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I REALLY Need Writing help!!!


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OK, Oh, Elizabeth got me thinking when I posted with my year's plan about how...lame...our writing has been. I REALLY, REALLY need help here, ladies and gents.


I talked to my sister who is a 2nd grade PS teacher about it. She said the last thing her kids wrote was a 2 page bio. on Abe Lincoln with paragraphs. I'm just getting my guys to give me 3-4 sentences at a time narrating SOTW sections and book summaries! And my guys are 11, almost 12 and 91/2yrs old. They can't outline even after using Remedia's beginning book.


I have looked at all the CW, Writing Tales, IEW, Logos Writing Imitations books and used Writing Strands (Did NOT like that one at all!) I don't get how they teach writing. I tried some samples with my guys. They don't get it, either. We found all of them frustrating. So that approach doesn't fly here with these two.


I am planning on buying Susan's new book and was going to start with level 2. Now I am not so sure. How do I get them to move on?


BTW, we use GWG4. We tried R&S 2 and 3 and I would switch back just because the writing is included. The groans of so much writing out of the exercises would be deafening, though. We also like how clear and direct GWG is in explaining concepts. Can one still get the grammar if one does all, or most R&S exercises orally or on a whiteboard? What book would we start with? 4 or 5?


Thanks in advance for your help.

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IEW gets done at my house. I would suggest one of the SWIs for you, probably B. I was having trouble getting writing done with my oldest. The SWI is kind of a plug-in remedy. We watch it together and we both do the assignment (I am doing it to gain experience with this style of writing). It is easy. It doesn't require me to plan or coordinate or come up with topics or samples or anything. You could also get writing instruction done for all of the kids at the same time. I make my dd7 sit in on the instruction (SWI-C) and then I try to implement that week's topic into her writing too - for instance she wrote a friendly letter, but we did a key word outline before she did the writing.


Anyway - IEW.

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was stopping doing everything orally. I had to shorten assignments etc. when my son was in 4th grade and he spent a year doing fairly simple work just to get used to writing things out. I think that if I hadn't done that we'd never have gotten where we are today. He is a 7th grader and not complaining one bit about writing, and he was a pencil phobic tantrum thrower at a younger age. That was step one for us, realizing that writing is within a child's power, won't kill him and won't be torture forever. I also did a lot of Handwriting without Tears, and taught him to type. Now, he doesn't need the computer like he did a couple years ago.


Classical Writing does a nice job of handholding if you use their workbooks. With the workbooks it is not hard to teach. Teaching your children how to outline will help on older kids narrations also. I cannot tell you too much, but just take heart- unless your children have a serious learning difficulties, you may just need to prepare for a major battle. With a smile on your face get them writing in every subject every day. That is why those 2nd graders are writing, their teachers really expect them to. Some are floundering, I bet, but I bet there are many who really are doing it. Now, with child 4, I keep this in mind.

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I am no writing expert. We are using WT 1+2 this year for 4th and 5th and it is working great as our main program but to add writing to other areas of our curriculum, I am using the MP study guides for D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and FMOR. I require them to answer each question, not only in complete sentences with not errors, but to also practice restating part of the question as though they were writing an essay. This was something that I sort of stumbled upon. We were just doing the guides to test comprehension and actually did a lot of orally at first because I thought too much writing was busy work. I think it may have been Mom of 7 who posted about writing out the answers for lit guides being great writing practice. I started doing it with the boys and I really think that it has helped. Some of the lessons also have additional short writing suggestions. They are also both working through Remedia's Outlining and doing some additional outlining and short summaries for history. Some of their WT stories are now approaching 2 pages. I have found all of these things to have made a HUGE difference in both of their writing. We completely ignored writing last year so we started out pretty pathetic this year. I added additional writing to their curriculum gradually so that they hardly noticed it.

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Did they really write a 2 page bio on Abe Lincoln or did their parents help them to do it? Was the paper written in class or did it go home? I really find it a little hard to believe that those children are writing that on their own.


