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Get Help With Pencil Grip, Muscle Strength, Midline Cross-Over, Left Handed Students and More With OT, Angie Holmes

In Episode 23, of Rockin’ This Teacher Thing…

Ready for some easy to implement tools to help ALL of your students? Occupational Therapist, Angie Holmes, joins us today to give us useful tips on how to strengthen students’ core, cross the midline, improve muscle control, improve focus, and give every student ways to improve their academic performance. All these tips will help your students be better readers, writers, thinkers and all around happier students. Don’t miss the tips on easy ways to collect data if you have a student in the referral process and some of her go-to OT tools to help struggling students. I can’t wait for you to hear this conversation. You are going to walk away better equipped to help your students. Let’s start rockin’ today’s episode. Here we go.

Teacher Resource Recommendations

Angie mentioned a clear pencil top chewable. I found these on Amazon for your convenience.  I have not used them and don’t have personal experience with them but most of the reviews are favorable. 

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Picture of a chewed up pencil with a pink eraser. With the caption "Beaver Pencil? Tips to help your students focus" Episode 23 of Rockin' This Teacher Thing

Top 3 Tips From Today's Episode

Top Tip 1: (8:39) Observing How Kids Sit-

Observe how your students are sitting. Do they sit on the edge of their chair? Or maybe they are sitting on a leg.  They may be trying to make themselves more stable.  One way to help them is to provide a box to prop their feet on or raise/lower their desk to customize it to their need. 

Top Tip 2 (16:37) Provide Opportunities For Students To Strengthen Their Core and other Muscles-

Building core strength into your day will help all your students. Use the “Superman”, “Cocoon”, and “Plank” into your morning routine to set students up for success during the rest of the day.  Also provide short movement breaks and centers that encourage crossing midline and improving fine motor skills. 

Top Tip 3 (12:10) Help For Left-Handed Students-

Provide left-handed students with picture guides on how to hold their pencil and how to tilt their paper. 

Listen Here -Transcript Found Below-

Clipboard with a graphic outline of a person doing a yoga plank pose. With the words Strengthen Core With Students In The Classroom

Follow Our Host: Angie Kantorowicz​

Transcript- Not Perfect But Useful

Angie K Host: [00:00:00] Hey, teacher friends, this is Angie and the Rockin’ This Teacher Thing podcast show. The podcast for early primary teachers that rock their classrooms every day. Today’s episode is with Angie Holmes, an occupational therapist. She is going to share a bunch of practical tips to help your students do better in the classroom.

[00:00:27] Using occupational therapy techniques. She’ll give tips, on muscle strength and coordination. As well as some practical tips on collecting data on students during the referral process and a whole bunch more. You might want to take notes on this one, teacher friends, because it is pure gold. Let’s start rockin’ today’s episode. Here we go.

[00:00:58] Hello, teacher, [00:01:00] friends. I am so glad you’re here today because this is going to be one of those podcast episodes you might want to listen to twice. I’ve listened to it several times while editing it. And I just, every time it just makes me smile. It’s so awesome. There is going to be so much during this conversation with Angie Holmes, occupational therapist, that is just going to be like, What??? My mind has just been totally blown.

[00:01:29] It is so good. I just, I think you are just going to love it every minute of this. You  are going to want to take notes, so get buckled  in, go sharpen that pencil, get yourself some water and get settled in if you’re walking. No problem. That’s the beauty of the podcast, right? You can come back and relisten or.

[00:01:51] You can go to the show notes and you can look at that and have a little summary of what’s in today’s episode. So we’re going to [00:02:00] jump right in. But speaking of podcasts, I have some super happy news for you. A big thank you to you all. We have surpassed the fifth 1500 download Mark here on rock and this teacher thing, I, that just…

[00:02:18] Speaking of blowing my mind, that just blows my mind. And I have you to thank. We have all over the world, including some people that, because of this podcast, I’ve gotten to know better, including my friends, Dawn. Hello, Dawn in New York and my friend, Alicia in France. Hello, Alicia, as well as you, my teacher friend, but we haven’t gotten to talk in person, but I would love to get to know you better.

