The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

March 17, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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DIY Schoolyard Habitat Lesson

Often, science labs can be tedious labors of love that require tremendous amounts of time and preparation. This fun activity is a simple schoolyard observation that encourages students to put on their investigative caps and research the habitats on their playground.

  1. Create a Habitat logbook: Students will create their own science logbook to record class notes and observations. Be sure to include blank pages for observations and drawings. (For the logbook that I used check out ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats.)
  2. Research: Check out books from your school library on habitats. I like to designate a corner of my classroom to this theme and fill the space with books, posters, and pictures.
  3. Playground field trip:
  • Discuss the scientific method of inquiry, investigation, hypothesis, data collection, and analysis. Have students record their hypothesis in their logbook about what they might find outside.
  • Separate students into pairs.
  • Give each group a quadrant (wire hanger pushed into a square). Magnifying glasses and clipboards are helpful if you have them.
  • Instruct students to observe only the area within their quadrant.
  • Students record living and nonliving things they discover in their logbooks. Encourage them to draw detailed pictures. 
  1. Conclusions: Discuss what students found during their observations and identify what type of habitat they observed outside. Students will write their conclusions in their science logbooks.

This is the perfect springtime activity to get students out of the classroom without spending your precious field trip budget. Listed below are additional resources I used in my unit study on habitats, biomes and ecosystems.

Additional Resources:


Backyard
by Donald Silver


ScienceWorks for Kids: Habitats offers detailed study units on diverse habitats


Complete Thematic Units, Habitats – Forests and Meadows


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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March 2, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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St. Patrick’s Day STEM Activities

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to include a little magic in your daily lessons. What could be more fun than mischievous leprechauns, magical rainbows, and pots of gold? Make your classroom celebrations educational and engaging with these STEM and writing activities.

Build a Leprechaun Trap: Engineering and Design

This is a fun activity that works well with small groups. Have groups discuss and plan their trap before building. Be sure to build students’ background knowledge by learning the history and facts behind leprechauns. Define key terms and encourage students to use them in their writing.

Materials:

  1. Recyclables: egg cartons, plastic containers, toilet paper rolls, wine corks, rubber bands, shoe boxes, string etc.
  2. Colored paper
  3. Shiny rocks (spray them with gold) or Lucky Charms cereal for bait
  4. Glue/tape

Writing Prompts:

  1. Write a short story about catching a leprechaun in your trap. Describe three wishes you would ask him for and why.
  2. Describe how to rebuild your leprechaun trap. Be specific!

Rainbow Crystals Science Experiment: Structure and Properties of Matter

Encourage a love of science in your classroom with this rainbow crystal experiment. Students create their own crystal rainbows with just pipe cleaners, string, borax, and water.

Materials: Borax, boiling water, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, large container

Directions:

  1. Link colored pipe cleaners into rainbow design.
  2. In a bucket, mix 3 T. borax for every boiling cup of water. Only the teacher should handle the boiling water mixture.
  3. Dip pipe cleaners in solution and leave overnight (24 hours).

For an extra special addition to students rainbows, have them set them on chocolate gold coins.

Download your free science lesson Rainbows from Read and Understand Science, grades 2–3.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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February 22, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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3 Keys for Teaching Young Children to Read: Homeschool Ideas and Resources for PreK-3rd Grade

When we teach young children to read, we often start to think of teaching letters and letter sounds. While that is a fine place to start, what do you teach next?

Teaching reading can be fun for both us and our kids, and Evan-Moor has several options to help you teach reading in ways that are effective and keep your kids wanting to read!

Key #1: Teaching Young Children to Read with Decoding

When our children are preschool age, we teach them to name letters and say basic letter sounds. We know these letters will be put together to form words. Most children enjoy learning the letters of their name first, so that is a fun first word to teach them.

As our child learns letter sounds, we soon find that letters in the English language can get tricky. Yes, each letter has its own sound, but those letter sounds can quickly change. For example, the letter “g” makes a different sound in “goat” and “giraffe.” Additionally, once we start combining letters, the sounds can change completely (as in “ight” in the word “right”). It is common for children to continue studying phonics rules throughout the elementary school grades.