I am going to ask my girlfriend whose daughter is in second grade.


Well, for writing help, you said that you looked at Writing Tales. Did you try it? It does a pretty decent job of getting kids interested in writing. I like the way it helps the child to write creatively in a non-threatening manner. What do I mean by that? Most creative writing programs have the child come up with a story from scratch. With Writing Tales, the child summarizes the story. Then the child rewrites the story using their own creative touch. So, the child has figured out how to write creatively without having to come up with the story on their own.


I have used Writing Tales and I know the author. So, I am a bit bias, but I truly believe that it is a nice fun way to teach the children writing.





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I cannot tell you too much, but just take heart- unless your children have a serious learning difficulties, you may just need to prepare for a major battle. With a smile on your face get them writing in every subject every day. That is why those 2nd graders are writing, their teachers really expect them to.


Let me just encourage you, find what it will take to get them writing, and DO IT. No excuses for you or for them. I, too, have compared what my dds are doing with their public and private schooled counterparts and frankly, we came up very, very short.


We are anticipating coming to the end of our homeschooling journey with our oldest dd (8th grade, possibly entering Christian school this coming year, hopefully to remain there through graduation). One of the very few regrets I have about homeschooling her is my lack of consistency and determination in getting her to write. I gave in far, far too easily to her struggles. When you are at home, there is such a temptation to skip just this assignment . . . and that one . . . and do this subject orally . . . and then that one. Dd has a serious deficiency in writing now, and it is *partly* due to this mentality.


That said, dd would have struggled with writing regardless -- it just isn't her "thing" (my younger dd, by contrast, has had zero formal writing, and writes page long book reports. for fun.)


For what it's worth, IEW has been the ONLY approach that my very reluctant writer has found useful. If I had a "do-over", I would have taken the time to LEARN the system, and USE the system, no messing around with anything else. I personally despise it, but it works for her.


Best wishes as you find something that works for your family. I know how hard this is, but you can do it! And your children will thank you!

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One suggestion I would make is that you have your kids learn to type, if they haven't already. I can't tell you how much more willing my kids are to write - and most importantly, to edit - now that they're typing their assignments rather than hand writing them!


You mentioned that you'd tried some "samples" of various writing programs with your children, but I'm not sure what that means exactly. With writing, you really do have to do it for a while to get better at it. Just doing one exercise or two really isn't going to be enough to see progress or to grow comfortable with the program. We've been using IEW for a year now, and there were some frustrations early on - for me and for them - but it gets easier with every assignment. I'm not sure what you're looking for in a writing program, but I would suggest picking one that looks like it would meet your goals for your kids' writing, and then sticking with it for at least a school year, no matter how much the kids complained. For a while, you might all feel like you're spinning your wheels, but at the end of that year, I'm willing to bet you'll see improvement :).


And while I'm here, I have to put in a plug for IEW! I teach IEW in a co-op setting, and I've seen my students find so much success with the program. The checklist is really helpful for so many kids because it takes a fairly abstract, subjective assignment like "writing" and gives them very clear, concrete objectives to meet. I tend to write more intuitively, so I was suspicious of the whole checklist thing at first, but now that I've seen my students' progress, I've become a believer in the IEW approach.


Hope something here helps :).



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I understand where you are coming from, but I would encourage you to commit to a plan and don't look back! :) This means fewer oral narrations, perhaps only on Fridays after several days of written work, as a way to get started. Smile, tell them this is how it's going to be, and stick to it. I have a feeling they will progress quickly once you move to more writing but with their ages, I would move right along with this.


We began a few years ago with all oral narrations and the transition was definitely tricky. It's much easier to stay where you are than it is to have them resist and complain about writing... I had many a whine-war wtih my oldest dd who did not want to write her own narrations for SOTW.


