New Life Adventure!

Before and After2

My Favorite Thing To Do IsI am taking my passion for health & fitness and starting a new business adventure!  After browsing around here, head over to my NEW blog to read about my own personal health and weight loss journey and see more before and after photos and videos. 

I have always been inspired by people who have put themselves out there with their struggles with food and fitness and I am hoping to help inspire and motivate others now!  You can also follow my daily posts on Facebook by clicking here!

Video Credit 5

Midnight FLASH FREEBIE – More Mystery Graphic Organizers!

We are wrapping up our Mystery Unit next week :(  I really love this unit because it is so engaging for my students.  This year we created “case files” to go with our books and I made a bunch of graphic organizers.  I blogged about one last week and how I used my character trait cards during this unit…you can read about it by clicking here.

I also made some other graphic organizers that go into more detail about the specific characters, questioning strategies, inferring (based on clues), etc.  This pack has many more options as far as graphic organizers than the simple one I wrote about last week.  Click the pic to visit my TPT store and snag them!  They will only be free until I wake up in the morning!

Mystery Graphic Organizers - Full Page Cover Image

My class actually put together “case files” using these ones!  It was a blast!  Of course, there are some things that I wish I would have done differently (but isn’t that always the case?).  Here are some photos!Making the mystery case files!

Making our mystery case files!

Getting their assigned case!

Learning all my mystery vocab!

Completing all the "paperwork"!


I am sad to see this unit come to an end, but we are planning a fun project for next week to celebrate the end of the unit!  Check back to see that!

Finally, I am linking up with Farley for the March Currently and Gina for Slim Down Saturday!

march currently

Listening – I am listening to complete silence.  Everyone (husband and pets) in the house is sleeping…except me!  I am up and it is 2:30am!!!  I am such a night owl and it makes for difficult mornings!

Loving – I CANNOT WAIT FOR NEXT FRIDAY AT 4:00!!!!!!!!!!!  SPRING BREAK!!!!!!

Thinking – We have a wedding to go to tomorrow and I have nothing to wear and my hair is atrocious!  I will be shopping in the morning…

Wanting – Conferences are all next week and am I prepared for them…no…but that is me.  I procrastinate until the very last minute and then I work at my finest!

Needing – Report cards have to be done on Monday and have I started…no…but that is me.  I procrastinate until the very last minute and then I work at my finest!

?????? – So, it probably isn’t the most difficult mystery question!

Onward!  Slim Down Saturdays are really turning into me saying the exact.same.things.every.week.  I need to drink water…yada yada yada.  I need to stop drinking so much soda…yada yada yada.  I need to workout…should I even go into it all this week?!  Mexico is officially a week away…well at least I haven’t gained any over these past weeks!  I will keep at it though!  Click the pic to link-up (this link is not live yet – so keep checkin back!)



Have a great weekend!

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A First Time for Everything…

I just love to read/see/hear something hysterically funny that has to do with education.  It’s even better when I actually LOL at my computer!

Whether it is one of those funny digital post-cards, a Ryan Gosling meme, something funny your students say/do/write, something funny a co-worker does, a funny video clip, or anything else!  Anything that makes this sometimes draining job a little more light-hearted is welcome!

Without further ado, I present…

LOL Linky Party - McDee's Busy BeesLOL Linky Rules:

  1. Make sure the link you enter goes directly to your specific blog post with the funny stuff!
  2. Post the LOL Linky button in your post (above or below) your funny stuff so people can find it easily!
  3. Be sure to link  back to the linky party page on my blog (either via the button or text)!
  4. Use common sense – somethings that are funny can also be offensive.  I reserve the right to remove anything!
  5. Take time to visit and comment on 2 new blogs!

Brandi and Kelli – I know you have some funny stuff on your blogs right now you could link to!  Here is my humor for you!

LOL Linky Student Quote

Okay – now think of/look for/create something that will make a fellow educator LOL!  Link up for laughter at the bottom of this post!