[00:02:53] So one way for you to get to know me better is, cause I want to get to know you [00:03:00] better. Is to DM me on Instagram account, rocking this teacher thing. If you don’t have an Instagram. Come on over to the Sunday live stream with Dawn and Alicia and, some more of my teacher friends. And I do a livestream on teachers making the basics fun each Sunday, and it’s tons of fun and there’s a chat that goes on and we just have, we have a lot of fun over there.

[00:03:31] So that’s one way to connect. You’ll meet Dawn and Alicia over there as well as some other teacher friends. We would love to have you. So come on over. Okay. Let’s get on with Angie Holmes because you’re just going to be full of practical tips for your classroom. You’re going to be like what was so good?

[00:03:54] That was so good. Let’s just jump right in and get you what you need to hear. Here we go.

[00:04:03] [00:04:00] All right. Teach your friends. We are here with Angie Holmes. She is an OT, what is an OT? Well, stay tuned and yeah, you will find out. So Angie, tell us. What is an OT?

[00:04:19] Angie H- Guest: [00:04:19] So that is a great question because honestly, when people still don’t   exactly know what an occupational therapist is and when I actually wrote down a definition, because then it’s, it’s so vague.

[00:04:30] It’s like, depending on the setting you’re working in. I want to read them one of the definitions that I wrote down today, just to let you know how big it can be, the use of assessment and intervention, develop, recover, or maintain the meaningful activities of individuals. Oh, right. So that can be so in schools it looks like, fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, self-regulation types of skills.

[00:04:52] In a hospital setting it’s going to look like working with the same kind of the same things, but somebody that’s had a stroke or a head injury or spinal [00:05:00] cord injury and those kinds of, you know, self-care kinds of things. So it’s depending on the setting that you work in.

[00:05:06] Angie K Host: [00:05:06] So what is your setting? What exactly do you do?

[00:05:09]Angie H- Guest: [00:05:09] Right now, I am an occupational therapist at, Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena three days a week.

[00:05:16] Angie K Host: [00:05:16] Wow.

[00:05:16]Angie H- Guest: [00:05:16] And then one day a week, I work in, Livingston for Park County Special Education services. And I work in the rural schools. I go all the way from, if anybody knows that area Shields Valley down to Gardener. So it’s a lot of miles in one day. Again, different schools.

[00:05:33] Angie K Host: [00:05:33] You spend a lot of time in your car.

[00:05:34] Angie H- Guest: [00:05:34] I spend a lot of time in my car. I get to listen to a lot of podcasts. Yes. Yeah. So,  And before that I’ve, I’ve been an occupational therapist for 27 years. And most of the 17 years of that is we’ve been in the school system in different States. Also, I’ve been in  you know, cities in city schools. And so doing a little bit of both.

[00:05:57] Angie K Host: [00:05:57] Wow. Wow. Where do you find [00:06:00] yourself most comfortable?

[00:06:03] Angie H- Guest: [00:06:03] With kids. Yeah, definitely. Those are, they always get my heart. Yeah.

[00:06:07] Angie K Host: [00:06:07] You have a special age group that you like?

[00:06:09]Angie H- Guest: [00:06:09] I don’t.  I like all because they’re, you know, you never know the younger kids are going to do. But you never know what’s going to happen in a day.

[00:06:15] Yeah. They’re going to say what they’re going to do. It’s not each day is not the same. That’s for sure. For sure. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah.

[00:06:23] Angie K Host: [00:06:23] They say things and you’re like, Oh, right, okay, excellent. What is the main role of an OT in a school?

[00:06:32] Angie H- Guest: [00:06:32] So typically, maybe let’s start with what it looks like in Montana for students who qualify. It’s different in different States. Okay in Montana for the office of public instruction, you have to go through an evaluation process if the student’s being referred for other services, such as, reading  disability, any type of learning disability, looking at all of those, kind of skills.

[00:06:57]Then if there’s some writing issues, fine motor issues, then they’ll they’ll ask me to come in and do an evaluation as well.

Angie K Host: What’s like a trend right now.

Angie H- Guest: You know, I would have to say with the younger kids, it is the lack of fine motor skills and being able to, they come in, not knowing how to hold onto a pencil.

