Gift Guide for Teachers

Welcome to this year's Holiday Gift Guide! This year, avoid the crowded mall and shop online for yourself, or the teacher in your life. You'll be glad you did. So, grab your favorite beverage and peruse this roundup of the best gifts for teachers. Get ready to click "add to cart."

Gift Ideas for Teachers

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

My gift guides usually focus on gifts for the classroom, as in items primarily intended for student use. But, this year, I thought I would share items that every teacher wants (or needs), as well as some items intended for student use. Hopefully this list helps you narrow down some ideas for the teacher in your life.

Check out my previous gift guides by clicking here.

Teacher Supplies
Every teacher needs (and loves) supplies. Supplies help get the job done, but they are also fun. I know that sounds strange, but every teacher loves opening a new pack of markers (smelly or otherwise), stocking up on laminating pouches (to go with their personal laminator), finding quality paper to create classroom materials, and finding new tools (hello long arm stapler).

Teacher gift ideas supplies for the teacher

Frixion Erasable Markers - Perfect for grading! If you make a mistake, you can erase and correct.
Frixion Erasable Fine Tip Pens - Perfect for filling in your planner because they are fine tip, and erasable.
Mr. Sketch Markers - They smell good (duh), and also bring anchor charts to life.
Scotch Laminator - A must have for all teachers. Actually, having two on hand can be a real life saver.
Laminating Pouches - Can't laminate without them. ;)
Swingline Long Arm Stapler - Essential for fixing books when the pages fall out.

Classroom Essentials
An easel is a classroom essential when creating anchor charts during carpet time lessons. It can also be a tool for students during centers, or a place to store anchor charts so you can flip through them as needed during a lesson. An easel is a versatile must have item. Equally essential is a wireless doorbell. It's the easiest way to get students' attention during partner/small group work or to signal the end of a work period.

Easel - An affordable alternative to most classroom easels.
Doorbell - The BEST attention getter tool ever.

Classroom Organization
There are so many things to organize in a classroom, including materials for students to use. I recommend mesh and plastic pouches like the ones shown below. Both are perfect for storing centers materials. 10-drawer rolling carts are a great way to store morning tub materials, small group materials, or they can be used as student mailboxes. Magazine holders not only keep students' independent reading books organized, they also protect them from getting lost or damaged inside desks.

teacher gift ideas organization

Mesh Pouches - Perfect for storing small materials.
Plastic Pouches - Perfect for storing centers or independent work.
10-Drawer Rolling Cart - Great for Morning Tub storage or student mailboxes. Read more HERE.
Magazine Holders - Use these to hold books that students borrow from the classroom library

Student Materials
Teachers are always looking for new materials that help facilitate learning in their classroom. Keyboard covers are a great addition to a word work center, without the bulk of trying to store actual keyboards. Students can use them to type words with the weekly phonics pattern. LCD boards are a student favorite and also work really well in a word work center. Teachers who use morning tubs are always on the lookout for new materials. Brain flakes, gears, and balance games are essential to a morning tub rotation.

teacher gift ideas student materials

Keyboard Covers - Perfect for word work.
LCD boards - Fun addition to word work centers or for math practice.
Brain Flakes - A fun and colorful building tool.
Gears - Supports STEM through play.
Balance Game - Great for promoting fine motor skills.

Read Aloud Books
Teachers and students both love read aloud time. And, any teacher will tell you that their collection of read alouds is never complete. The teacher in your life would be thrilled to add some new books to his or her collection.

teacher gift ideas books to read aloud

Tiny T. Rex - Cute story about friendship.
We Don't Eat Our Classmates - Perfect for back to school!
Perfectly Norman - A wonderful reminder to be yourself.
Rot, The Cutest in the World - Another great story that reminds the reader to embrace who they are.

Click here for more favorite read alouds. Click here for books about being yourself.

Gift Cards
If you can't decide which item to give the teacher in your life, then opt for a gift card. Teachers love coffee, Amazon, and Target.

gift cards for teachers

Starbucks - Perfect for grabbing a quick caffeine fix.
Dunkin' Donuts - Caffeine and donuts...need I say more?
Amazon - THE one stop shopping spot for busy teachers.
Target - Best place to find all the things.

