Okay to grade papers while the students are working?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Jerseygirlteach, Dec 8, 2013.

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  1. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    I just had a debate with my fifth grade daughter about this, and am looking for some feedback. :)

    According to my daughter, every teacher she’s had – K – 5th – conducts a lesson this way:

    1 – provides instruction

    2 – gives an independent assignment

    3 – completes some task while students are working – grading papers, hanging up students' work, lesson planning, etc. At this time, if students need help or have questions, they may approach the teacher and ask questions.

    I argued that teachers should be “teaching” at every moment of the day. So, if students are doing independent work, the teacher should be walking the room, providing assistance, conferencing with students, or at least observing students as they work. I do not grade or straighten up or anything unless the kids are at a special or at recess/lunch.

    My daughter thinks that is silly. If a lesson is taught properly, students should be able to work without the teacher walking the room. However, I think that if such minimal assistance is needed, the activity must not be challenging enough.

    What do you think?
     
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  3. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    Honestly? I think it depends on the class. I have one or two classes where they are just so quiet, well-behaved, and on task that I occasionally do a little grading. Never for more than 5 minutes or so before I do a quick circulation though. In other classes, I am constantly circulating though.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I'm with your daughter. It's not always that I give an activity that students can do completely independently, but there are some.

    I mean, at least once a week I'm giving an assessment of some sort. Obviously I'm not meeting with any groups then. I always expect students to START an independent assignment without me. I want them to at least make an attempt at it... they have to do that on their own. They are less likely to give it the old college try if I'm walking past them and easily available to ask a question. For that matter, there are times where I'm only working one-on-one with a student. Effectively for the 27 others, is that any different than if I were just sitting back grading?

    Granted, I don't usually grade when kids are in the room, but I have no problem taking a couple minutes to do some type of administrative task. I'm going to be beginning my second consecutive week of having exactly 0 minutes of on-contract planning time tomorrow. Gotta get work done somehow.
     
  5. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    My students are older. They don't always need lots of instruction after I give an assignment. I'll do other things while they work. My room is really crowded. If I circulate too much, I disturb the students.
     
  6. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I also think this largely depends on the age and maturity of students, as well as the subject. I'm much more likely to go a stretch with purely independent work in math than in language arts. The group I have this year handles independent work much better than last year, so they get more. I expect sixth graders to work independently better than kindergartners, etc.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Same here.

    Sometimes I intentionally make myself a little less available (still available, but students have to come to me instead of me going to them) when I have a bunch of students who are especially needy. If I'm too available, they'll want to use me as a crutch, asking me for help on the easy stuff that they not only should know but actually do know (but are too lazy to recall or think about for 3 seconds). I teach a foreign language, so there are a lot of vocabulary words. The students know most of these words, and there is a dictionary in the back of their textbook if they need to look up a word they don't remember or haven't seen before. The resources are right there, sitting on their desk. They don't need to ask me what the meaning of "aqua" is. 1) We've seen that word approximately 300 times in the past two months, so they should know it, and 2) it's right there in their dictionary if they truly don't know it.

    Also, to the OP, I would caution you against saying things to your daughter that might make it seem like you don't approve of the way her teacher handles her own class. That puts your daughter in an awkward position of either listening to and siding with her mom or respecting and learning from her teacher. I think that it completely undermines the teacher's authority in her classroom, and I think that's the wrong thing to do. If you are truly concerned about the way the teacher is teaching her class, then you need to contact her directly or contact her principal. I don't think that it's appropriate to be critical of her methods in a behind-her-back sort of way.
     
  8. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    Depends on the day, the assignment. If I didn't complete some "non-teaching" tasks while students worked, I'd be even more behind than I already am.
     
  9. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I would be lying if I said I never graded or did some administrative work while my class works independently. It depends on the task. I only teach math and science, so I usually pull small groups during math independent time. If it's a science lab, I'm definitely monitoring and assisting. Cutting out pictures of simple mavhines and sorting by type after we've learned all the simple machines, created examples of them, and listed examples on their journals? I would grade or complete paperwork during that time unless asked a specific question.
     
