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#1766716 - 10/08/11 12:03 AM Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
I don't know if this is a technique used by others , but I have recently found that using a timer to gauge the amount of time a student is not paying attention to me or fooling around on the piano has been extremely effective. I tell the student that that the total wasted time at the end of the lesson will be recorded and relayed to the parents. I have had a complete turnaround in behavior for some of my younger students because of this, in general they can not bear to see the time go up on the timer and the get right back to the piano task at hand. Also, after a productive lesson they are very proud and want to boast their small amount or zero wasted time to their parents.

Before I was using the timer for a particular younger student who I would demand 20 mins of actual playing piano of the 30 min lesson otherwise a frown on the behavior chart. This was moderately effective, but since I changed it to the timer going meaning a BAD thing she has become much more concerned with focusing on whatever immediate goals we have.

Anyway, just thought I would share this because this small thing is clearly making my job easier.

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#1766803 - 10/08/11 08:21 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Stanny Offline
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Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
How do you use actually do this? Do you have some kind of stopwatch at the piano and click it when the child begins goofing off or not paying attention?
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#1766850 - 10/08/11 11:34 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
This is such an interesting thread. I guess my first questions are why are you allowing them to misbehave and why is there time for them to do so?
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#1766943 - 10/08/11 04:04 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
LeaC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/11
Posts: 413
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: melodian
I don't know if this is a technique used by others , but I have recently found that using a timer to gauge the amount of time a student is not paying attention to me or fooling around on the piano has been extremely effective. I tell the student that that the total wasted time at the end of the lesson will be recorded and relayed to the parents. I have had a complete turnaround in behavior for some of my younger students because of this, in general they can not bear to see the time go up on the timer and the get right back to the piano task at hand. Also, after a productive lesson they are very proud and want to boast their small amount or zero wasted time to their parents.

Anyway, just thought I would share this because this small thing is clearly making my job easier.


That's a good one! I used a timer when my child was getting ready for school in the morning, too. Worked like a charm, and she is the most punctual person I know.
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#1767203 - 10/09/11 07:26 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Stanny]
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Stanny
How do you use actually do this? Do you have some kind of stopwatch at the piano and click it when the child begins goofing off or not paying attention?


I have a digital timer sitting on top of the piano. Yes as soon as it is clear that they are wasting time I click it.

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#1767206 - 10/09/11 07:34 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
This is such an interesting thread. I guess my first questions are why are you allowing them to misbehave and why is there time for them to do so?


Good questions. I can't say that I allow my students to misbehave, just simply from time to time the younger ones might lose focus to varying degrees that has been a big challenge. There is not time for them to misbehave, that is why I implemented the timer...so it is clear to them and their parents how much of the lesson was a waste.

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#1769077 - 10/12/11 05:09 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
... why are you allowing them to misbehave...
I'd be interested to hear how "simply not allowing someone to misbehave" (that is to say, NOT using some technique or other, but just plain not letting them do it) works. Because for me, it mainly doesn't. frown
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#1769183 - 10/12/11 10:39 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Whenever students have exhibited poor behavior in my studio, it's because I wasn't keeping the pace moving. Don't give them the opportunity.
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#1769227 - 10/12/11 12:25 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
miaeih Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 267
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
Do you use this for all your young students? Does this also work for "special needs" students?

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#1770968 - 10/15/11 10:08 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Luke in ChiTown Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/07/11
Posts: 96
Loc: Chicago, Illinois, USA
I think this is a fantastic idea! I'm going to try it out in a few hours!

I have a 9 year old student, very bright, very talented. She is not at all a behavioral problem, but she does seem to like wasting time in the lesson to the point that I feel like we can't get through as much material as I would like. Even tasks like getting out her books, or writing something in her music take forever with this child.

Thank you so much for an idea I know is going to be incredibly useful in my teaching for years to come!
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#1771008 - 10/15/11 11:35 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
Dustin Sanders Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/10
Posts: 479
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Whenever students have exhibited poor behavior in my studio, it's because I wasn't keeping the pace moving. Don't give them the opportunity.


This.

Children misbehave and get bored when the teacher is boring.

Solution?

Don't be boring.

Children will thrive on energy and excitement and guidance.

When a child sits there and look clueless I say ..

'Attack!!' 'Go!!' 'Go!!' 'Quick, Go!!' 'Attack!!!'