If you're a teacher, share these ideas with friends and family so they know what to get you this holiday season! If you're visiting this site in hopes of getting some ideas for your holiday shopping, these suggestions are sure to be well received by the teacher in your life. Happy holidays!


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Tips for Prepping Reward Tags

I've written several posts about reward tags, but I've never focused solely on tips for prepping reward tags. After replenishing my own reward tag supply the other day, I decided a post dedicated to prepping reward tags was long overdue.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

If you are looking for posts on what reward tags are, how to use them, how to store them, and so forth, click here because this post will focus strictly on prepping your tags.

Reward tag prep can be broken down into four easy steps: print, laminate, cut, and hole punch. But first....

The Most Important Tip for Prepping Reward Tags
The most important tip is to prep all of your tags during the summer. This way, the tags are ready to go on day one and you don't have to think about it during the school year. Prepping your tags can easily be done while you're binge watching Netflix. It's the perfect "TV task" as I like to call it.

Step 1: Printing Your Reward Tags
The first step is to print your tags.

Tip #1: Choose your paper. Card stock is a great option. So is this 28 lb. paper. It's thicker than regular printer paper, and smoother, and when printing in color, the designs look really vibrant. There is also a 32 lb. option, but I haven't tried it yet.

Tip #2: Decide which tags to print. You don't want to print ALL the tags. If you just print any and every tag, you'll end up with a collection that overwhelms you and you'll likely have a hard time using them. Instead, decide which tags you want/need to print.

If you're new to reward tags, decide how you will use them (to recognize effort, behavior, academic achievement, and/or a combination of all three) and print a manageable collection of tags that meets your needs.

If you're a reward tag veteran, make note of what you need before school gets out and print what you need over the summer.

Tip #3: Enroll in HP Instant Ink so you can print all your tags in color without breaking the bank! You do need an eligible printer (using the link click on FAQs for a list of eligible printers), but enrolling in the HP monthly ink program is so worthwhile, especially if you don't have the ability to print in color at school. I do not have access to a color printer at school, so if I want to print in color (and I do), I must do so on my own dime.

The HP program is one of those things that seems too good to be true, but it's for real and it's awesome. Basically, you sign up for a plan based on the number of pages you'd like to be able to print each month (ranging from just a few dollars a month to $20 or so a month). If you don't use all your pages, they do roll over. And, as you print, HP gauges your ink levels. When you get low, they send you more ink. Best part, you can change your plan whenever you want! In the summer I use the Frequent Printing ($10 a month) plan that allows me to print more pages, but during the school year I adjust to a plan with fewer pages and costs less ($5 a month). Click HERE for more info and to enroll.

Tip #4: If you don't like the idea of printing in color use black and white reward tags. All you need is some colored paper (card stock or Astrobright). I offer a full collection of black and white reward tags in my store.

Step 2: Laminate
The next step is to laminate your tags for durability. To laminate your reward tags, you'll need a laminator and some laminating pouches.

Tip #1: Use a personal laminator. This allows you to seal the tags in a much thicker layer of lamination (compared to school lamination) making them more durable in the long run. Many teachers already own a personal laminator, but if you don't, it's a great investment. They can typically be purchased at Target or Walmart for around $20. You can also find them on Amazon (but usually at a higher price).

Tip #2: Don't be afraid to use the "generic" laminating pouches. I use these pouches from Nuova. They are great. They are nice and thick and they seal up really well. And, best of all, they aren't pricey.

Tip #3: Set your laminator to the 5 mil setting. This makes the machine a bit hotter and will ensure that the lamination sets as it should.

Tip #4: Laminate the entire sheet of tags before you cut. It's counterproductive to cut your tags, laminate them, and then cut them again. Trust me, I've laminated the full sheet of tags for years and it works like a charm.

Step 3: Cut
Now, you're ready to cut out your tags. You can do this with scissors, of course, but if you're looking to maximize efficiency, keep reading.

Tip #1: Use a paper trimmer to cut apart your tags. This little tool makes it really easy to prep several sets of reward tags at once, and your hands don't cramp up in the process.

