom and saw some painting that had been left in the room. Children left the paintings to dry and forgot to come back and get them. 

Seeing these paintings reminded me of a way we reused a painting a few years ago. We had painted a group painting. It became quite the abstract picture. We hung the painting (after drying) in our room to admire.

Painting (Brick by Brick)

After a few weeks, I took the painting down. I didn't want to just toss it. So I put on my repurposing hat. I punched out circles and cut other shapes and put those shapes out with paper and glue. Children could make collages with the "painted" pieces.

Painting pieces for collage (Brick by Brick)

Painting pieces for collage (Brick by Brick)

When I looked through the collage box the other day, I found a group of these shapes, ready for more kids to use. 

I thought about Eric Carle, the children's book author and illustrator. He creates different textured papers. He cuts shapes and glues them onto other paper to create his illustrations. What a fun thing for children to do, too!

Whether you make painted paper for collages on purpose or just have leftover paintings from other art exploration, look for ways to repurpose and incorporate those paintings into other learning explorations. You may be helping influence the Eric Carles of the future!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Here comes spring . . along with dance performances, music recitals, class plays, and art shows!

Here comes Spring!

And along with the flowers, come music recitals, class plays, dance performances, art exhibits, and many other venues to showcase our young students' journeys through various art forms.    

I am currently choreographing short pieces for my little dance students so that they can have an opportunity to shine in front of family and friends.  Parents enjoy seeing the results of the investment of time and money in getting their little ones to class -- this is no small feat each week, of course!  

Throughout the year, young dance students learn large motor skills; age-appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises; to listen and follow instructions; body awareness; spatial awareness; balance; controlling their speed; problem-solving through movement; and social skills and class etiquette, such as taking turns, group cooperation, and respecting the  personal space of others . . . to say nothing of the imagination and creativity that dance inspires.  And those are just some of the benefits of dance!  Parents will be able to see the progress their children have made in understanding and integrating many of these concepts, as they watch the students dance together in an end-of-the--year performance. And as a teacher, I have almost as much fun watching the parents in the audience as I do watching my students perform!

More About the Benefits of Dance:  

I like to share recent research that supports arts education and the benefits of the different artistic disciplines, especially when I come across something very relevant and interesting.  A short article in Emory Medicine appeared in their Winter, 2016 issue entitled Dance Classes Pay Off, with the subtitle Turns out, everyone should have taken ballet -- or tap, or jazz . . .

Have I sparked your interest?  Well, it certainly sparked mine! Here is the article:

Winter 2016 >> Brief
EMORY Medicine

Dance classes pay off

                                                Turns out, everyone should have taken 

                                                       ballet—or tap, or jazz.

Professional dancers’ years of training allow their nervous systems to coordinate their muscles more precisely than people with no dance training, found a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, whether they are performing or just walking across a room.
A research team at Emory and Georgia Tech compared the movements of professional ballet dancers with 10 or more years of training to those of people with no dance or gymnastics training.
Gait and activity of muscles in the legs and torso were tracked as the subjects walked across the floor, a wide beam, and a narrow beam.
An individual’s nervous system initiates movement by activating muscles in "motor module" groups that, combined, cover a wide range of motion. Trained ballet dancers engaged more motor modules more consistently than untrained subjects, using their muscles more effectively and efficiently.  
"This helps us understand how long-term training in an activity such as dance affects how we do everyday tasks," says study author Lena Ting, professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and of rehabilitation medicine at Emory.
"We found that years of ballet training change how the nervous system coordinates muscles for walking and balancing behaviors overall. This may also have implications for how training through rehabilitation helps people with impaired mobility." 

Related Links

Keep on dancin',

Moving is Learning!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thumbs Up for "Singing in the Rain!"

Teachers "Singing in the Rain" at a conference!
Yup – it’s raining today in Chicago!  Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here, and though the weather is still blustery, we can still get moving indoors!  My adaptation of the classic “Singing in the Rain” is the perfect combination of movement plus play!

    The National Association for Family Child Care recommends that children be moving for one hour of every five hours in care.  The Australian Department of Health breaks it down even further:  1-5 year-olds should be physically active every day for at least three hours, spread throughout the day.  Our US Health Department Guidelines recommend 60 minutes of “vigorous intensity aerobic, bone and muscle-strengthening activities” per day.

Preschoolers "Singing in the Rain" in a school concert
     Does all that movement have to be hard work? Should it be a chore to be checked off – whew, that’s done?  No!  It doesn’t have to be done all at once – actually it should be broken up in to segments for our youngest children. Let’s start with 20 minutes of music and movement – it’s fun, it’s enjoyable, and so many other skills can be included in the workout!  Vocabulary, memory, cross-lateral movement, early literacy skills, dexterity, balance, appropriate social and emotional interaction – need I go on?
Thumbs up!