Onto the next first…

snow day

I’m also diving into my first give-away in honor of our “first” snow day yesterday.  We have actually already had 5 days off, but those weren’t due to snow…they were due to cold temps.  Now, being that I am new to the world of blogging, I am just absolutely thrilled that I already have 6 entries!  Your chances of winning are going to be good!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Onto the next first…I am linking up with Gina over at Third Grade Tidbits for Slim Down Saturday (well the linky isn’t live yet…but I am all ready for it when it is).  And this is the first time (in awhile) that I have eaten well all week!  Click the pics to join the fun!


slim down

Even though this was the first time I ate well in a long time,  I didn’t lost that much {sigh}.  Mexico is two weeks away – oh well – I am still going to soak up the sun and beverages!  Cannot wait!  I am posted pretty early today because I will be out and about all day long so the links for Slim Down Saturday will link to Gina’s blog, but you’ll have to check back for her post today!

I know it didn’t get into the picture, but my one word is de-stress!  We’ve had so many days off of school and I can’t let that stress me out.  I can only do what I can do!

Link Up for Laughter… 

LOL Linky Party - McDee's Busy Bees

My hope is to have at least 5 people link-up!  

 Loading InLinkz ...

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Snow Day AGAIN! Five for Friday Linky!

I cannot for the life of me figure out why there is a giant space at the top of this post…GRRRR!


I am linking up with Doodle Bug’s today!  Click the pic at the bottom of the post or here to link up yourself!


5:30am (alarm sounds) – {hit snooze}

5:40am (alarm sounds) – {hit snooze and now holding phone so hitting snooze the next time will be easier}

5:50am (alarm sounds) – {hit snooze thinking about how I really need to get up now but I don’t}

6:04am (receive text from Kelli) – {reading her text about how she is dreading the drive to school}

6:05am (receive second text from Kelli) – {NO SCHOOL….what?!…no way…YES-more sleep…GRRRR-more make-up days…GRRRR-more being behind in everything…YES-more sleep…GRRR-I didn’t bring ANY work home last night…YES-I can work on report cards…YES-more sleep-GRRR-can’t sleep because my mind won’t SHUT UP…finally get out of bed…YES-coffee}

I am still in shock that we have another day of school off due to the weather.  

Snow Pretty

In honor of our snow day, I am going to try out my first give-away!  Winner gets their choice of one product from my TPT store!  If you follow me on Bloglovin’/TPT/Facebook, you already get an entry.

snow day

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I finished up Think Tinks – Volume Three last week!  Check them out for some creative and out-of-the box  thinking activities for your class!  You could use them for morning work, early finishers, gifted and talented, challenge activities, or put in your sub-tub!  Click here or the pics below to take a look!

Think TInks Volume Three

Think Tinks Volume Three

This past week, I was reflecting on my OLPA data (pre-MCA math test) and decided that my class is just not able to keep up with our Math Expression curriculum.  The majority of them NEED the basics.  So I am giving myself permission to give them what they need!  I am refocusing on getting my small groups back up and running along with all my Math Centers that focus on basic operations!  I am also going to create a few more based on some quick assessments I did this week!  Check back for more!  In the meantime, here are some current games we’re getting back to!

Differentiated Math Games

I really dislike when I have to prep things (cutting, laminating, more cutting, storing, etc.).  I really try to keep my Math Centers low-key for me!  I have my students keep all their game boards in their Smart Pal!Smart Pals

I have NOT been paid or recruited to endorse these…I just plain old love them and want to share them!  They are essentially a heavy-duty (but easy-to-use) plastic sheet protector.  You can insert ANY graphic organizer or worksheet and write with a dry-erase marker!  Super slick!  Click the pic above to link to EAI – which is where I buy them from!


Lastly, a non-teaching thing.  I was over at Alison’s blog at Rockin’ and Lovin’ Learnin’ and she posted about this mascara.  I am ALWAYS trying to find a mascara that is good, so I thought this one looked interesting and I can’t wait to try it!  Check out her review of it – click the pic or here!

Thanks Doodle Bug’s for hosting – click the pic to join the party!


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Character Trait Cards and Mystery Graphic Organizer

I have been MIA for a couple of weeks, but back today with a few fun things to share!  We are in the midst of our Mystery Book Club unit (click here to read about how we launched the unit with a real-life mystery).  I wanted to spice it up this year so I made some fun graphic organizers for my students to use while they are reading!  The one I am posting today is a one-pager that includes all the elements of a mystery!  Click here or on the picture to grab it for FREE (for a limited time).