All while gently nudging them - My commands overload their senses and their brains go 'ohhhh heereeee weee goooooo !!!' and they jump right into it.

If you just sit there and wait for the child to do something, in my opinion, that is a sign of a teacher who isn't excited to teach young children.
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#1771053 - 10/15/11 12:46 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Dustin Sanders]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Dustin Sanders
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Whenever students have exhibited poor behavior in my studio, it's because I wasn't keeping the pace moving. Don't give them the opportunity.


This.

Children misbehave and get bored when the teacher is boring.

Solution?

Don't be boring.


I beg to differ. Children misbehave because they are allowed and/or enabled to misbehave. Even when the teacher is boring, they can choose not to misbehave. Misbehavior is a choice, not a knee-jerk reaction to ennui.

And there are students who will choose to misbehave no matter how entertaining you are. They thrive on negative attention.
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#1771085 - 10/15/11 01:59 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: AZNpiano]
Dustin Sanders Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/10
Posts: 479
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Dustin Sanders
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Whenever students have exhibited poor behavior in my studio, it's because I wasn't keeping the pace moving. Don't give them the opportunity.


This.

Children misbehave and get bored when the teacher is boring.

Solution?

Don't be boring.


I beg to differ. Children misbehave because they are allowed and/or enabled to misbehave. Even when the teacher is boring, they can choose not to misbehave. Misbehavior is a choice, not a knee-jerk reaction to ennui.

And there are students who will choose to misbehave no matter how entertaining you are. They thrive on negative attention.


Misbehavior is a symptom of poor parenting....

You can still let a child be a child - There is nothing wrong with letting them get up from the bench every now and then and long as you can bring them back into focus.

In my opinion at least.
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#1771160 - 10/15/11 04:46 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Well, piano lessons with children shouldn't have the child on the bench for the entire lesson anyway. smile
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#1771725 - 10/16/11 06:23 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: miaeih]
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: miaeih
Do you use this for all your young students? Does this also work for "special needs" students?


I only have one student that is special needs (that I am aware of) and I don't use it with him because of the severity of his mental handicap.

No, not for all, there are many students that I have that have no need for for this timer method. It really has to be a case by case basis. However, I can say that the ones that have been the most problematic as far as wasting time, I have basically cracked that nut with this timer, for the time being anyway.

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#1771726 - 10/16/11 06:26 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Well, piano lessons with children shouldn't have the child on the bench for the entire lesson anyway. smile


Interesting you say that because I would like to incorporate other activities for the younger children ...for the 5 and 6 year olds for sure. What might you suggest? Thanks for the comment.

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#1771734 - 10/16/11 06:36 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Luke in ChiTown]
melodian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Luke in ChiTown
I think this is a fantastic idea! I'm going to try it out in a few hours!

I have a 9 year old student, very bright, very talented. She is not at all a behavioral problem, but she does seem to like wasting time in the lesson to the point that I feel like we can't get through as much material as I would like. Even tasks like getting out her books, or writing something in her music take forever with this child.

Thank you so much for an idea I know is going to be incredibly useful in my teaching for years to come!


What sparked this very idea is a 9 year old who fits that description perfectly. One of the stunts she would play would be to ask for my pencil to write a reminder in the music then she would end up writing all kind of alterations to the music to make it as simple as possible....veeeerry sloooowly. This behavior has basically ended....I hope you have at least partial luck with this method ...Let us know how it goes smile

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#1773561 - 10/19/11 02:11 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
CarolR Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/05
Posts: 350
Loc: wisconsin
There are a few students who I have learned to NEVER give a pencil to, because they will do that very thing, take 5 minutes to write something out very, very slowly. I think it's good for students to make their own notes, but it takes a level of maturity and purposefulness.
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#1773671 - 10/19/11 06:18 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Well, piano lessons with children shouldn't have the child on the bench for the entire lesson anyway. smile

Why not?
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#1773686 - 10/19/11 06:52 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Because young students, especially, need to develop the connection between body/ear/hand and use large muscle movement to translate that. Children are made to move! They can experience musical in a totally different way and internalize many skills through exaggeration.