[00:07:18] They haven’t done a lot of writing. So, if I get a teacher referral and that, so that’s another way, is that a lot of times in screens, so they’ll have teacher…

[00:07:28] I can come in without doing evaluation and come into a classroom teacher to me and says, gosh, you know, this kid is not holding a pencil, right. They’re pressing too hard. They’re pressing too light. They don’t know, or they’re super fidgety in their seat or, you know, something just doesn’t seem. Right. Something’s off. Something’s right. What can I do? So as an OT, I can go into the classroom screen for some of those issues. See what I see going on, watching them, working at their desk.

[00:07:56]And that doesn’t have to be part of an evaluation that can just be then [00:08:00] me looking at what’s going on with the student, giving the teacher some recommendations and, then checking back and say, okay, after we tried these things, what’s working and then, you know, things aren’t progressing. Like we’d like them to then they’re probably not progressing in other areas as well.

[00:08:14] And that’s when they’ll go to an evaluation process. But a lot of times, especially with the young kids, the kindergarten through second graders, it really is, exposure, exposure, or spending a lot of time on devices. So they’re not necessarily playing with Legos, dressing, Barbies, you know, those kinds of things that we would.

[00:08:32] They had typically done. And, it’s willing, especially now. It’s hard to, because you are spending a lot more time on devices with Covid.

[00:08:39] School. So it’s just lending, it’s lending itself towards that. What I would look at when I go into it, especially like a kindergarten classroom, I kind of, I like to see how is the student sitting. 

[00:08:52] Are they, you know, sitting in with feet on the floor and if their food that’s one of the first things I noticed.

[00:08:58] If their feet aren’t touching the [00:09:00] floor while they’re sitting, like you want them to be sitting typically for writing, right. Then that will make a difference because then they’re going to be trying, those are the kids that scoot themselves to the edge of the chair and put one foot down in the ground because they’re kind of finding, they’re trying to find that grounding, like how to make myself more stable. So I can write because if there is any kind of core strength, kinds of things, they’re trying to make them know. Selves the most stable in order to gain some more fine motor skills to be able to hold on.

[00:09:24] Angie K Host: [00:09:24] What about kids that sit on their feet?

[00:09:25] Angie H- Guest: [00:09:25] Yah, kind of the same thing.

[00:09:27] Yeah. And so that’s, that’s way that way there. That’s why I look at there. See if there, yeah. Your feet are touching the floor and if they’re not, that’s why they’re probably putting tucking their feet under their chair or wanting to stand or changing their position somehow. And so that’s kind of one simple thing to do is maybe just either, if it’s a matter of.

[00:09:45] Raising lowering the chair, the desk, or putting on putting a little,  something for them to their feet to rest on. Sometimes that’s even a TheraBand. Sometimes it’s a little box, whatever, just to make themselves feel a little bit more grounded while they’re writing. So tip number one, [00:10:00] get them to sit sit, correct?

[00:10:01] Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, There, yeah. Plant their feet. That’s get their body ready. Right. Kind of body ready. Yeah, exactly.

[00:10:10] And then, so once that kind of happens, then I kind of look to see, okay, are they those kids that are leaning their head on their hand or their arm when they’re writing, like tipping to the side or, are they, you know, how is their, their pencil grip?

[00:10:25] Do they need. Typically more fine motor activities. Do they need a pencil grip to kind of help them? And a lot of it, yeah. The pencil grip. Do you recommend those? You know what, I, especially, if they’re really struggling with the grip, just to give them the skills that they need until they build those fine motor skills.

[00:10:43] So I will give them a pencil grip and there’s, a variety for the little kids. It’s really the ones where they can, don’t have to figure out where my fingers go. It kind of puts their fingers already there. So a lot of times their index finger and their thumb have a spot to go and they. Otherwise, they kind of just still want to wrap their hand around a pencil.

[00:10:58] Yeah. So I [00:11:00] like those. And then what I usually recommend to the teachers is if you, have center time include as many fine motor activities as you can into those center times. And that would be anything from lace cards to PlayDough. Two hole punches to, you know, any of those kinds of things that you can see and find on Pinterest.