Mystery Graphic Organizer

I explained to my students that detectives have to do a lot of paperwork to complete while on a case.  They are constantly keeping notes, writing down clues, tracking suspects, etc.  It totally hooked them and they are working hard on their “paperwork” as they plow through their mystery books!


Mystery Graphic Organizer

Mystery Graphic OrganizerDuring our Read Aloud time we are also continuing our work with identifying specific character traits and noticing patterns with character behavior.  After talking with my colleague, Kelli over at Tales of a Teacher, I was inspired to try tracking character traits a bit differently than I usually do.  Normally, we have a chart with our characters and keep a traditional list of traits.  Here is what I am trying now and I think it will really help kids to see patterns with characters.  It will also help students see what traits are very strong and evident throughout the book.  This will help when it comes time to write about our characters!

A few months ago, I made some character traits cards (click here or the pictures below to view them in my TPT store) which included the definitions in kid-friendly language and synonyms.  I cut them all out and use them during small groups (for vocab work, matching games, teaching specific traits, teaching synonyms, etc.).  Here is what they look like cut apart:

Character Trait Cards

Then I thought I could also use them without cutting them apart!  The picture below shows what they look like before cutting.  Each page has one main trait (at the top), the definition, and 2-3 synonyms.  I originally left blank boxes to add other synonyms.  Read below to see how I’m using those blank boxes now!

Tracking Character Traits

As we read, we post traits that fit our character (I actually pre-picked the traits I knew would fit so that if the kids didn’t come up with one, we wouldn’t miss it).  If we see them do or say something later in the book that demonstrates that trait again, we put a tally mark!  By the end of the book, we can see what traits are the strongest!  Students are also learning new words to use when describing characters.  The above example is our beginning work for Jigsaw Jones!

Onto other things!  Here are some pics of our Valentine’s Day Celebration!  Can’t you just feel the love?

And look at all of this…as much as I LOVE chocolate, I don’t think I can handle this much!  One little kiddo even made me a super creative Valentine out of pipe cleaners, post-its, googley eyes, paperclips, and binder clips!


All that chocolate is not helping me slim down!  I’m linking up with Gina over at Third Grade TidBits for Slim Down Saturday – even though I am not doing well slimming down :(

Click the pics to join the linky!




I am just starting completely fresh this week!  With my b-day and v-day all in one week, this has been one sugar-filled and workout-less week!  I am still not working out and can’t seem to force myself to do it and now that broomball is over, I am getting zero activity!  So, I am setting a very simple goal of working out JUST ONCE!!!!  Mexico is less than a month away!!!  Must focus!!!

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Country Commercials & Mysteries Kick-Off

I am linking up with Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Linky!  Click the pic to join in the fun!  She has some cute scratch-off cards for incentives!

saturday spark linky

I did two things this past week that were EXTREMELY motivating and FUN!!  Students wrote “commercials” for their countries they have been studying and we had a real-life mystery to solve as a way to kick-off our Mystery Unit in Reading!

Country Commercials

We had ANOTHER 2 days off this week because of the bitter cold.  Due to the missed days, I tried to cram the end of our Country Study Unit into 3 days!  Each group has been reading all about a certain country and to share their information, they had to write a commercial!  To do this, they had to determine the most important information and think about how to persuade people to visit their country!  Here they are hard at work!

Country Commercials

County Commercials

Now keep in mind that because of the missed school days, they did not get much time to practice!  Had we actually had school, I probably would have given them a little more guidance and help editing…but oh well…they are truly authentic!!

You can listen to each group’s commercial below – they are so cute (and almost all are under 1 minute)!  If you are thinking of doing something similar, you could use these as examples of what to do (or what not do to!).

There is even a blooper commercial at the bottom for your enjoyment!






Japan (different group):


Mexico (different group):


Okay – so this commercial is considered a blooper!!  Click to listen and when you get about 45 seconds in, you’ll hear the blooper!