Tip #2: Use a paper trimmer with a guide wire. This speeds up the cutting process. Line the guide wire up with the lines on the sheet of tags and slice away.

Tip #3: Use the paper trimmer to trim the edges off each set of tags. This goes super fast when using a paper trimmer vs. scissors.

Tip #4: Cut the tags into rows (3 rows per page).  

Tip #5: From there, cut the rows apart into individual tags. You can use the paper trimmer to do this, or you can use scissors because at this point, you're just snipping them so they become individual tags.

Step 4: Hole Punch
To hole punch your tags, I have a few tips.

Tip #1: Use a regular hole punch. If you go this route, use a padded one. This pair from Fiskars is great. I own it in two different sizes, but the standard 1/4 in. size works great for reward tags and it's the one I use most often.

Tip #2: Use a three hole punch. This is my new go to when my hands are inflamed and my grip is weak (which is often these days). To use the three hole punch:
  • Place two tags beneath each of the three punches. 
  • Eyeball it the best you can. Being perfect isn't necessary, but aim for the middle the best you can.
  • Make note of the marks on the built in ruler where you lined up the tags so you can quickly align the rest of them. 
This technique lets you to punch 6 tags at a time. It gets the job done quickly and you'll really save your hands while you're at it.

A Few More Tips for Prepping Reward Tags

  • Use the summer months to prep your reward tags for the whole year so you don't have to think about it during the school year. Ok, so that tip was already shared, but it's that important. ;)
  • Ask your family to help with laminating, cutting, and/or punching the tags.
  • Let parent volunteers help with the laminating, cutting, and/or punching if that works better for you.

Ready to Prep Some Tags?
I hope you're ready to give a few of these tips a try! Grab this FREE set of tags and start prepping them for your classroom today! Click HERE to grab your freebie. The download includes a black and white version. :)

More Reward Tag Related Posts
I have a few other reward tag posts that you might find helpful. Check them out here:
Raving About Reward Tags 
Reward Tags {All Your Questions Answered}

Reward Tag Resources
Looking for a more complete reward tag collection?  Be sure to check out my resources on TPT.  I have lots of options available.  Click on an image to learn more. :)


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3 Easy Back to School Ideas

Hey there! Today I'm popping in with a few easy back to school ideas. The first few weeks of school are always a blur of crazed days filled with nervous feelings and excitement. Aside from spending oodles of time teaching routines and procedures, it's important to have a little bit of fun and show students that you care.

Disclaimer: Oriental Trading sent me the resources featured in this post. Regardless of this, these are 100% my own opinions and ideas for use in my classroom.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Here are a few ideas to do just that this year!

I do self-portraits during the first week of school. It's a nice change of pace from all the routines and procedures talk. It's also fun for the students.

I typically display the students' portraits for the entire year on a bulletin board dedicated to these adorable works of art. They always spruce up the room, and help create a sense of community.

For the past 14 years, I've had my students paint their portraits using watercolor paint. Buuuuut, sometimes it's tricky for them to work with. And, sometimes, they have a hard time with finding colors to use for their hair and skin.

So, this year, I'm going to do a crayon and watercolor combo (see top picture). The students will color their portrait using people colored crayons (aka Multicultural Crayons). Then, they will use the watercolor to paint a background.

What You'll Need:
Watercolor Paper
Crayola Multicultural Crayons
Watercolor paints

Steps to Follow:
1. Use a pencil to draw a portrait and trace it with Sharpie. Erase any stray pencil lines.

I used watercolor paper. This pack from Pacon on Oriental Trading is very reasonably priced and you'll get enough sheets for two years worth of portraits. Why use watercolor paper? Watercolor paper is thicker and spreads/absorbs the paint more easily.

Before my students draw their portraits, I always model the drawing process. I also show them a finished sample.

I explain what part of their bodies will be shown in their artwork. We talk about how school pictures only show your shoulders, neck, and head. This helps them understand more easily that they are not drawing a full length portrait.

I show and narrate the drawing process that I use step by step. Then, I let them have at it. The finished product is always impressive because kid art is the best kind of art.

You can read a bit more about this process HERE.