[00:11:21] Angie K Host: [00:11:21] How about, I used to do like a tweezer tweezers. They love the tweezers tweezers,

[00:11:27] Angie H- Guest: [00:11:27] Clothespins. I know they love the tweezers and there’s some really fun tweezers now that have animals on them. You can find I found in, I believe it was target. They had these, it was in the kitchen section and it looks like they have little rubber hands on the bottom and those, the kids loved those.

[00:11:43] So yeah. I know they’re really great. You targeted, right? Exactly. And then, right, right. Of course, you know, you never come out with just what you wanted. then the,

[00:11:55] That, that leads kind of into some other things I look to see, are they crossing midline? So [00:12:00] are they crossing again across their body, then the tweezer activities.

[00:12:03] So any of these activities we’re doing for fine motor can be incorporated into, are they reaching across their body? Because if they’re not reaching across their body, they’re not going to be going left to right when they’re writing, they’re going, not going to be going left to right when they’re reading.

[00:12:15]so that lends is itself to another area to look at. To see what are, you know, what else needs to be working on. Do they have a dominant hand? Have they picked a hand? Are they still a little confused? Are they confused because they aren’t crossing midline? Are they confused? Because. If they’re a lefty that’s really hard to get used to.


[00:12:37]Angie K Host: [00:12:37] what about lefties?

[00:12:40]Angie H- Guest: [00:12:40] Lefties are hard. And so I try to, especially for grip for lefties, I like to put a picture of it, what it looks like to hold your pencil on their desk. So, I mean, any kids that are typically have a hard time with, but especially lefties, this is what it looks like, and this is how your paper should be tilted.

[00:12:58] This is how you [00:13:00] know, so I like that to give them a visual, just so they know, cause everybody else looks different. It’s not like they’re going to be able to look at their peer and say, it’s going to be, it’s good. It’s going to take a little bit extra time. And, you know, especially for letter formation going up that their body, that, you know, that way.

[00:13:15] So just even using a visual to help them. Figure out the grip, figure out the pen, the paper placement, those kinds of things. I love that. Yeah. Nice. Yeah.

[00:13:26] Angie K Host: [00:13:26] So after you watch them with their feet, yeah. They hold their pencil or even how they just even hold their body while they’re writing. Right. Or even interacting.

[00:13:38]Those are the big three?

[00:13:40] Angie H- Guest: [00:13:40] I mean, I would say that’s the big, and then also, you know, and I’d like to talk about too, especially with the young kids, you know, obviously yes, when they’re writing, you kind of want them at the good position, but then also spending time at their desk are they want that kid that does need some movement.

[00:13:54] Do they need to have different positions that they need to do their work in? what about [00:14:00] laying on the ground on their belly writing? Perfect. And that also builds on some of their core strength. Absolutely. So. Or, you know, using a clipboard for sitting in cross-legged yep. They can sit cross legged on not w snow w said no.

[00:14:15] Angie K Host: [00:14:15] W sitting allowed no, w sitting allowed.  Can you talk to that because I didn’t even know about that until like, Seven years ago. Yeah. That was a huge red flag for a lot of stuff.

[00:14:28] Angie H- Guest: [00:14:28] Yeah. So now it’s just like, that’s, you know, it can become a bad habit and they’re weak and it can put you, it just puts your knees, your hips in a really bad position.

[00:14:35] And so a lot of times I like to do floor work just so I can see how they are sitting and you know, or when they’re sitting at center time, you know, having them sit criss, cross Apple sauce or right on there. Knees and their feet with their feet tucked in just a bit, you know, to build on that strength and also to decrease that bad habit.

[00:14:53] No w no w sitting.

[00:14:56] Yeah. And so that, you know, with being able [00:15:00] to change and use flexible seating, some kids don’t do well on balls. Right. Some kids maybe need to sit with a lap weighted lap pad on their lap or their neck to feel a little bit more, you know, to stay in place, to feel a little bit more grounded that way I’ve had some teachers use some really great, they’ve gone to the thrift store and found low tables, like, or cut off legs to a coffee table and they sit while they’re kneeling on a pillow at the coffee table or some kids, She they’ve taped work underneath her desks so they can write that way and, taping off their area.