  10. thirdgradebuzz

    thirdgradebuzz Comrade

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    Personally, I think it's fine to complete some small around-the-room tasks while the students work, if it's done in moderation, and taking breaks in between to circulate and/or check for students that may need help.

    I can't remember a classroom in my entire K-12 career where teachers didn't do things like this while we worked, at least in small increments of time.
     
  11. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Usually the only time I get to grade tests are when I want the kids to have immediate feedback. We have 3 rotations of 1 hr 45 min, so taking that times isn't a pretty big deal. While they are working independently I will do quick jobs around the room.
     
  12. DrivingPigeon

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    Wow, imagine all of the things a teacher could accomplish if that was how they spent their day!

    Here is a brief outline of my day, explaining what I am doing and what the students are doing:
    -Morning routine: Students arrive, and read independently. I am greeting them, checking take-home folders, and taking attendance.
    -Intervention block: Students are completing their daily spelling routine, and reading independently. I am meeting with a group of 3 students who are reading below grade level. We are doing word work activities, and practicing reading strategies.
    -Math routine: Students are taking turns leading the math routine. I am assisting, asking guiding questions.
    -Math: I teach a mini-lesson, and students rotate between 3 workshop areas. I am meeting with a small group during each rotation, assisting students with the daily lesson at their various levels.
    -Science/social studies: I teach a mini-lesson, and students participate in some sort of hands-on project or experiment. I assist them, asking guiding questions that help them understand the content better.
    -Writer's workshop: I teach a mini lesson, and students work on a writing activity. I confer with students one-on-one or in small groups.
    -Comprehension lesson: I read a story, while guiding students in practicing a strategy.
    -Daily 5/Guided reading: Students work independently while I meet with 3 guided reading groups.

    I don't see any time in my schedule for planning throughout the day, other than prep time. At the end of the day, my room is a mess, because I don't even have time to put things away. I can't imagine lesson planning, correcting papers, or hanging up projects. There is always someone that needs my help, or something that I can be doing to extend my students' learning in some way.

    I have definitely done some correcting and other various things while students were working, but I always feel guilty. I do take some time throughout the day to glance at my computer. Sometimes I will receive an email like "Ben needs to take the bus home tonight" or something else that needs immediate attention.

    The type of instruction that the OP discussed may work for secondary teachers, as some of you have mentioned. However, I don't understand how a primary teacher could teach this way.
     
  13. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Last year, I had a class that was incredibly independent. They worked so well during assessments or independent work that I did a lot of simple grading or administrative stuff then. However, I was always available to answer questions, and would circulate around the room every couple minutes. This was also a class where I didn't have any really low students, so there were actually many topics/tasks where I really didn't need to pull small groups or individual students. I joked that had I ever not been able to come to school, I could have simply written their tasks on the board and they would have just gone about their day!

    This year, my class is the complete opposite. They are not independent AT ALL. So, I sometimes purposely am "busy" at my desk so they will attempt something on their own.
     
  14. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    When I was a classroom teacher, I graded and completed other tasks while students were taking tests. We had to give a test in every subject at least once a week. I had some kids that got math tests read aloud to them, so I would bring them over to my group table and grade papers in between reading questions to them (since they obviously had to have time to figure out the problems). During regular lesson subjects, we were expected to meet with small groups in every subject. So I would teach a whole group lesson and then the rest of that subject would be "centers" and me meeting with small groups. There wasn't any time to grade or anything like that. Now that I'm back in sped, I don't give regular "tests" so I don't really have any time to get other things done. My "tests" are progress monitoring which is mostly all 1:1 timed stuff.
     
  15. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    I teach kindergarten. Sometimes my purse is still in my chair at lunch because I sat it down in the morning and never sat down again.
     