2. Use the people colored crayons to color the skin and hair of the portrait. I have brown hair with natural red highlights. By combining a few of the browns in the crayon pack I was able to get a hair color similar to my own! I also used the crayons to add my freckles (something that really couldn't be done very well with watercolors).

To color the clothing, use any color crayon. :)

3. Finally, paint the background a solid color. And, that's it!

You could let your kids get creative with their backgrounds if you'd like, but I usually have my students choose one solid color as this allows their portrait to stand out more. When they try and paint a scene in the limited space behind their portrait, it competes with the focal point of the art piece.

You might send these home, add them to an end of year portfolio, or display them year round like I do. :)

You can read about my self-portraits of the past HERE.

Welcome Back Gift
Giving your students a gift is never necessary, of course, but it is one way to show your students that you care before the year gets started. A gift is a gesture that helps bring people together. They make others feel special. The best part is, the gift doesn't need to be grand in order to have these effects.

I've always given small gifts to my students at the beginning of the year. Click HERE to read more. After several years, I'm switching it up and giving a different gift.

Our school mascot is a bulldog. So, when I saw these squishee paw prints, I thought they would be a super fun little gift to welcome my students, and promote a little school spirit.

You can grab this free EDITABLE gift tag by clicking HERE. You could use it with any paw print themed item. :)

Monthly Student Pics
A few years ago, my daughter brought home THE cutest photobook at the end of the school year. Her teacher had taken a picture of the students every month and put them together in a little album (the photos were glued to black construction paper and bound together with a loose leaf ring).

I replicated this idea last year with my students and plan to continue using the idea for years to come.

Since I don't have any photos of my students' photo albums (I like to protect their privacy), I'll describe it below.

How to Make a Student Photo Album:

  • Take pictures of your students every month.
  • Use props to make each picture fun and unique/go with the current month. Props could be actual photo props, necklaces, objects, literally anything!
  • Order your photos. I ordered 4x4 square prints.
  • Cut out black construction paper (or card stock). I cut mine to measure 5x5 inches.
  • Glue your photos to the black paper. I used craft bond scrapbook glue sticks so that the photos would really stick.
  • Create and laminate a cover for each students' album. I also laminate the back cover so that the inside pages are fully protected.
  • Use a loose leaf ring to put the albums together.
I ordered my 4x4 square prints from Walmart. I used the black construction paper as a photo mat. I cut it an inch larger so it would create a border around the photos once they were glued to the paper.

Tip: stay on top of your pictures and order them every month.Then, make sure you glue them every month so you aren't left with a pile up of photos at the end of the year.

I made a simple cover for the album and laminated it for durability. I did not laminate the photo pages. Then, I hole punched one corner of each album and placed the set of pages onto a loose leaf ring.

I presented the albums to the students on the last day of school and it went home as a nice little keepsake for them and their families.

You can grab the {free} cover HERE if you're interested in using this idea in your own classroom next year. There are cover options for Pre-K through sixth grade. :)

Photo Props
Every month I tried to have the students hold some sort of item that made sense for the month. For example, in October they held a pumpkin, etc. Overall, the pictures turned out pretty cute, but I realized later in the year that having some premade photo props on hand would be soooo much easier and lots of fun. I don't plan to use photo props every single month, but they'll add a nice variety to next year's albums.

I found some really cute photo prop sets on Oriental Trading. Like these back to school themed photo props which are really fun. I'll let the students choose which prop they want to use. Oh, and this is only part of the set. It includes several more options too!

I think this 100th Day of School photo prop set is going to be a hit! Lots of fun options for photos in this set. Once again, I couldn't fit all the pieces in the picture. There are more options in the set.

This winter set will be perfect for the month of January (or December). Hurry though, this set was on clearance. It might not last much longer.

Click here to check out all their photo prop options.

You can also find seasonal photo prop kits at Target, so keep your eyes peeled for those throughout the year. :)

TIP: My entire grade level used this ideas last year and we decided to pool all of our photo props together on one of our shared storage shelves. This way, we'll always have some variety to pick and choose from.

I hope you enjoyed these back to school ideas!