[00:15:32] You’re using that painter’s tape, especially now. I’m sure that everybody’s kind of wanting with COVID them to stay in their spots. So painters tape is a great thing. Yeah. You know, otherwise too. So like Mark, so they know, okay, I can stand at my desk and this is my boundaries. I know this is where I need to stay in order to get my work done and not bother my friend and that sort of thing.

[00:15:51] And so that’s a great thing to do. but a lot of times too, with that, you know, with, when we’re looking at that core strength, like you were just talking about, Not just doing the [00:16:00] fine motor centers, but incorporating some of the movement activities into their day. And some really specific ones that I find that kids now, because I do feel like they spend a lot of time flexed in that flex position on a device and they then are, Not able to sit up nice and tall in their seat, or they’re wanting to lean, or they can’t sit up at circle time.

[00:16:21] They’re wanting to lie down. So it’s a practice doing it wrong. Yeah. Please practice doing it. Right. Because then your body will feel, it will feel right when you’re doing it right. Instead of it will feel right when you’re doing it wrong. So, and it will, and your body will that in your muscles, hold that muscle memory.

[00:16:37] And you’ll start to remember what it feels like. And so, I call it. Superman is one of them. So I say they can do Superman, which is lying on your tummy, arms, extended out in front of you, legs extended out and back, and then lift up and try to hold that position. I would say most. I know don’t watch me do it.

[00:16:58] No, [00:17:00] I would say like, is there a YouTube video? So exactly. a lot of kids. can hold that position for only five seconds last 10 seconds. And typically that’s young for 30 seconds. They should be able to hold it for 30 seconds. And so they really struggle. The other one is called. I call it great brain break.

[00:17:19] Oh, it’s perfect. And then the other one is cocoon. And which I call that’s you lie on your back, knees, flexed up towards your chest, arms, go across your chest, holding onto your shoulders, and then your head comes up and you don’t, it’s not like a sit up, but you just hold it in that position also again, same count, same.

[00:17:36] You want them to work their way back up to 30. And that’s what I always tell them. I kind of give them a little challenge. And then the last one I’d like to do is also plank. So I try to just keep three there’s more. But when I go in first to a classroom at our beginning of the. The school year, you would be surprised how many kids can’t motor plan their body to get into those positions, even with the demonstration holding those positions.

[00:17:57] And so it’s kind of nice. And if I can go [00:18:00] in, I like to go in and start off with, you know, showing them those exercises and then the teacher carries them out. Throughout the rest of the week. Sometimes she assigns a leader. Somebody else in the classroom gets to be the leader for the exercises. I hope we’d have like a poster.

[00:18:13] So what a great part of like your morning absolutely. Your morning routine. And that’s integrated in one of the teachers that I used to work with. That’s exactly. See what she would do. And then we would end actually on, on some mindfulness kind of things. Yeah. So we called it a move. You can call it a movement and mindfulness group, and then they were ready for the day.

[00:18:32] And so she just incorporated it each day. And then eventually the, the physical education teacher, the PE teacher was interested in wanting to do some correlation to be what are, is there a correlation between kids that can hold these positions and struggles that they’re having with reading and writing?

[00:18:47] And what if we improve these? Are we going to see improvements? You know? So they were just getting ready to start some of those kinds of activities to incorporate it daily. And, 

[00:18:57] Angie K Host: [00:18:57] that’s the key to it is every day. [00:19:00] It just put it into your morning routine or whatever routine. Absolutely. Right after lunch or, yeah.

[00:19:06]you know, and that is, if you make it part of the routine, they’re not going to let you move forward today, tell you,

[00:19:13] Angie H- Guest: [00:19:13] and you know, I would have kids stop me in the hall. Guess what? Miss Angie, I made it to this number, come see us in our classroom. Now we’ve made it to this, or, you know, just giving them little challenges like that.

[00:19:24] And you do see, you know, a change in their strength and being able to sit up for longer and tolerate more at their desk. And they see themselves as strong too. Sometimes when you see kids, like, I’m just so tired, I’m just like, Be strong. And they’re like, ah, yeah.

[00:19:41] Cause you have those kids that are kind of the.