 Let’s get moving!  This month I’ve chosen one of my favorites – a re-working of the title song of the movie “Singing in the Rain!”  The original song, written in 1929 by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, forms the base for this movement piece.  I couple it with some choo-choo cha-cha’s, and it becomes a hysterical add-on song.  It’s similar to “Tooty Ta” – but different!  It’s also been around longer!  I recorded it on my “Dancing Feet” cd – hear it HERE, or purchase the cd or download it HERE.

          I’m singing in the rain
           Just singing in the rain
           What a glo-ri-ous feeling,
           I’m happy again!

Choo-choo, cha-cha!
 (spoken)  Repeat after me – Thumbs up!

Kids echo:  Thumbs up!
ALL:       Choo-choo, cha-cha, choo-choo, cha-cha, choo-choo, cha-cha!

Add-ons:    Shoulders back
                 Knees together
                 Bottom up
                 Tongue out
                 Eyes closed
Knees together!
MOVEMENTS:  For the verse, stretch arms overhead and sway them side to side.  As sung, put both thumbs up in front of your chest.  Then turn around in place to the beat as you “choo-choo, cha-cha”.  Sing the verse again with arms up.  This time after “thumbs up” add “shoulders back!”  Be sure you keep that position as you choo-choo around in place.

NOTE:  Knees together is probably the hardest movement.  Demonstrate it with your feet slightly apart, knees knocked together!
More choo-choo, cha-cha!

    So much fun for Springtime...
                              and all year long!

Tongue out, eyes closed!

Looking for a musical visit to your school?  I’ll be in Denver, Las Vegas and Tennessee in July! 

Need a Keynote Speaker to get your conference joyously on its feet? 

Want a professional development workshop for your association? 

Contact me!

Tongue out at a library show!

Yours for a Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
"Singing in the Rain" from behind!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Letter Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Even though I live in San Diego, I still get excited about spring and fun spring-themed activities! So my new exclusive subscriber freebie at Living Montessori Now is butterfly themed! 

I'll also be sharing other free butterfly printables today. You'll find LOTS of free butterfly printables in my Free Butterfly Printables and Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Letter Activities. Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired butterfly activities using free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners. 

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Alphabet Butterfly Puzzles
Alphabet Butterfly Puzzles

Free Printable: Alphabet Butterfly Puzzles from Totschooling 

This was a simple activity to prepare! I just had to print out, laminate, and cut out the letter puzzles. I added them to a Montessori Services basket. You can decide which letters to use according to your child's or students' ability levels. You could use one of the recommended Montessori orders for introducing letters to decide which letters to use (unless your child or students are ready for the entire alphabet).  

I love that this is a visual discrimination activity (and even a symmetry activity) along with being a way to focus on letters. You could emphasize the capital versus lowercase letters, although I would just emphasize the letter sound. For example, for the assembled puzzle in the photo, I would simply say, "This is /b/." In my DIY beginning Montessori phonics post, you'll find lots of ideas for introducing phonics, including a video showing how to pronounce each letter sound. 

Butterfly Do-a-Dot Tray Butterfly Do-a-Dot Tray

Free Printable: Butterfly Do-a-Dot Printables (finding lowercase letter b and butterfly do-a-dot image) from Gift of Curiosity 

Free Printable: Blue Morpho Butterfly Letters for Salt or Sand Writing Tray, Tracing Letters, Object Basket, or Matching Different Letter B Fonts (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password) 

For this activity, I printed out two of the pages from Gift of Curiosity's butterfly do-a-dot pack ... one with the blue butterfly image and one where the child places dots on each lowercase letter b. I used Do-a-Dot markers and an easel from the Montessori By Mom Art Appreciation Toolbox (which is awesome) to hold a letter b card. You could add an erasable crayon to the tray for tracing the letter b if you wish. The tray is a large plastic tray from Montessori Services.

Letter B Basket  

Letter B Basket

Free Printable: Blue Morpho Butterfly Letters for Salt or Sand Writing Tray, Tracing Letters, Object Basket, or Matching Different Letter B Fonts (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password) 

You could use any of the blue morpho butterfly letter b's for this, but I chose to use the cursive b as a way to introduce cursive while still mainly using the print b. I used a variety of objects starting with b. You could just say the phonetic sound as you or your child removes an item from the basket: for example, "/b/ butterfly, /b/ banana..." 

Some of the objects are ones I had at home, although most are from Montessori Services (they have individual phonetic objects or a whole set available). The butterfly is from the Safari Ltd. Butterflies TOOB (which I highly recommend for a butterfly theme). 

Butterfly-Themed Letter B Salt Tray
Butterfly-Themed Letter B Salt Tray
Free Printable: Blue Morpho Butterfly Letters for Salt or Sand Writing Tray, Tracing Letters, Object Basket, or Matching Different Letter B Fonts (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password) 

I love salt or sand trays for writing activities! To color the sand, I added some food coloring to salt in a bag, shook it up, and let it dry. Super easy! I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. The Lace and Trace Shapes are now on my educational toy shelf in my living room. I tied the appropriate lace to each shape and placed the shapes on a bamboo paper plate holder. Very easy and a more accessible way for children to use the shapes than in the tray. And the wooden tray is perfect as a salt or sand tray! 