I started with every other day oral narrations, and then every day. Now we are in R&S4 for grammar and IEW for writing. I think the writing in R&S isn't really enough for a full writing program, and when I found IEW I was thrilled to have a simple key-word outline method to teach. And it works!! My dd (age 9) writes wonderful stories and reports, several paragraphs long, often two pages, and full of fantastic "dress ups" according to the IEW program. She is so pleased with her own writing that she enjoys showing it to dh and others when she's done.


To think how far we've come in just two years... I highly recommend IEW and if you do R&S, require written work for a while and then maybe mix in a few days of oral work at week's end.


For what it's worthy, my dd age 6 is not going the same route...I am not doing as much oral work with her, and I am teaching her IEW now and she just wrote several paragraphs on a non-fiction topic last week. She is confident and she knows exactly what to do, so the whining is not even happening with this one...some of it is just her personality, but also the fact that she does more writing at this age than my oldest did.


Hope this helps. Wishing you all the best,

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I really, really second the suggestion for typing. Handwriting, spelling, and composition (& grammar & punctuation) are all separate skills that need work. Not to mention the ability to take what is in your head and get it out in an orderly fashion and on paper in an orderly fashion. I've found that typing really helps to eliminate the handwriting and spelling issues (& some punctuation) since the word processor helps out. I just think it's even harder to work on one skill if you have to also worry about all the other new skills (although once the other skills are mastered this really isn't an issue). BTW: we used Typing Instructor from Timberdoodle.


As for a writing program, my personal favorite for my kids is CW. Since we retell a given model more of our time is spent on writing skills then daydreaming about what to write about and what to write next.... although my kids have taken to altering the models with their own character or settings. It just keeps getting more interesting.



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about writing. If you haven't done much in the writing department in the past, starting out can be really frustrating for your dc at first. I would suggest a few things:


1. Start a daily journal. Have them write in a journal each day about whatever they want. You can give them fun prompts a few times a week to get them going on something creative. This will give you a good idea where to start with your instruction time and also which curriculum to buy.


2. Begin with writing good sentences and what those are. Teach them about run-ons, fragments, and good punctuation (semi-colons, commas, etc.). After they have a good handle on that, thenmove on to paragraphs. In other words, don't get the cart before the horse.


3. Have them start on something fun like short stories in different genres. My dc love writing short stories and developing their characters, plots, etc. I'll ask them questions about what they've written and help them develop their ideas further. This lays a good foundation for writing other kinds of papers and gives them confidence.


I would make it fun at first. Sometimes I feel that maybe we feel rushed because of what others are doing or what we feel they should be doing, and maybe there's something to that (iron sharpens iron!), but, try not to be worried. Start at the beginning. They have a great foundation, it won't be long before they're writing a lot and enjoying it! I'll bet you'll be surprised at what they can do once they start!

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I am using the MP study guides for D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and FMOR. I require them to answer each question, not only in complete sentences with not errors, but to also practice restating part of the question as though they were writing an essay. This was something that I sort of stumbled upon. >>>>


This is the approach that they use in the public schools here. EVERYTHING has to be written out in proper sentences including explanations to math questions. My dd7, in second grade, can write a lot although not quite a 2 page paper on anything :confused:, but if you count all of the papers she does in a day and her homework it is probably equal to or more than 1 page of actual writing (per day). And then she comes home and writes more because she likes it.


I've heard some say that early high level writing can cause bad habits in writing (poor spelling, poor punctuation, etc.) but the way I see it is that it does get them use to writing.


I used IEW for the last two years I homeschooled and I would highly recommend it in a homeschool setting and even a private/public school as it will cover most of the OPs issues with writing. Once you get started with IEW start requiring more and more writing daily and I think it will get better.


BTW, when I was homeschooling my oldest I struggled with writing also and really regret that I didn't make him do more writing. For a while we worked out of the Spectrum writing books but I stopped for some reason. NOw, I wish I hadn't. My dss is now in private school and doing well in his writing assignments so no matter how much I feel I messed up his writing at home it wasn't a problem.

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Thank you all for your suggestions. I checked out IEW but it is too expensive even if we just used the student modules.


onemichelle, what workbooks are you referring to?