[00:19:43] Sluggish not easy to get moving, and then you have the high movers and shakers. And so it’s kind of like, can balance out both of those and give them some input to their muscles and their joints in their body to give them release some of those chemicals to help them be able to even, you know, working on [00:20:00] some calming and focusing and those kinds of things.

[00:20:02] Angie K Host: [00:20:02] Yeah. I love that. Yeah. I was thinking when you’re talking about the flexible seating. That I’ve heard, teachers are like, well, everybody’s going to want to have their paper on the yes. But I always found that in my classroom that, yeah, everybody wanted to do it at first, but then. Kids always will show you what they need.

[00:20:27] Absolutely. Actually, I have that written down. Yeah. Show you what they need. Absolutely. Yeah. We’ll request it. Yup. And their little friend next to them. We’ll try it out. But in about five minutes, there’ll be like, can I get a clipboard? Yeah. Yes. Right. You can’t, you don’t have to lay under the table. Right?

[00:20:42] Where’s your other little guy he’s like, can I lay under the table for this one? Right? Sure, exactly. They will. They will tell you what you need, what they need. Yep. They will.

[00:20:52]Angie H- Guest: [00:20:52] I find that all the time, especially at the beginning of the school year. You know, noise, canceling headphones are hot, the [00:21:00] fidgets, the, you know, play with it.

[00:21:02] You do experience it, everybody. Absolutely. Because they’ll just, if you say no, that’s the, that’s it tell they just can’t just get the headphones. Right. You know? But, but if you, you just allow them to. Choose they will choose what’s right. What’s right for them. And you just kind of have to be patient with it because it may T it might not happen in a day.

[00:21:25] It might happen in a week, but eventually you’re going to you’re it’s going to weed out who needs what? And they’re gonna be like, yeah, I don’t really need that. 

[00:21:32] Angie K Host: [00:21:32] Teaching’s long game.

[00:21:32]Angie H- Guest: [00:21:32] It is. Oh, for sure. Most definitely. Yeah. Yeah, no, I completely have found that also. And, you know, and, and if it then is becoming a toy and a distraction, then it’s not the right tool. Right.

[00:21:44] Then you have to move on to the next thing and be okay, okay. With that. Or they, as I’ve had kids, then yeah, they’d really do need it, but then they just can’t stop themselves from abusing that. So they’ve lost it for a few minutes, but they have that ability to get it back.

[00:21:58] I always tell them that you have, you know, [00:22:00] you can earn that back because I know you need it, but yeah. These, you know, always being explicit in what are the rules with the chairs, the fidgets, the, you know, whatever tool they’re choosing. There are rules and expectations for how those can be used within the classroom and just have to be taught when you bring them out.

[00:22:18] And again, and again, exactly over and over and over as part of the game. Exactly. So, yeah, so I think within the school that just so. I mean, each kid is so different now, you know, and not, not that they aren’t, but it’s just like teaching is different now. Like you are teaching to a different type of student right now.

[00:22:38]and so it’s harder when you’re trying to compete with, I feel like they’re used a screen. That’s used to giving them bombarding with, you know, visuals all the time and something’s always happening. And then you come into a classroom and you have to learn. To sit and listen and be patient and attend and figure out all those kinds of things.

[00:22:57] That’s really hard to get that [00:23:00] self-regulation piece to figure that out of how do I separate those kinds of things and the more practice they just do, they just absolutely need more practice and some need more tools than others. And that’s okay. And figuring, helping figure that out. And that’s why …

[00:23:13] would an OT. work in the classroom or would it be a pullout or a combination of both? What, what do you usually see in it, for instance? Yeah. So when it’s just the screen where that’s, and that’s kind of like when a student is in the pre-referral process of you, they are having difficulties more. then you’re, you know, you’re thinking, Oh, there might be, need to look a little deeper and see what’s going on.

[00:23:36] So that’s when it’s hard on a teacher too. Cause they’re trying to keep track of, okay, what kind of interventions am I giving? Cause there has to be, there’s a whole process of like six weeks of intervention with one with, and to be, you know, diligent about that, what you’re, providing for interventions.