Again, I would introduce the letter sound rather than the letter name, simply saying "/b/" (the letter sound) as I slowly show how to write the letter using my index and middle finger. Of course, you could include a writing tool if you wish.

Letter and Writing Activities 

Letter and Writing Activities

Free Printable: Letter B Book of Rhymes and Songs from The Measured Mom 

Free Printable: Letter B Picture Booklet from The Pinay Homeschooler 

Free Printable: Blue Morpho Butterfly Letters for Salt or Sand Writing Tray, Tracing Letters, Object Basket, or Matching Different Letter B Fonts (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password) 

This photo shows my current letter and writing activities area in my living rom. The metal insets (mine are actually plastic insets from Alison's Montessori) aren't part of the butterfly letter theme, but they're wonderful for preparing the child's hand for writing letters (and numbers). 

My granddaughter loves handmade books, so I put together the free printable books from The Measured Mom and The Pinay Homeschooler.  

Decorate the Bb's Butterfly Letter Craft (from last year's Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Activities Using Free Printables Post

Decorate the Bb's Butterfly Craft 

Free Printable: Decorate the B’s from 3 Dinosaurs (Romping & Roaring B Pack, Part 1). 

This activity uses a large plastic tray from Montessori Services and a Martha Stewart Classic Butterfly Crafts Punch. The butterfly punch creates a great fine-motor activity as well as a craft. The child can punch butterflies out of colored cardstock or construction paper and then glue the butterflies on the letter Bb's (again, emphasizing the letter sound rather than the letter name). 

More Free Butterfly Printables  

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free butterfly printables from around the blogosphere: Free Butterfly Printables and Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Letter Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables

You'll find lots of Montessori-inspired butterfly activities and ideas in these Living Montessori Now posts:
Montessori-Inspired Caterpillar-Butterfly Unit

Montessori-Inspired Caterpillar-Butterfly Unit

Free Counting Book Printable for Any Theme
Free Counting Book Printable for Any Theme
Montessori-Inspired Life Cycle Activities
Montessori-Inspired Life Cycle Activities 

Caterpillar-Butterfly Unit Study Pinterest Board
Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
Happy spring! :)
Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 40 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Living Montessori Now Button

Monday, March 7, 2016

Read Across America Week!

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.

One of my favorite weeks to teach is "Read Across America Week". We usually spread this out over two weeks, as there are so many great activities that we just can't fit them all into one week. 

We invite parents, grandparents, babysitters, school administrators and community members to  come in and read. 

We plan lots of fun snacks!

We play fun games that go along with some of the fun books we're reading,  like balancing beanbags when we read "Ten Apples Up On Top"

and balancing all the items from "The Cat In The Hat".

We made oobleck after reading "Bartholomew and the Oobleck". 

We have some really fun themed days to coincide with some of the books we're reading, like hat day to go with "Go, Dog, Go" "500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins"

and Crazy Sock day to go with Fox in Socks.

 Wacky Wednesday, things got pretty wacky in our room! The kids (and teachers) dressed as wacky as we could and there were many wacky things going on in our room, including shoes on the walls, chairs in the wrong places, the calendar was upside down, the flag was out of place and our bathrooms were switched! 

We took the "Read Across America" oath:
(reprinted from the 
Read Across America website)

I promise to read
Each day and each night.
I know it's the key
To growing up right.

I'll read to myself,
I'll read to a crowd.
It makes no difference
If silent or loud.

I'll read at my desk,
At home and at school,
On my bean bag or bed,
By the fire or pool.

Each book that I read
Puts smarts in my head,
'Cause brains grow more thoughts
The more they are fed.

So I take this oath
To make reading my way
Of feeding my brain
What it needs every day.
Debra Angstead, Missouri-NEA

and read the "Read Across America" poem:
(reprinted from the Read Across America website)

You're never too old, too wacky, too wild,
To pick up a book and read with a child.
You're never too busy, too cool, or too hot,
To pick up a book and share what you've got.

In schools and communities,
Let's gather around,
Let's pick up a book,
Let's pass it around.

There are kids all around you,
Kids who will need
Someone to hug,
Someone to read.

Come join us March 3rd
Your own special way
And make this America's
Read to Kids Day.

©Anita Merina

We take our reading seriously--it is serious business and serious fun! I hope that every child that moves up and grows on from my room leaves with a love of learning and a love of books! I read a lot at home and my own children are voracious readers. There is nothing like the adventures found in between the pages of a good book! 

Read on, America! Read on, World! 

 Stop by and visit me anytime at littleilluminations.blogspot.com or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!

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