I was going to write more but family duty calls...

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I would start with reading and copywork. That way your kids will exercise their starting muscles before they move into your brave new world of very aggressive writing training! Every day, they read to you from books that are challenging in some way, for 20 minutes each. Every day, you read to them from advanced kids' novels that are high interest but hard to follow, either because of vocabulary, sentence structure, or plot complexity. (Maybe LOTR? It has all three...) You talk about words that they do and don't know. They learn words in context. Their brains soak up complicated but grammatically correct sentences and engaging writing. You assign copywork from those books. You are an absolute BEAR about that copywork. It must be PERFECT. Legible, punctuated and spelling correctly--perfect. They have to fix it until it is PERFECT. That presses good models of writing into their cute little heads.


In parallel, I would do two things. The first is order the CD by SWB about teaching writing. She covers starting with an older child in that presentation, and she does a good job of explaining the theory of what she is suggesting so that you can easily make sense out of it and internalize it. I would listen to this every day for a week so that you really get a handle on it. It's great.


The second is to make a list of the skills needed for good writing, and evaluate where your children are with those skills. I think those skills are handwriting, typing, spelling, punctuation, grammar, logical ordering of ideas, outlining, and composing.


Then figure out how to separate those skills so that you can advance them all at once. That's how to do things fast, in my view. Continue the copywork and reading. Add whatever else they need. Everyone has a favorite spelling and grammar program, it seems. For logical ordering and outlining, you might try the Remedia books often mentioned here. For punctuation I like Editor in Chief. For composition, I recommend starting to talk through the kinds of compositions that you want. If you want a history summary, focus on that for a while. Talk about the history lesson. Outline it together. Take turns presenting a verbal summary of it. Set very specific requirements in summarizing it--one sentence per paragraph, or one sentence per outline point. Do a couple of lessons where everyone summarizes the lesson, even you, and discuss and compare them. Be sure that you think of something that they did better than you--they love that! Same with science. Pick a form of science reporting and go through the same process. In parallel, work through basic writing lessons. I like Writing Strands and Rod and Staff for that, but others do not. Writeshop is very popular and provides a little more handholding than WS but is less dry than R&S. (Personally I would not be inclined to suggest IEW at this point--it's too contrived. I think IEW is better for children who are already writing a little more and need some structure and polishing. Plus, the fact that you have to watch videos to be able to teach it would mean that it would need a lot of preparation, which is not consistent with a quick start like you want.) Start to encourage the children to make use of what they have learned in their writing programs in their subject area writing as well. If they don't implement that based on encouragement, insist.


After you have developed pretty proficient, comfortable writers, I would suggest Jensen's Format Writing as a way to teach genre and forms. This is based only on what I have seen and heard here--I have not used it yet myself, but it seems to be an excellent, fast, bare bones way to get quickly to the prep for high school goal.

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Training5, you know your kids best, and you did say they have some LD's. It's really wise for you to consider that balance of what they're CAPABLE of vs. what you're having them do. I think, just from what you've said, that your instinct is telling you to make sure they have the SKILLS to get their thoughts onto paper before you start asking them to be creative or fancy or focus on how well the sentence is written. This is the essence of what SWB says, and it's one reason people use narration. Now narration is getting their thoughts into words. Youv'e done that. Dictation is getting their words onto paper. Not knowing their actual physical limits, I would suggest you pursue dictation. The next thing I like, as the others mentioned, is no-brainer writing like lit guides. We're talking about writing an answer to the questions in complete sentences. They're pulling the whole process together using their own thoughts, putting those thoughts into words, and getting the words onto paper, but they don't have the stress of doing it with 4-5 sentences and making it connected. And it's a great way to build quantity. Again, I don't know what your ds's are capable of, but it sounds like you're thinking they could do more.