[00:23:52] So proving, okay. I’ve tried this intervention. So that would be the same thing I would kind of go in and say, okay, let’s try it. [00:24:00] Pencil grip. Let’s try this kind of paper. let’s do maybe when you do a small group pull out, maybe they’re doing a different type of writing program to learn their letters.

[00:24:08] Maybe they’re doing more fine motor skills, and then kind of going along with, if they’re doing the interventions for reading as well. So that’s kind of being tracked and then reassessing it. And it seems like a long in a school that seems like a long time, six weeks. When you have a kid that’s struggling, that’s all, it seems like a long time, but, and then.

[00:24:27] Have to go through with, okay, those are working. We’re going to go for another six and then that’s going to tell us, okay, they’re just going to keep making progress because you don’t also want to override identity. Like if they really truly are needing extra time, different interventions, then that’s working for them.

[00:24:43] If it isn’t then reassessing always there’s some other types of interventions we should be doing. And that goes on for another six weeks. And then we decide, okay, those still not making progress. Then it’s time to go for an evaluation. So then that’s when that’s when also the resource specialist [00:25:00] would be assessing the reading skills and the school psychologist would be involved a real team team effort.

[00:25:05] And then, I would also ask for, to be a part of that evaluation team. And then should the student qualify for services? I have done both. I’ve done both. Pulling them out of the classroom and which is typical for younger kids because they need some more explicit, direct instruction. if they’re not making progress in the classroom, so they need some pullout time, but also, you know, where I’m at now, like with at Shodair, I get to be in one of their day treatment programs.

[00:25:32] And that gives me a whole different perspective when you’re in the classroom, seeing what’s going on and being able to help out that way as well. You know, so you can do a little bit of, and sometimes there’s just consult services as well, but, that’s what would happen if they evaluated then seen by an occupational therapist.

[00:25:50] And then there’s a lot of times though, that just by doing, going in and doing some screening and giving those kindergartners some extra time that benifit that, and, you know, [00:26:00] benefit of time and maybe some at home work. Absolutely. Yeah. Sending some I’ve send ideas,for activities at home. And a lot of times I try to send things that are fun, fun ways, you know, the multisensory things of how to form letters without actually holding onto a pencil with, you know, Shave cream playdough, the typical, what kinds of things that you would do?

[00:26:21]so they can also maybe try to get some work done at home that doesn’t always happen. I mean, that would be ideal at home is busy, easy also. So, but yeah, would be, but I would say a lot of times there are kids that then. You know, just to build up on those fine motor skills. And, you know, I think a lot is expected of especially actually kindergarteners right now.

[00:26:42] And they come in little and I mean, I’ve even seen, x-ray, they’ve some, there’s been a site that I follow that they post x-rays of like a five-year-old hands compared to a seven or eight year old hands. And then the difference is huge. So no, they, you know, that’s why they’re not meant to be holding onto a [00:27:00] pencil.

[00:27:00] To form a letter, which is a lot putting a lot of skills together. Not only my fine motor, but. How does that let her look, where do I start it on my paper? I’m worried about sitting in my chair and my friends talking to me like, you know, it’s putting a lot asking a lot of, so that’s why, you know, when I go meet with kindergarten teachers and I think the most success that I’ve had with, even with kindergarten teachers is the ones that just start developmentally.

[00:27:25] And, you know, there’s programs out there like handwriting without tears that just take it. Big line, little line, big curve, little curve, and it breaks it down and they go slow slowly. Cause you know, I think kids. I know it’s hard because then teachers feel that push and pull between, I know what I need to do developmentally, but then I’m also being pushed by standards and what we need to be measuring.

[00:27:46] And it’s not easy to be a teacher. It’s a struggle. It is a real is totally real. Yes. I feel for them immensely.

[00:27:56] Angie K Host: [00:27:56] Gosh, I’m [00:28:00] kind of speaking of the struggle. Do you have any like little tips or maybe strategies for when you are collecting that data during those six weeks for teachers? Because I know like, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s really hard to even jot three words down or a time or a, I don’t know. It’s, it’s tricky. Do you have any sort of,strategies.

[00:28:26] Angie H- Guest: [00:28:26] I’ve what I’ve done and I’m just looking at for what I’ve given, you know, recommendations for. I will, you know, put it down on a little chart, say, just say, did they use this.