Mystery Unit Kick-Off

The next exciting part of our week was our Mystery Unit Kick-Off!  We actually had a real-life mystery to solve!

Mrs. McDonald’s powdered sugar donuts went missing!!!


We had a hot case on our hands….The Case of the Missing Donuts!  To help solve the mystery, we made detective journals.  I left it completely up to them how to organize their information!  First, we made a list on the board of things we should probably keep track of (clues, suspects, motive, alibis, etc.).  This was a great time to discuss some Mystery vocab!  Then they went to town setting up their journals!

Throughout the day, we gathered more and more clues (all very strategically planned by me), eliminated some suspects, added some suspects, questioned the suspects, and noticed any suspicious behavior!  They carried their journals with them all day!

Detective Journals

Here is how someone organized the inside:

Detective Journals
And here is the back of someone’s journal:

Detective Journals
Throughout the day, we kept noticing more and more staff had remnants of powdered sugar on them!  After we questioned everyone, all evidence pointed to the teacher’s lounge!

Sure enough, when we went down to investigate, we found more powdered sugar on the table!  After the detectives questioned me further, they learned that I had gone into the lounge with my donuts while they were at specialists earlier in the morning.

The clue that cracked the case was the secretary’s announcement over the intercom (she really just beeped into my room but made it sound like it was to the whole staff) reminding the staff that it was treat day in the lounge and the lounge needed to be cleaned up.  Of course, after that announcement, the kids asked, “what’s treat day?”  I explained it’s when staff members leave treats in the lounge for all to share…and then the lightbulbs when off!

They solved the mystery….I had left my donuts in the lounge earlier in the day and that is why so many staff members had traces of powdered sugar on them!  People thought they were part of the treats for treat day!

I think this was THE MOST fun we’ve had in awhile and it was the perfect start to our Mystery Unit in Reader’s Workshop!!

Finally, I am linking up with Gina over at Third Grade Tidbits for Slim Down Saturdays!  Click the pic to join the fun!



This week was meh…it was wonky again because of the 2 “cold” days so my sleep schedule is just horrible!  Husband and I also went out to eat Friday night and pigged out….hence the large gain Saturday morning.  On the bright side, I played 2 broomball games today and burned 1500 calories!  Today is the start of a new week!

Have a good one ya’ll!

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Five For Friday Linky and FLASH FREEBIE!!

Another piecemeal week:

  1. Monday – no school for MLK
  2. Tuesday – no school for Staff Professional Development
  3. Wednesday – back to school
  4. Thursday – no school due to cold weather…AGAIN
  5. Friday – back to school
  6. Weekend

And another next week:

  1. Monday – gone at SIOP training OR school will be cancelled again because of this…

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 9.52.15 PM

2.  Tuesday – gone 1/2 the day for PLC
3.  Wednesday through Friday – back to school (hopefully!)

Let’s just cancel everything until Spring!  I’m linking up with Doodlebug’s for her Five for Friday Linky!  Click the picture (or here) to link up too!  Here we go!



I would like to share Think Tinks!!!  I created Think Tinks to stretch my higher learners during our LEAP time.  I honestly don’t even know what that acronym stands for.  It is basically our daily intervention time (30 minutes).  Here’s how it works.  Students are assigned “learning groups”:

  • Some go to the computer lab and work on Study Island or Reading Eggs
  • Some go to another teacher for the program Making Connections
  • Some work with a Minnesota Reading Corps teacher
  • Some work in a guided reading group with me
  • The students who are not in one of the above groups are left in my room and are my “independent workers” – these kiddos are typically able to handle more challenging and independent activities during this time…and guess who gets to plan it?

I try to mix up the activities my independent workers do, but also keep some structure and routine at the same time.  Here is the schedule – my fab colleague, Kelli, coined some of the catchy names (visit her blog here):

Math Monday
Technology Tuesday
Word Wednesday
Think Thursday
Free Friday

I designed Think Tinks for Think Thursdays!  Here are 3 student examples of one of the Think Tink pages.





think-tinks-TPT-storeHead over to my TPT store by clicking here (or the picture above) to snag this set for FREE (for a limited time)!    If you grab the freebies and use them in your class, I would love to see or hear about your students’ responses!  Leave me some feedback love about Think Tinks!