It is so helpful to have a list of these phonics rules to know exactly what to introduce next when teaching young children to read. Evan-Moor has 2 popular options that are great for homeschooling: Daily Phonics and Basic Phonics Skills.

Daily Phonics is for grades 1,2,3 and 4–6 — and focuses on particular phonics skills each week. One of my favorite features is that the weekly unit begins with a single page that contains 5 quick phonics lessons for the week (typically one lesson per day). It is so easy to follow! Then there are quick practice pages to allow the child to put the new skills to use.

Basic Phonics Skills is for grades PreK–3 and can be used as a curriculum. This book invites the child to focus on one phonics skill per practice page. Personally, I like to have my child work on these in an independent practice (like workboxes) in days following our Daily Phonics lesson. This helps me to see if my child really understands the phonics skill on her own.

Key #2: Teaching Young Children to Read with Comprehension

As we are teaching young children to read, it is vital that the children understand what they are reading. My favorite way to teach reading comprehension is reading several types of reading materials. We read fiction books, nonfiction books, recipes, instructions, poems, etc. As we read each one, we talk about what we are thinking. We share what we understand with each other. It keeps us all engaged and enjoying reading together.

If you want to enrich your homeschooling with time-saving activities, Evan-Moor has multiple options for your reading instruction. One of my favorite features of these publications is that often the practice pages also include skills in other areas like writing, phonics, and vocabulary.

Reading Literary Text is offered for grades 1–6. Each unit includes the mini-book or reading passage that is needed for the week. Each unit provides a new story for your child to read! After your child reads the selection, there are practice pages to go specifically with the story. Additionally, each story is leveled in difficulty within each grade level. So homeschoolers can easily set their child up for success when they are learning to read.

Once our kids are learning to read, we can also teach them to read to learn. Evan-Moor has a truly fabulous (newly revised) book called Nonfiction Reading Practice. There are about 17 topics per book, typically on science and social studies topics. There is one brilliant aspect of this book: each topic offers 3 reading passages of varying difficulty! This is terrific if you are homeschooling more than one child, so you can select the reading passage that is just right for your child.

Reading Informational Text is another powerhouse of lessons and activities to use when teaching young children to read. This series is offered for grades 1–6 and is organized in units on a particular topic. Within each unit, there are ready-made lesson plans for vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing, and more! These topics teach kids to read to learn and provide an opportunity to use other skills related to the topic.

Key #3: Teaching Young Children to Read with Fluency

When teaching young children to read, we need to teach them to read with fluency. Reading with fluency is reading smoothly (rather than in a robotic or choppy way). There is one vital part of teaching fluency – kids should be reading material they already know how to read. This is not the time for teaching decoding. This is a time to have FUN reading.

Do your kids like to entertain you? Our kids like to put on “shows” where they use puppets or act out their favorite stories. How about doing some readers’ theater? This is where your children will retell a story by each reading their parts aloud, often using puppets or acting out what they are reading.

When teaching young children to read with fluency, we invite children to have fun reading with expression! Children practice reading out aloud in the way that we naturally speak (and maybe enjoy a little dramatic effect, too!). Leveled Readers’ Theater is available for grades 1–6 and contains topics and stories that kids enjoy. If you are involved in a homeschool co-op, readers’ theater can be a fun way to teach young children to read with fluency!

Another EASY option for teaching children to read with fluency is to have them read familiar materials from previous grade levels. Your child can read the previous grade level materials from any of these series that I have shared!

Homeschool Tip: TeacherFileBox digital lesson library

If you are trying to choose between any of these Evan-Moor books to use in your homeschooling, I have to let you in on my favorite way to get access to ALL grade levels of each of these series in digital format! Evan-Moor has created a digital lesson library of all of these books into TeacherFileBox.

You can gain access to TeacherFileBox through a monthly or annual subscription. You can search by skill, grade level, subject, or topic! What is even more amazing if that you get access to ALL grade levels of these books with your subscription. Once you subscribe, you have access to all of the fun books I shared in this blog and over 400 other titles, as well! Subscribe for a month and get the first 30 days free or get the best deal ($79.99 for a year) through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

 

Which of these books would you like to integrate into your homeschooling? Just let me know in the comments!


Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.

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February 14, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Presidents’ Day Activities for Grades 3–6

Presidents’ Day formally honors George Washington, but the holiday opens up the perfect opportunity to salute all of the men who have served our country. Dedicate a few lessons to the study of these great men.

Listed below are a few research and writing activities to inspire your students to think about the importance of individuals within our government. It is possible you may be inspiring a future political leader.

Research

  • Presidential term limits and qualifications to be president.
    Write an opinion piece on whether or not the qualifications should change.
  • Students choose an influential president to research and write a report about his contributions while in office.
  • Study and research the Electoral College and its role within the election process.

Interview
Interview a family member or friend about the president he or she remembers the most and why. (Brainstorm a list of questions.)

Counting in Code Game

  • Ask students to count money but list only the names of the presidents on the bills. For example: two George Washingtons, one Abraham Lincoln, and three Andrew Jacksons.
    • $1 George Washington
    • $2 Thomas Jefferson
    • $5 Abraham Lincoln
    • $10 Alexander Hamilton
    • $20 Andrew Jackson

President Word Search

Download your free printable here. (From Seasonal Activities series)


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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February 14, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Presidents’ Day Activities for Grades PreK–2

Presidents’ Day is the perfect holiday to salute some of the great men who have served our country. Here are some fun activities to introduce young students to the importance of the presidency.

Coin Sort (PreK–1)

  • Students separate pennies and quarters by identifying the president on each.
  • Advanced: Include dimes (Franklin Roosevelt) and nickels (Thomas Jefferson)

Create a Timeline
Create a timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life. (Download free timeline cards here.)

Coin Cleaning Science Experiment

  • Hypothesize which solution cleans coins the best: water, vinegar and salt, tabasco, lemon juice, cola, or baking soda.
  • Fill separate containers with solution and drop a dirty penny in each. Wait 15 minutes before removing the pennies.
  • Observe and record observations.
  • Discuss which solution worked the best and why. (Vinegar and tabasco work well because of the vinegar and salt solution.)

Writing Prompts:

  • Compare and contrast Washington and Lincoln.
  • What are some important lessons we can learn from famous presidents?
  • Students imagine they are president of the United States for one day. What would they do? What is the most important thing a president does?

Craft
Create a portrait of George Washington.

Book Recommendation

  • This Caldecott award winner has wonderful facts and stories about many of our nation’s most prominent presidents.
    So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

For additional resources and activities, check out Evan-Moor’s Theme Pockets: Presidents’ Day.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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February 11, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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5 Last-Minute Valentine Gifts for Teachers

The gift of giving is inherent in young students. If you look on a teacher’s desk after recess or lunch, you will find treasures of wilted flowers, colorful rocks, and even on occasion, a prized ladybug. As a teacher and a parent, I understand the sweet sentiments of a young child’s gift giving—as well as the after effects of too much chocolate! Here are my top recommendations for teacher appreciation gifts for Valentine’s Day or anytime in the school year.

  1. A handmade card. Nothing is more precious than a card made with love.
  2. Flowers from your garden or from the grocery store. They can brighten a classroom and home!
  3. $5 gift card to a coffee shop! Caffeine is always appreciated within the world of education!
  4. Sweet-smelling bottle of hand sanitizer or soap for the classroom.
  5. Colorful pens and or dry erase markers for the whiteboard (always a winner ☺).

As a teacher or parent, do you have other ideas for teacher gifts? Please share in the comments section.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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January 31, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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How to Use Math Fundamentals in Homeschooling

As homeschoolers, teaching our children math fundamentals is a priority, but it can be overwhelming.

And even though I taught elementary school for 11 years before I started homeschooling, I still wanted a checklist of math fundamental skills to cover for each of my children each year. Wouldn’t you know, Evan-Moor just released a new publication specifically for teaching math fundamentals that is specific to each grade level, and it is terrific!

Let me share why the Math Fundamentals series works perfectly for homeschoolers! Be sure to download the free sampler and try it with your children.