  16. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I do that sometimes but only during my elective classes. In those classes I can give them work, tell them they can work together, but they have to stay quiet. Incredibly that's how our history / science teacher teaches 90% of the time, so they're used to it.
    I could never do that during my English classes, I'm involved in the lesson every minute. During tests I circle the classroom to ensure they don't cheat, stay on task,etc.
     
  17. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    :agreed:
     
  18. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Some may disagree, but I am a firm believer that when the students are working, the teacher should be working with the students, and helping. If the teacher is busy doing something else, a student might be reluctant to ask for help, and during their practice time is when they really need to be practicing correctly.
     
  19. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I´m with you there. I don´t sit. I don´t believe you can teach and sit. Unless I am doinf a read aloud, but I am on my feet and in the middle of what my kids are doing all day long.
     
  20. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I've never known a third grader that would hesitate to ask for help just because I was putting some papers in their mailbox. They might be less likely to ask for help because I'm not standing directly next to them... but that's only because they don't actually need help.
     
  21. gr3teacher

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    To clarify, I should say that no student I've ever had would hesitate to ask just because I was putting things in their mailbox, or something like that, vs if I was working with a group of students. Actually, my students would be far more comfortable asking me a question if they saw me doing an administrative task than if I had a group in front of me, since they know I'm "off-limits" if I have kids in front of me.
     
  22. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    The shy kids are more reluctant. I have a couple who definitely would hesitate. In any case, my main point is that as teachers, I feel we should make ourselves available and approachable. I don´t think we are either if we are grading, or hanging up work or other such things while our kids are working. That´s just my personal opinion and personally how I conduct myself as a teacher. I make myself available to my students at every moment of the day. Everything else can wait.
     
  23. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    When you're working with a small group, do you stop and help another student who asks for assistance?
     
  24. gr3teacher

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    Do your kids consider you approachable when you're working with a small group? If so... how do you ever manage to accomplish something with that small group?
     
  25. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I do, if they really need something. I also have a TA who assists students as well. We do the Daily 5, so the kids know exactly what to do, they have minimal questions when I am with my group. During math centers, I pull a group of students to work with and my TA helps with the centers.
     
  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm not seeing how that's all that different from a teacher doing administrative tasks during independent work time. From the students' perspective, the teacher is available to exactly the same extent in both circumstances, perhaps even less available when the teacher is working with other students. If the students know what is expected and what they're supposed to be doing, there shouldn't be a need for constant, 100% circulating and hovering. If the teacher is available to assist when the need arises, isn't that good enough?

    I also definitely see a difference between what would be acceptable in a lower elementary classroom versus a middle school or high school classroom.
     
  27. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I think its silly to waste time standing around if your students don't need help and you have things to do.
     
  28. 2ndTimeAround

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    I definitely do other things while the students are working independently. I would never get anything done otherwise! I have to stay late, take work home and go in early as it is! Plus, I like to give immediate feedback on things like homework and quizzes so I have to grade some of those while the students are working on something.

    That being said, my subject doesn't really lend itself to a lot of daily independent work. Unlike math or chemistry or even foreign language students don't do a lot of practice after instruction. Sometimes it is just reinforcement.

    If students are copying down vocabulary onto their flash cards there is absolutely no need for me to circulate and offer assistance. I do circulate during independent practice if it is a skill that needs practicing.

    With secondary it is a bit different than primary. We have more students. Those students are older and more self-sufficient. And a lot of their work takes good chunks of time to grade. I can grade a class set of quizzes in no time, but lab reports, research papers and comprehensive projects take hours and hours to grade.
     
  29. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I respectfully disagree with you. My group of students have my attention. The other students are engaged in either partner reading, self reading, or word work and questions rarely arise during this time. We practiced all of these activities from the beginning of the school year and they know how to do it. That´s really the main point of The Daily 5, that they can work independently and it allows me the ability to work with small groups. In answer to your question, ¨If the teacher is available to assist when the need arises, isn't that good enough?¨ no, it´s not good enough for me. I am either with a group or with various students as I go around the room. I simply don´t spend academic time grading or hanging things up. I just don´t. I am not saying it makes a teacher a bad teacher, just that I personally don´t agree with it. For me, it isn´t good enough to be on the sidelines when I need to be in the game with my students. That´s just my personal opinion.
     