We have been plugging away at multiplication and this week we dove into division!  For this, we busted out the counters and they ROCKED it!  I was seriously impressed – not only could they represent the word problems with the counters, they could write the equation too!  Let’s hope it sticks!



Okay, this one is not teaching related.  One of my friends attended the Gopher Hockey game and spotted my twin!!  Here she is!!  We pretty much have the exact same hair…maybe someday I’ll run into her myself!



Here is how I display my daily objectives (sorry – the pic on the right was taken right after I erased for the day).  They are front and center next to my Smartboard.

Lately, I have been trying to include more academic language in the objective and then using parentheses to insert “everyday” language.  If you look at the pic on the left, the red words were inserted after we discussed the objectives.  The kids help decide what word goes there!  It’s been working well!



A bit of personal and professional positive self-talk!


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Skyscraper Multiplication Game – FLASH Freebie!!

Need a new game for your Math Centers or just for fun?  Check this one out!  Free for 48 hours!  Let me know what you think of it – an addition version will be coming soon – check back often!  Click here or on the pictures below to grab it in my TPT store!

Skyscraper Multiplication Game

There are 2 game boards for differentiation.  They come in color and black & white!

Skyscraper Multiplication Game


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Five For Friday Linky and Slim-Down Saturday Linky!

Even though it’s Saturday, I’m linking up with Doodle Bug’s Five for Friday Linky!  Here are some random things from this week (and some older stuff that I just want to share!).


Back in December, we taught a Rainforest Animal Research Unit.  Along with a written report, students had to create a visual aid.  It could be as simple or elaborate as students wanted.  Here was a conversation I had with a student.

Student:  Mrs. McDonald…my project is probably like 16 feet long!

Me: {thinking…okay, that is an exaggeration}  Oh wow!  I don’t know how we’ll display a 16 foot         project! {thinking…he must be confusing feet with inches}

(fast forward a week later)

Me: {jaw drops as mom brings the anaconda project into classroom}….

Anaconda Door Decoration

I didn’t know how I was going to display it!  Last year, I did the whole tree and vines around my door.  As I was visualizing that display, I thought I could rig it up outside the door!  I used trusty 3M hooks and string!  You can imagine what all the students’ reactions were as they walked down the hall and saw it!


The week before Winter Break, I was out sick for 3 days with pneumonia…yuck!  I wanted to share this funny post-it that a student wrote while I was gone.  I can always count on someone in the room to report the major offenses while I am out!

Funny Student Note


Have you heard of these fabulous little inventions?  Pen-Pals!!  Not the kind you write letters to.


 I found them at Office Depot or Office Max…can’t remember which one.  They were $0.99 each.  You can probably find them even cheaper online.  They have an adhesive back and I stuck one to each desk.  For kids that like to pick and peel things off their desks, they will come off.  If they come off I use Crazy Glue (shhhhhh…don’t tell our custodian).  Try peeling that off now kiddo {muah ha ha ha}!


This week we tackled strategies for all our basic facts!  When we got to the 9s, I wanted to show them the finger trick.  As I was awkwardly trying to show my hands to them and describe what I was doing, I decided to quickly trace my hand and cut it out…sooooooo much easier to show them and explain!

Learning 9s Facts


This week we continued our country study in Reader’s Workshop.  We learned how to use an index to find specific information and on Friday we focused on finding information about their Country’s history.  After students jotted history facts on post-its, they attempted (keyword: attempted) to put their facts in order like a timeline.  It didn’t go that well…but that’s okay!  Reading about history is hard unless you have a lot of background knowledge (which they don’t).  I  was happy that they could use the index!

Creating Timelines

Click  here or the image below to join the linky and share 5 things from your classroom!


I am also linking up with Gina over at Third Grade Tidbits for Slim-Down Saturday!  Here’s how my week went:

Slim-Down Saturday

Come join us and stay focused with your health goals!  Click here or the picture below to take part!


I am off to make a late dinner!