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25 Tips for New (and Not So New) Teachers

If you're a new teacher about to begin your first year of teaching, chances are you are mildly freaking out about the upcoming school year. No need for that teacher friends. This post has lots of tips to help you feel more at ease (and more prepared) as you begin your first year of teaching.

This post contains an affiliate link for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

And, if you're a not so new teacher, there may be a few reminders or tips that you could use as well!

This post includes 25 tips broken down by category: Classroom Management, Teaching, Efficiency, and Stress Less (tips for not letting stress rule your life).

Classroom Management
Know your students. Get to know them. Talk to them. Joke with them. They know when a teacher isn't interested in them, and getting to know them as individuals is an easy way to show them that you care. While you're at it, let THEM get to know YOU! Make a book about yourself and add it to your classroom library, or show a PowerPoint. Or both! Click here to check out my "Meet Your Teacher" book and PowerPoint templates.

Determine your classroom rules. Create a set of classroom rules (or expectations) and determine how you will follow through when they are/are not being followed.

Understand how you will manage behavior. Decide how you will manage behavior. The Responsive Classroom model is a great place to start.

Know how you will use positive reinforcement in the classroom. Choose a few specific ways in which you can positively recognize your students for their effort and choices. Whether it's reward tags, stickers, verbal praise, or a combination of all these things, pick what works for you. If you know you won't be able to keep up with something, then don't use it.

Determine a hallway routine. Most likely your school will have some rules about how students are expected to move through the hallway (independently and as a whole group). Learn those expectations and teach them to your students. Then, develop a system that motivates students to follow those expectations. Choose a mystery walker each time you leave the room, create a line monitor job, use nonverbal cues to quiet a noisy line, use verbal praise to point out exemplary habits, or award class points. Choose strategies that will work for you.

Manage those pencils. If you don't create a system for pencil use in your classroom, you will go bonkers. Create a system that details who is responsible for sharpening pencils, where to put dull pencils, how many pencils students may have at one time, and where pencils are to be stored when not in use.

Create a working library. The point of having a classroom library is to give your students access to books, but if you don't have a system in place, you'll soon find that your library is more of a headache than anything else. Determine when kids can borrow books from your library, and where they will store those books if they are allowed to keep them for several days at a time.

Use student numbers. One way to streamline student organization is to use student numbers. Yes, students are more than a number, but using a system like this isn't as impersonal as it sounds. Labeling mailboxes, sign out boards (see below), files, reward tags, and the like with student numbers is way to save YOU time. By labeling your mailboxes with numbers instead of names, you never need to create individual labels with specific student names at the start of the school year. Instead, you can just leave the numbers in place. Tip: Write your students' names and assigned numbers on their desk name plate so they never forget their assigned number.

Manage restroom breaks. Kids love bathroom breaks, well, they also need them. So, you'll want to have procedures in place for restroom breaks. Maybe the idea of several whole group breaks throughout the day will work best for you, or maybe you're better off just letting kids use the restroom as needed. If your school requires hall passes, be sure to incorporate that into your procedures. At best, make sure you have some sort of sign out board so you know when your students are out of the room. Click here for the tutorial for making your own numbered sign out board.

Create absent student folders. When students are absent, they miss out on lots of learning, classwork, and information. Use a special folder to collect all the materials a student misses out on while they are absent. This way important make up assignments and notes don't get lost while the student is out. Sending the work home in this folder is a visual reminder that the work needs to be completed and returned. Just attach a post it note to the work inside the folder with a due date, if desired.

Click HERE to grab these free folder covers.

If using a paper folder: print the covers on regular paper, trim off excess paper, glue to folder. Laminate the folder for durability.

If using a plastic folder, print the cover on 8.5 x 11 labels (Avery makes them). Trim off excess, if desired. Attach to the folder. 

Click HERE to check out the Avery 8x5 x 11 labels.

Implement Whole Body Listening. Set listening expectations from the get go. If your students don't know how to listen, they won't learn. Whole body listening is a way to teach your students to listen and not just hear. When you see students getting off track in the middle of a lesson, simply pause and say "Whole Body Listening" to redirect them. Post some visual reminders around the room for your visual learners. Chalkboard Superhero has a super cute poster set and it's free. :)

You can grab these free whole body listening reward tags in my TPT store. 