  30. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I do see where you are coming from.

    I guess from my perspective, if the students are able to work independently, then they should be allowed/encouraged to work independently. I don't need to hover. I think that if I constantly hover, then I am taking away some of their self-confidence when it comes to their ability to figure things out. I also think that constant hovering encourages laziness, probably related to the diminished self-confidence thing.

    Whether I'm working with a small group, which I do, or grading quizzes on the spot so that they can get feedback before they leave the room that day, which I do, or some other administrative task, which I do, it really doesn't matter as far as their ability to work independently; if they can do it, I want them to do it. Never do for a child what he can do for himself. If he can work independently, then he should be doing that. I don't need to hover over him. If I don't need to hover, then I don't see why I should spend all that class time just standing at the front of the room watching them work.
     
  31. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I'm going to add my two cents.

    As a teacher, I'd teach a lesson and give my kiddos independent practice. At that time, I'd call a small group of children to the kidney table to work with me (they didn't always need one-on-one assistance; however, there were certain children who had issues with concentration or hyperactivity).

    Additionally, while sitting at the kidney table working with a small group, kids who were done with their independent practice would bring it up to me so I could check it.

    As an administrator: I find it very frustrating when I do unannounced walkthroughs and the kids are sitting at their desks doing independent practice and the teacher is sitting at his/her desk (usually at the computer)! Every single class has at least a few low students who could benefit from small-group or one-on-one assistance!
     
  32. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Every class does has a few low students who would benefit from small-group or one-on-one assistance. Every class also has a few low students who deserve the chance to try something themselves first before the teacher just automatically assumes they won't know how to do it.
     
  33. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    If I walked around the room all the time, my students would feel free to ask me every single little question. Do I walk around more with my lower class? Yes. So I think it really depends on the class. I know my shy students are 100% comfortable coming up to me if I am grading something, but I have had these kids for three years.

    But I also teach sitting down sometimes and think I am just as effective. I teach middle school, if that matters
     
  34. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    And every teacher deserves an administration that realizes that some very important things could be taking place at the computer when they walk in.

    I "goof off" maybe a total of 45 minutes per WEEK at work. Usually on a Friday during my planning when I'm running an errand - copying, distributing materials to my department, etc. It is Friday, we're all tired and we get to chatting, knowing we have the weekend to get caught up on anything we aren't doing that day. I work through my lunch - either tutoring/supervising students or grading. I work at least ten hours at home throughout the week. If I am at my computer when an adminstrator walks in, you better believe I am doing something for the students at my school. And not just those that are going to affect my year-end review. To imply that I am not directly serving my students because I am sitting there is downright insulting.
     
  35. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    I know I've already responded to this, but I've been thinking. I'm not 100% blunt and honest on here sometimes because I don't want to get confrontational, and I'm already going out on a limb and assuming this isn't going to be the most popular opinion here. Oh, well. Here goes...

    I think sometimes it's implied that a teacher who circulates the room is perceived as a better teacher than one who doesn't. As long as students are on task, I really don't see a problem with grading, general paperwork, planning, etc. This doesn't mean I automatically go sit at my desk as soon as the lesson is finished. I might be sorting papers on a table, standing at my podium grading, organzing, etc. I do circulate some. I am not constantly circulating unless we're working on writing, then I am.

    Before I had my kiddo, staying however late I needed to wasn't a big deal to me. These days, I'm going to whatever is in my power to not stay later than one hour after school. I go in at least 30 minutes before the bell rings, and I work during my planning and lunch. It would be absolutely impossible to get all my grading done, the charting and records our district expects us to keep, my planning (which is constantly changing based on the demands of my district and principal), and general admin tasks if I didn't work on some of this while my students worked.