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Monday Math Linky – How to Differentiate with Math Games!

snow day

Enter to win 1 product from my TPT store (your choice)!  Ends Sunday, 2/21 at  11:59pm!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Monday!  I am linking up with Jess over at I Heart Recess for Mathematical Monday!  What are you doing in Math this week?  Click here or on the image to head over and link-up!

monday math linky

Before I share the most engaging game I have ever taught my students, let me show you the Math Center area of our room.  I attempt to differentiate everyday…it doesn’t always happen, but I try!

Math Centers Area

Every room in our building has a super loud and super huge vent (the white thing in the picture).  However, they are magnetic!  So, it isn’t a total waste of space!  I pushed my file cabinets up against it to make an even bigger magnetic area (and to hide the ugly things).  I also covered the back of the library shelf in purple paper and hooked up the red file folder wall pocket thingy with 3M hooks (I couldn’t live without these things!).  A few years ago, someone was giving away the two wooden benches!!  SCORE!!  As you can see, I am also in love with plastic drawers!  They are perfect for storing manipulatives, cards, and other math tools.

Put it all together and I have a lovely little Math area – complete with a Math vocabulary wall!  We use Math Expressions and I’ve created my own vocab cards for some of the units.  Click here to visit my TPT store and grab them for free – they are organized by unit in my store!  Here are some snapshots of the vocab cards – if you snag them, leave me some feedback love on TPT!  You may even want to grab my Vocabulary Graphic Organizer!

FREE Math Vocabulary Cards

Academic Vocabulary Graphic Organizer

Everything on the vent in my classroom is magnetic and easily moveable.  I put either magnetic tape or magnetic dots on the back of all my vocab cards.

Since this is Math post, here is an equation for you:


Let me tell you how this all works in a perfect world!  Every student has a magnetic name tag that I move around daily (eh…every other day-ish…).

Math Differentiation

Our Math time is split.  We have the first chunk from 11:45-12:40 and then we come back after lunch for a 20-minute chunk.  This is when we have “Math Centers”.  I usually move their names while they are at lunch.  When they come back, they know where to go.  They are assigned to one of four places.  Many are moved to a game.  I pre-teach all my games (often during Morning Meeting).  Most of the games focus on basic fact fluency or multi-digit addition or subtraction.

Math Differentiation Games

Students that don’t need fact practice and have their adding and subtracting down are assigned to a challenge packet.

Math Differentiation

I keep the challenge packets in that magnetic pocket (see the gold packets near the bottom?).  I put together challenge packets with whatever resources I can find.  I also created Think Tinks!  Theses could be used as a challenge activity – even though they aren’t technically math…they encourage flexible and out-of-the box thinking!

Think Tinks

Click the links below to view all 3 volumes of Think Tinks:

Think Tinks – Starter Pack (pages #1-#6)
Think Tinks – Volume Two (pages #7-12)
Think Tinks – Volume Three (pages #13-18)

Students that need extra support meet in a group with me.  I have spots for 2 groups, but I often only get to 1 in a day (especially in winter when it takes them a bajillion minutes to get their winter gear on and off).

Math Differentiation

Finally, if students need to finish class worksheets or if I want them to continue practice with a certain skill via a worksheet, there name goes under A, B, or C.  These letters coordinate with a slot in the red file folder pocket.  Students know that if their name is under “A”, then they need to complete the worksheet in pocket “A”.

Math Differentiation

What games to I play?  I find lots of games online or I create my own!  Bullseye is a class favorite!  Other favs are Something BigBig Difference, and Skyscraper!  I have a few of them in my TPT store – with more coming soon – follow my blog and TPT store for updates!  Click here to read about how I have students organize and store all their game boards!

Differentiated Math Games

There is one game that is like no other!  Students will be screaming with excitement (literally) as they play.  Let me introduce you to…3-WAY!!!!!!!  This game is super engaging and practices a pretty high level skill – finding unknown factors (or addends).  It can be played addition-style or multiplication-style!  Here are the rules!  Click here to grab a FREE PDF of the rules or to project in your classroom to teach the game!  I plan to introduce this game (multiplication-style) this week!


I hope you enjoy this game!  Click the pic or here to download the directions for FREE!  What are your favorite Math games?

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