The next thing is to start getting onto paper those narrations you've been having them do orally. IEW might be something that would work for you at some point. For right now though, you could start by having them orally narrate to you, and you make NOTES, just a word or two or three for each sentence. This becomes their keyword outline. Then you hand it to them and say here, now go back and write your narration. Or they give their narration into a tape recorder and play it back, bit by bit, to write it out. Or you take it on the computer, print, and they do it as copywork. There are lots of ways to get this done.


Once they can comfortably get their narration on paper, then start them into a writing program. I don't know how long it will take to get there or what bumps you'll have. I commend you for thinking about what things your boys COULD be doing further. Writing is the thing we tend to do the least of, because it's artificial to assign, easier to just do orally. The more basic writing they do (answering questions with complete sentences, dictation, copywork, just basic stuff), the easier it's going to get. And it doesn't have to be torturous. If they don't like writing out the sentences in GWG (yuck, I wouldn't want to do that), then get them some basic writing they DO like. The lit guides from VP are really cool and would be perfect for that. I'd advise starting with one meant for a lower grade, even say 2nd grade. Or if you get a more advanced guide, break it up so they don't have to do all the writing in one day. My dd is doing the Alice in Wonderland guide (advanced 3rd?), and there are a lot of questions for each chapter. With your boys, you might break that up over 3 days, so they're doing just 5 or 6 a day at the most. That's still plenty to get the skills building. And when you do the guides, you can read the books aloud together, giving you nice family time.


Remember too there's a special needs board here, so if you need more specialized advice, you can get it there. Hope your efforts go well! :)

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I am looking at the VP guides and the MP guides. They like history quite a bit. Anyone used Logos School guides before? They have already read most of the books VP has guides for.


Physically, they have no limits. My oldest who once did has surprised me this week. I think he has his fine motor skill delay licked! perfect handwriting at last!


My 9 year old is stubborn and REFUSES to form his letters correctly, keep the letters the correct size, keep the words on the line, space words appropriately, or take any correction. "why does it matter? You are the only one looking at it!" ARGG!!!


BTW, I have taught both cursive, rather my form of it, but do not require them to use it as even I have a hard time reading it. I might just have to insist to get this child to slow down enough to write legibly. I am also thinking HWT books in French (he wants to learn French) for a change and just start over with him AGAIN. Didn't work the last 2 times we have gone through the books in English. or Maybe Italics...starting with book A.


I have considered each area needed for writing as carol suggested. that is why they are all over the board in skill level for this year.


I am going to try very hard to implement as many of ya'll's ideas as possible.


I do have the oldest write his own narrations but they are never as good as the ones he dictates to me. So I am always torn.


Funny thing is, if they dictate to me and I type into Start Write, they don't complain about tracing their words. Great handwriting practice, but not writing practice.


Thank you all so very much. I love these forums!

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I support the suggestion I've seen here to do copywork and respond to history/literature with complete sentences as very good strategies to get started.


For a writing curriculum, I'd like to suggest Write Source. There are many versions available, and you can read all about them at RR. I have used the 1995 edition handbooks in the ps classroom when I taught there. This curriculum doesn't seem to be popular here on the boards, but I think it is a good system. They offer incremental instuction that isn't too overwhelming and provide models. Beware of all the *extra* workbooks/skillsbooks/daily oral language books that go with the program. You don't really need those. Check out the 1995 edition handbooks and choose a grade level you think is appropriate.



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1. Break writing into small "bites"

Break the actual writing process into "bites" and only do 1 "bite" a day, or 1 "bite" in the morning, and then another "bite in the afternoon.


A. For doing the IEW keyword outline techniques (taking something already written, writing out keyword outline, then writing in your words) the "bites" would look something like this:

- read the paragraph/ begin to do a keyword outline

- finish the keyword outline

- begin to write complete sentences for the keyword outline

- finish writing out complete sentences for the keyword outline

- revise/edit

- make a clean copy (typed & printed; or neatly written out by hand)


B. For writing for an assignment, those "bites" might look like this:

- brainstorming/thinking of writing topic/examples/ideas

- actual writing

- finish actual writing

- revise/add/delete the writing

- edit the writing

- make a final clean copy (typed & printed; or neatly written out by hand)



2. Spread the small bites of writing throughout the day

- 2 min. = Start the day with a writing warm up -- maybe something as short as 1-2 sentences, from something like "Ready, Set Revise".