Math Fundamentals Is Kid-Approved

To quote my fourth grader, “I really like this new math book, Mom! I understand math better, and the pages don’t overwhelm me. Math is fun now!”

Isn’t that what every homeschooling parent wants to hear? She even asked if she could work ahead in her Math Fundamentals book this week! What a compliment to this series!

The Layout of Math Fundamentals

Math Fundamentals divides each set of skills into units. This helps you and your child focus on specific math skills.

Each unit begins with a teaching page. This teaching page can be used by both the parent and child to understand the fundamental math skill the child will learn. It is very helpful to have the skill explained with examples, with all of the teaching points all together on a single page.

Each of the skills showcases simple teaching points. You can work through them one at a time as your child is ready for each step of the math fundamental skill.

Here is an example:

In this unit, the math fundamental skill is telling time by the half-hour for grade 1. There are two teaching points listed: the analog (face) clock and the digital clock.

See how everything is labeled and easy to understand?

Another thing that I really like is the “Think” question at the bottom of the page.

Here is another example for teaching fractions for grade 4. My child and I both found it easy to focus on one skill at a time.

The Practice

There are typically 4–5 pages for each unit. I really like how the pages are arranged. The first page is the foundational math fundamental skill. Then, the next page invites the child to build on that first skill and use the next skill taught on the teaching page.

You can CLICK HERE to select and preview each grade level.

The practice pages are key to helping me to see if my child truly understands the skill.

These pages feature a combination of basic math fundamental skill practice and story problems, which shows me if my child understands the skill outside of a formula. It is a perfect opportunity to see if your child can apply these math fundamental skills to real-life situations!

How to Use Math Fundamentals in Your Homeschooling

Math Fundamentals is a complete math curriculum, so we can simply focus on one unit at a time. You also have the flexibility to work at your child’s pace, slowing down when he or she needs more time or speeding up if it is easy.
For example, if my child breezes through the skill pages, then we can leave the remaining practice pages as workbox review in a few weeks.

If my child is struggling, then it is easy to just slow down and do a few problems together. I also like that the number of math problems doesn’t overwhelm my child. It is focused and purposeful practice – not just “busy” work.

Want Access to All Grade Levels of Math Fundamentals?

Another feature that Evan-Moor offers homeschoolers is including all six grade levels of Math Fundamentals in their TeacherFileBox subscription. TeacherFileBox has all of the Math Fundamentals titles in their digital lesson library!

This is the best value, because you can easily skip ahead to the next grade level if your child is ready without buying another level of curriculum! Likewise, if your child is struggling, you can also go back a grade level to review skills he or she has forgotten.

I don’t know of any other publisher that offers all grade levels of a series to homeschoolers. This is just another reason that I am a fan of Evan-Moor!

Math Fundamentals is a big hit at our house. It helps both my child and me focus on each set of skills for the week. It has made teaching math much simpler. I also have peace of mind knowing that the math fundamental skills are covered for each grade level.

Be sure and CLICK HERE for sample pages and to learn more about the new Math Fundamentals and TeacherFileBox! Once you try it, be sure and leave me a comment to let me know how it is working for you!


Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.

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January 20, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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3 Simple Steps to Create a Unit on Antarctica: Grades 4–6

Take your students on an exciting journey to the remote continent of Antarctica and uncover its mysterious past and uncertain future. With its dramatic topography and fascinating wildlife, this study unit has something for every student.

Step 1: Exploration

Although the human exploration of Antarctica is relatively new compared to the rest of the world, it has been filled with adventure.

  • Introduce the early explorers and their role in Antarctic exploration to your students. Have students create a timeline. Don’t forget the voyage of Belgica!
  • Discuss current exploration and international research stations.

Free download: Use this timeline of early exploration of Antarctica to help you get started.

Step 2: Features

Study the climate, landscape, and oceans surrounding Antarctica.

  • Discuss temperature variations within Antarctica and its geographic regions.
  • Study the current and changing climate conditions.
  • Ice experiment: Record the temperature of ice in three stages.
    • Introduce the purpose and use of a thermometer.
    • Measure temperature of water before, while, and after it freezes. Record the results and graph them.