There are also many games that students can play that help them develop in different learning styles. Sitting on a bench may be the most boring, uninspiring way for the younger child, especially, to make music. They have to learn to do it eventually, but's definitely not the first step.
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#1773707 - 10/19/11 07:53 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Because young students, especially, need to develop the connection between body/ear/hand and use large muscle movement to translate that. Children are made to move! They can experience musical in a totally different way and internalize many skills through exaggeration.

There are also many games that students can play that help them develop in different learning styles. Sitting on a bench may be the most boring, uninspiring way for the younger child, especially, to make music. They have to learn to do it eventually, but's definitely not the first step.

I think you are over-generalizing.

From the moment I started, I was totally involved in playing. I saved the moving for swimming, baseball, sports. I hated musical games, workbooks, flash cards and so on. I loathed "musical participation" activities and actually got a bad mark "for not listening to and appreciating music" because of some dumb-*** program a typical musical ed-type teacher had us doing.
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#1773855 - 10/20/11 01:22 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
And I think you are the exception to the rule.
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#1773859 - 10/20/11 01:25 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
And I think you are the exception to the rule.

What "rule"? Again, you are generalizing, and I think your assumptions are beyond ridiculous. I am no more an exception to any "rule" than you are. But I suppose my view is worthless because I don't have, pasted in my sig:

B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Children are made to move!

Children are individuals. One size does not fit all. Some children have a problem sitting still. But a lot of them just want to get at it, as I did. Most of my students are like that.
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Sitting on a bench may be the most boring, uninspiring way for the younger child, especially, to make music. They have to learn to do it eventually, but's definitely not the first step.

"Definitely"? Why in the world is "sitting on a bench", playing, exploring with the instrument "uninspiring"? Why do they "have to learn to do it, eventually"? You make jumping into actually playing music seem like a punishment.

If a teacher is yakking the whole time, talk, talk, talk, and the child does not get to play, yes, that would be boring. If the lesson is full of theoretical things, if a child is made to sit on a bench, drilling on flash cards, yes that would be boring. I can think of a thousand ways to make lessons for children, especially very young ones, a torture.

But it doesn't have to be that way, and I very much resent your assertion that it does. With your broad statements, you completely negate the work of other teachers who do not teach the way you do. You declare yourself as forum expert and insist that it must all be done your way, in order not to bore the hang out of children.

It's another example of "my way or the highway" where know-it-all teachers don't just present their way of doing things but make out that others who have different ways of approaching teaching are inferior.

I'm sick of it.


Edited by Gary D. (10/20/11 02:34 AM)
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#1773906 - 10/20/11 04:47 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Gary D.]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: Gary D.


From the moment I started, I was totally involved in playing. I saved the moving for swimming, baseball, sports. I hated musical games, workbooks, flash cards and so on. I loathed "musical participation" activities and actually got a bad mark "for not listening to and appreciating music" because of some dumb-*** program a typical musical ed-type teacher had us doing.


Gary you scoundrel! There, you're at it again, making us question our assumptions. If you don't start towing the line, you'll be on second triangle in the 'music is fun' ensemble.

laugh

Just out of interest, what age did you start lessons at?
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#1774004 - 10/20/11 09:32 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
And perhaps, Gary, you have forgotten that this thread is about children who have trouble with staying on task in the music lesson. My comments are completely taking that into consideration. These are the kinds of children that need off-the-bench activities. Their attention is challenged and getting off the bench varies the pace and activity that keeps them engaged.

I'm not looking for a cat fight here.
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#1774052 - 10/20/11 11:35 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11810
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
.... this thread is about children who have trouble with staying on task in the music lesson. My comments are completely taking that into consideration. These are the kinds of children that need off-the-bench activities. Their attention is challenged and getting off the bench varies the pace and activity that keeps them engaged.


Any behavior has different solutions (and causes) depending on the child, and a single age does not create a single persona. A behavior does not connote a "kind of child". For example, some children need a lot of stimulus and activity. Other children are driven antsy by too much stimulus, too many changes. These children may be the same age. But the *kind of child* who needs less stimulus will exhibit the same behavior as the *kind of child* who needs lots of stimulus, for opposing causes. And there are even more causes of inattention: inability to understand, fluorescent lights, etc. Then also recently there was the eye-problem - tracking thing. Two things don't make sense to me. One is the idea that there is only one possible cause and solution. The other is that other teachers' solutions are not plausible unless they fit the theory, or that's how it appears. Something seems amiss here.