- Do non-writing schoolwork.

- 5-8 min. = Do a short journal entry from a writing prompt -- start small, maybe 3 sentences, and work your way up to 5-6 sentences by the end of the year. (Adjust those amounts to fit each student's ability/age.)

- Do non-writing schoolwork.

- 10-15 min. = Work on an assignment from your writing program. Or, write a paragraph for a book report, research paper, narration, etc. The next day, add another paragraph, etc. By the end of a week, you've got a 5-paragraph paper written!

- Do non-writing schoolwork.

- 10 min. = Play a writing game: everyone takes 3 turns adding onto a group story; roll 1 (or 2, if people can tolerate more writing) dice, and the number that comes up is how many WORDS you get to add to the common story. Or, start/continue on a fun writing assignment from something like "Complete Writing Lessons for the Primary Grades".

- 5-10 min. = Do the next step in the writing process on the writing assignment from your writing program.


By the end of the day, you've spent 30-45 minutes on writing!



Ideas for Writing Programs

If the writing program you were using previously was too dry, consider using something with a less formal tone:


- Writing Apprentice (gr. 4-6)

(was a great way to get my writing phobic boys willing to pick up a pencil; gentle, with fun "cub reporter" theme throughout)


- Jump In (gr. 6-8)

(gentle, small bites, thorough, helpful esp. in getting started and in organizing your writing; a nice easy "next step up" from Wordsmith Apprentice; from a Christian viewpoint)


- writing series from Scholastic (gr. 5-8)

(Descriptive Writing; Narrative Writing; Expository Writing; Persuasive Writing) While written for a classroom, we found some great writing information and some creative writing assignments and exercises in these. Perhaps use one of these for awhile as a break from a less interesting writing program.



If you can't afford IEW, see if you can at least borrow the videotapes from someone and glean from his method; we've successfully used the IEW keyword method just by me seeing Andrew Pudewa present the technique at a local homeschool convention, and by watching part of one of his videos with a friend who bought it. I used a lot of the research ideas in the Beautiful Feet Geography Guide that same year for us to put the IEW techniques into practice -- read a paragraph on a side topic from the BF Guide on the Holling C. Holling books, do a keyword outline, form the outline into complete sentences into their own words, write out or type a final copy. We did that 2x a week while going through the Geography guide; they really enjoyed all the science and animal and other topics, and breaking the technique into tiny "bites" got them over the hump of hating writing.



Just my 2-1/2 cents worth! (lol) BEST of luck in your writing journey! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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Training5, You said their written narrations aren't as good as the ones they dictate to you. That's when you break out the tape recorder. They say it into the tape recorder and then play it back, bit by bit, to write it out. Or you type it as they orally narrate and then you read it back to them as dictation. It sounds like they need to do a lot more dictation btw, like a page a day (since the handwriting hump is over). Dictation works on helping them get the words onto paper, which is what they're having trouble with. So I would do lots of dictation, a page handwritten a day or as much as they can tolerate.


On the handwriting and no reason to do it neatly for the 9 yo, sounds like he needs an audience, hehe. My first thought was Daddy! Wouldn't take many days of Daddy not approving (and following with consequences) before ds figured out there was a reason. ;)


I'm not saying to be mean; just don't let them give you a hard time. They're pushing the limits to see what you'll do. When my dd is giving me a hard time, I tell her so and tell her to stop. It's no way to treat a woman.

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I know that I went to a seminar a few years ago and one of the moms taught with the IEW program . Gave us a great outline and everything . She also suggested the Imitations in Writing books from Logos school as they follow the IEW outline . They are pretty inexpensive .. I think around $20 . MUCH cheaper . I've been planning on giving these a try this year .

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