Free download: Antarctica: Physical Features: Climate. This article from The 7 Continents: Antarctica presents information about the three distinct climate regions on the continent.

Step 3: Research

Instruct students to build their own research report on a topic of Antarctica that interests them, such as: exploration, weather, wildlife, research stations, or ice.

  • Create your own cyber hunt for students online with symbaloo. This site allows teachers to create an online research page using multiple sources and limits students in their research to specific websites (approved by the teacher). You may also search for educational sites related to your research that others have posted.


For an in-depth study of Antarctica and its history, features, and wildlife, check out The 7 Continents: Antarctica, grades 4–6.

 

 

 

 


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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January 20, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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3 Simple Activities to Increase Your Child’s Vocabulary

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud to your child is one of the simplest ways to help expand his or her vocabulary. Authors include word choices that aren’t used in everyday conversations. When children read alone, they are often left on their own to comprehend the meaning of the text. Without guidance, children can easily misinterpret the meaning of a story. By reading aloud and discussing the text with your child, you are providing them with new information to be used during their independent reading.

I am currently reading aloud to my daughters the book Brady by Jean Fritz. Throughout the book, the term “abolition” is used. Without defining and discussing the meaning of abolition, my daughters would have missed one of the most important concepts within the novel.

Weekly Vocabulary

In addition to reading aloud, teaching weekly vocabulary will help your child learn and practice new words. This year we are using Evan Moor’s A Word a Day. Each day there is a new word introduced. The words are varied, and the lessons include nouns, adjectives, and verbs. We use the word in sentences and discuss whether they’ve heard it before or not. We also add it to our vocabulary bank.

Visuals and Games

If your child is a visual learner, incorporating word/picture match-up games is a great option to introduce new vocabulary. All you need is a stack of index cards and a pair of scissors. Cut the cards in half. On one side write a word and on the other have your child illustrate a picture of what that word might mean. Shuffle the cards and practice matching the picture to the correct word. Increase the fun element by cutting the cards into different shapes. Each word and picture match should fit together like a puzzle piece.

Do you teach vocabulary in your homeschool? What is your favorite method?


Latonya Moore is the creator of Joy in the Ordinary, a site where she focuses on seeking joy in everyday moments. She enjoys spending time with her husband and home educating her daughters.

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January 13, 2017
by Evan-Moor
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Steps to Create a Penguin Unit for Grades 1–4

Penguins are a favorite among students and teachers alike; those cute waddling figures are adorable and fascinating. Create your own unit with a few simple lessons and activities. Incorporate life science, geography, and writing for a cross-curricular unit that will WOW your students!

Idea Web: Introduce penguins with an idea web. Discover what students already know about the birds and their habitats. (Video clips are also great for building excitement!)

Information: Explore different types of penguins, their behavior, habitats, reproduction, diets, eating habits, and predators. Some great informational books are:

  • National Geographic Readers: Penguins
  • Fun Facts About Penguins: Part of the Fun Facts Series

Simple Student Journal

Watch this short video to see how to make a DIY penguin journal!

Resources from Evan-Moor

The Theme Pockets: January, Grades 1–4 e-book includes the following penguin activities:

  • Life Cycle Wheel
  • Penguin Mini Book
  • Penguin Picture Cards
  • Penguin Information Book
  • Map Activity

Penguin Activities

  • Emperor Penguin egg transfer:
    • Two students transfer a ball using only their feet.
  • Experience the warming effects of penguin blubber.
    • Step 1: Students place hand in a bowl of ice water
    • Step 2: Covering their hand in a plastic bag, students place hand into a bag filled with Crisco (zip lock it carefully so it doesn’t leak out) and dip it into the icy water again. (This time they should feel the warming effects of fat.)

Writing Prompts

  • Write a sentence describing a penguin you studied. What does it look like? Where does it live?
  • Pretend you are a baby penguin. Write a story about your life. (Include your habitat, diet, parents, and predators.)
  • Compare and contrast two species of penguins. How are they the same and how are they different?
  • Research and informational writing: Students research their favorite penguin and write about it.

Movie

March of the Penguins by National Geographic


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.

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