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#1774229 - 10/20/11 04:42 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
And perhaps, Gary, you have forgotten that this thread is about children who have trouble with staying on task in the music lesson.

No, I haven't forgotten. And I'm not in any way suggesting that your ideas are invalid. I'm saying, clearly, that I reject your suggestions/solutions as the ONLY answer. The problem is that "misbehavior" may or not be linked to "drifting". At least half my students drift, lose focus, fidget or show other signs of being bored when the pace is EITHER too slow OR too fast. Too slow=boredom. Too fast=frustation. For students with attention problems, with or without hyperactivity, the road between boredom and frustration is extremely narrow.
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

My comments are completely taking that into consideration. These are the kinds of children that need off-the-bench activities.

I am not ruling out "off-the-bench activities". I am saying that they are not a magic bullet for cases of misbehaving OR drifting, which again are two different things.
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

Their attention is challenged and getting off the bench varies the pace and activity that keeps them engaged.

Which is about variation and pacing. But there are many ways to vary things and fine-tune pacing at the piano, and for me "off-the-bench activities" means less time actually learning to play.


Edited by Gary D. (10/20/11 04:43 PM)
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#1774276 - 10/20/11 05:54 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring

Any behavior has different solutions (and causes) depending on the child, and a single age does not create a single persona. A behavior does not connote a "kind of child". For example, some children need a lot of stimulus and activity. Other children are driven antsy by too much stimulus, too many changes.

Exactly. This has to with pacing and variation, and EVERY child is different. Even with the phrase "kind of child" we have already created a box and then but a child IN that box.

"Misbehavior" may be something that happens everywhere, and we as teachers not only have to deal with it but often we are not given information that the parents KNOW as to WHY it is happening.

Or we may see behavior that is being caused by something in the lesson, something we are missing, and in that case I think we are responsible for finding out what is wrong.

By the time we combine "misbehavior" with "drifting", almost anything in the world could cause any combination of both factors.
Originally Posted By: keystring

These children may be the same age. But the *kind of child* who needs less stimulus will exhibit the same behavior as the *kind of child* who needs lots of stimulus, for opposing causes.

Exactly. Boredom and frustration may appear the same, but the causes are opposite, unless the frustration is caused by boredom. Apparently my 6th grade general music teacher considered me as a "drifter" and concluded that I did not "appreciate music". When she found out that I was already playing very advanced piano music, her assessment of me totally reversed. She was a nice lady. But she mistook very advanced for disinterested.
Originally Posted By: keystring

Two things don't make sense to me. One is the idea that there is only one possible cause and solution.

Because there is not only one possible cause nor is there one possible solution...
Originally Posted By: keystring

The other is that other teachers' solutions are not plausible unless they fit the theory, or that's how it appears. Something seems amiss here.

What is amiss is horrible over-generalization...


Edited by Gary D. (10/20/11 05:58 PM)
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#1774388 - 10/20/11 09:56 PM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Oh, please. Child psychology and learning theory is all about generalizations. They are based on average behaviors. Of course there are variations. Every child has some variation. You think I over-generalize. I think you nitpick.
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#1774448 - 10/21/11 12:50 AM Re: Magic timer for young students who misbehave or drift [Re: melodian]
luvs2teach Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 15
Bottom line is whether the child is bored, misbehaving, drifting, etc., it is up to the teacher to take control of the problem and manage it. So what if the student is a product of bad parenting. You can't control what goes on at home but you sure can control what goes on in your studio. Don't tolerate bad behavior. But don't be lazy and put "boredom, drifting, etc." in the same category as bad behavior. Figure out what you need to do as a teacher to motivate that child. On another note, if you, as a child, are playing Bach inventions or other such pieces, then you probably don't need to do off-the-bench activities. But by and large, young children (ages 4-6) like to, and need to, get off the bench. Marching is a great way to teach them how to keep a steady beat. Why MUST they stay on the bench for 30-45 minutes when there's so much we can do with them? Yes, it takes more energy to teach young children, but to those of you who don't want to get off your chairs, don't teach young kids if you don't have the energy or desire to do it. There's nothing wrong with that. Personally, that timer would have freaked me out as a young student. I would have been so stressed about the minutes ticking away, I wouldn't have been able to focus on my music. But I can see where it would help some kids. I would just be careful about using it as a "one size fits all" solution.

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