Learn more about reward tags HERE.

Find a few go to engagement strategies. Find some go to engagement strategies that will work for you. Ideally, you want strategies that you can use with any content area. This way, you can reuse the strategy with different content. The strategy will be familiar and it will go over with little issue. You can read more about engagement strategies HERE.

Let your students talk. Build talk time into your lessons. Encourage them to share thoughts and opinions, have them share their observations/what they just learned, or task them with answering specific questions. Then, regroup and move on. This is a good way to break up the monotony of just sitting there while the teacher talks and talks (well, that's how it often feels to kids even if it's only been a few minutes). Kids do not have long attention spans and they need to interact with their peers. Just be sure you teach them how to partner talk in the first few weeks of school.

Look at Your Students. When you're teaching, look at your students. Don't look above their heads at the back of the room. Scan the room. Let them know that you are present and you are noticing them. Plus, it's the best way to tell who is tuned in or tuned out. ;)

Organize ALL the things. This includes math manipulatives, leveled readers (that's what you'll find in the bins pictured below), reading materials, library books, task cards, art supplies, files, read alouds, and so on. Making sure that everything has a place (and everything is kept in its place) is the ultimate time saver. BUT, keep in mind that organization is an ongoing process. You will always be tweaking and refining your organization. You can read all about CLASSROOM ORGANIZATION here.

Make daily to do lists. Prioritize your tasks and write them down. To do lists help keep you on track and ensure you don't forget to do what needs to be done. At the end of each day, write a quick to do list for the following day. Decide which tasks need to be done before school and which ones can be done at prep or after school.

Use communication apps. In the digital age, newsletters are beginning to lose their effectiveness. Time is spent drafting a beautiful note, only to find that maybe 2 parents read them. So, if your school doesn't require you to send an actual newsletter, use a communication app like Dojo or Remind to communicate regularly with your parents. You can send last minute announcements, reminders, or message parents individually as needed.

Streamline your sub plans. Find a sub plan template that you like and reuse it. Fill it in once and save it. Each time you are going to be absent, you can update pertinent info and specifics. This turns a tedious job into a fairly quick one (like 20-30 minutes tops). You can find these (and many more) templates in my TPT store.

Click HERE for more teacher productivity tips.

Stress Less
You can't do it all. Nor should you try to. Sometimes we have this voice in our head that tells us we have to do more, we have to try ALL the things, or create over the top experiences for our students on a daily or even weekly basis. You don't. All your students need is a teacher who knows the content and practices good pedagogy with a kind heart. They will learn and they will love you.

Do not compare yourself to others. In the words of wise mamas everywhere, "Worry about yourself." Life is too short to compare yourself to others. It isn't a helpful practice. Plus, it isn't healthy. You've made it this far because of your skills and determination, don't let them fail you now. Be confident.

Learn from others. Chances are many of your colleagues have several years of experience. Instead of feeling envious of their skills or ideas, or comparing yourself to them, talk to them. Learn from them. Ask them for advice. Most teachers love to share ideas, don't be afraid to seek their help if you think it's going to help you be a better teacher.

Find yourself a bestie. Teaching is an all consuming profession. You need someone to vent to, rely on, and laugh with. A close teacher friend can help you think things through, make decisions, give trusted advice, and support you in so many other ways.

Take care of yourself. Teaching demands so much of us. As a result, life often gets pushed to the side. Make it a point to prioritize your own life, health, and happiness.

You don't have to grade everything. Or comment on every single piece of student work for that matter. You don't even need to return every single piece of student work. So don't wear yourself out being a slave to grading all year long.

Some days you will feel defeated. Some days you will leave school feeling like you failed. This happens to veteran teachers too. Step back and evaluate what went wrong and how you can do better the next day. Then, adjust your mindset. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day. You got this!

To all my new teacher friends, you've got this. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. All the things you dream of doing as a teacher in your new classroom will evolve and fall into place over time. Don't expect to implement every new teacher tip you read in one day, week, or even month. Go in with all the knowledge you have and be patient as your awesomeness falls into place. Because I know it will.


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