    There's a point where kids have to take responsibility to ask for help if they need it. :2cents:

    Beth
     
  36. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    I see where both sides are coming from. I never really have to decide because my kids are so needy that they almost always require my assistance.

    Sometimes I do make THEM do the administrative work. :lol: I can tell when they need a break and instruction would be pointless. Once or twice a week I give them 20 minutes to clean the room, file papers, hang bulletin boards, etc. It's the blessing of teaching old kids! I usually check emails or write IEPs while they're doing this. Then I get double the work done. :)
     
  37. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I think school culture plays a role here too. In my current school, email is the main mode of communication. Lunch is running behind schedule? An email notification is how you find out. The principal needs a certain form filled out? It's attached in an email, and usually due by the end of the same day. My prep is first thing in the am, so I have to check my email several times a day to stay in the loop. My P also understands if we are quickly completing an administrative task he asked us to do. These things never take up the entire independent portion of the lesson. A student also doesn't meet in a small group the entire time or they would never get independent practice.
     
  38. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Maybe the grade level we teach could have a lot to do with it, as well. My students are 6, for the most part. They need me. They need me a lot. I want to see what kind of work they are producing as they produce it. I want to help with errors when they come up, and I want to suggest ideas to make their work better, even if they are doing it correctly (I am thinking specifically of writer´s workshop, here). To accomplish all this, I need to be with them. In addition, I think it also sends off the message that I value what they are doing and I care, as opposed to the appearance that I have something better to do at my desk or somewhere away from them. Lastly, I do all my planning and grading during my prep time. I can get everything done at school (I do stay at school until about 4 or 4:30), except occacionally I need to bring writing home to grade.
     
  39. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    I agree with the previous poster; it is unfair to assume the teacher who sits is a lesser teacher. If my kids are working on a skill that we've been practicing and practicing, I am going to make them eventually do it without my help. If I'm not helping, then the only reason to circulate is for management, and not all of my classes need that. Additionally I've found that my kids are more confident asking questions when they can approach me in private, away from other students. They feel completely comfortable seeking me out, yes, even the shy ones. In fact, I've sort of earned a reputation for having a good classroom climate for the shy kiddos.

    I have to periodically find time to complete administrative tasks, or I would never leave the building. I teach middle school; we don't get time while our students are at recess or specials. My responsibilities include classroom responsibilities but also non-instructional responsibilities that have been forced upon me by administration, and I sometimes have to see to them during class. This is the same administration, by the way, who discourages us from ever sitting during class but will send us multiple "urgent" emails during the day, needing some spur of the moment information, and get irritated when we don't respond. My administrators should trust that I'm a good teacher from all the times they've come in and I've NOT been sitting, and they should know that if I'm behind my desk I not only have a valid reason but that I know my students and their needs well enough to know that it's ok for me to be working at that moment.
     
  40. Ms.SLS

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    It depends on my class and the assignment. My lower level, younger kids, I am circling and helping 95% of the time. My 11th grade AP kids working on the third "practice" essay we've done? I grade. There are some years where my classes have a higher load of SPED kids or ELL kids and I pretty much am helping all the time. Some years I get a group of kids who are pretty independent, and I do more side work.
     
  41. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Dec 8, 2013

    I teach HS, which I think makes a difference, but I absolutely grade/email/straighten up if students are working on something. I circulate as well, but with my desks set up in 2 horseshoes, walking through takes me about 15 seconds. I can't imagine literally pacing back-and-forth in front of their desks for the 20-25 minutes that they are working on a task. That would be awkward for us all. In addition, I do have a number of students who will take advantage and ask for help on every question. Not because they need it, but because it's easier than having to complete the work on their own.

    Instead, I walk around once every 5 min or so and use the rest of the time on other stuff. I have some classes that require multiple redirections and some that are so quiet that I have actually forgotten that I have 30 students sitting in the room.

    When students finish their work, they are to bring it to me. This gives me a chance to glance at it and help them understand any glaring mistakes. My methods may change when I teach all sped next year, but for my upper level regular students, it's more than enough.
     
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