[00:28:38] They were just like a little chart, just as little check. Did they use it? Did it work, you know, like plus or minus did it work? Did it not work? are they using as an, you know, for whatever we’re looking at? Are they carrying it over and only, or are they only using it in the group? Not when they go back to their desk.

[00:28:53]you know, kind of just something just to keep it, but simple because there is that there then is a lot of data [00:29:00] collection that has to happen. And when you have, it’s tricky kids in your classroom. So if I’m doing that, I try to keep it as simple as I can on, you know, I work a lot with the teacher to try to figure out what works best for them.

[00:29:12] Angie K Host: [00:29:12] I love the idea of just a little check just to check yeah.

[00:29:15] Angie H- Guest: [00:29:15] Or a plus or minus, and that it was done. and then they’ll, you know, often they’ll save worksheets for me so I can see which letters they did. We can kind of do a comparison from when we first, I first came in to. You know, at that the six week mark, are we seeing progress?

[00:29:31] What if we aren’t, what could we be doing differently? And I really do like, you know, working with the classroom. I mean, you have to, it’s a team you cannot, otherwise you’re not as an OT. I’m coming in briefly. They’re in the classroom. And that’s what I always I always try to make sure I remember is that they have the better read on the kid, you know, they just know.

[00:29:53] And so working with them and building the rapport with the teachers and you know, that it makes a big [00:30:00] difference. Yeah. Oh, and when you have good extra help, right. They’re probably like, right. Exactly. Could you do another exactly because then I would, you know, that’s another thing that wouldn’t be, it was as a part of the pre-referral process.

[00:30:18] If I’ve had, you know, if there’s three or four kids in that class, then I come in and be an extra body and to help, you know, facilitate a group. So we pull the group together that are at same, you know, level, and that just can

[00:30:32] Angie K Host: [00:30:32] We’re going to cut these circles out. Here we go.

[00:30:34] Angie H- Guest: [00:30:34] Exactly. Yeah. We’re going to that, that way it can be, you know, you’re kind of getting some data, you know, in the classroom rather than it just only being the teacher, then I can be in there to kind of also guide and give some other suggestions as we go along and yeah.

[00:30:50] Angie K Host: [00:30:50] What a great resource. So OT is, can be an amazing resource. I think it’s just simply. I mean, I’m thinking of all the things [00:31:00] that you’ve said in the last few minutes, I’m just like, holy cow.

[00:31:04]Angie H- Guest: [00:31:04] Then there’s the whole thing, too, of all those kids that, I mean that come through with some of the other little things I’ll get called on are, they I’m wondering if there’s something visual going on so I can try to say if, you know, look, are they looking, are they overwhelmed by what they’re seeing on a paper?

[00:31:18] Do we fold it in half and quarter it, do we need those, the little highlighted rulers that you know, for tracking right. Is it, maybe the overhead lighting, putting the covers on there are there, I know that gets them every time. And so kind of looking at some of the visual things looking at, okay, I have this kid, I have a note.

[00:31:39] It’s actually, I have a student right now that a teacher came and said, Look at this pencil, it looked like a Beaver ate chewed up like horribly orange broken half, or, you know, it’s like, so I, you know, working on, okay, what is going on? Do we need to do more, some heavy work, the pressure kinds of things.

[00:31:56] Cause that can be part of that need for chewing or is it because [00:32:00] attention to task because they are trying to attend and they’re sort of chewing on callers, chewing on their shirts. Sleeve or pencils or whatever they can find around them. Is it because they’re really trying to pay attention and they have to have something.

[00:32:13] So sometimes I’ll give them little pencil talks that are made for chewy at the end of their pencil, the pencil you chew on this two, and it’s clear, I have never heard of that. It’s clear tubing and you can buy it. And it does. And it’s looks the least, you know, some people worry about the chewies around the neck.

[00:32:31] That are like, sorry, you can get very cool ones that look like Lego pieces, but those often get taken off and left places. And then you have, you know, they’re wet. Yeah. Gross and whatever, you can get one for the end of the pencil and it doesn’t look any really any different than any, you know, what anybody else has, but just can give them that input.

[00:32:51] And if they’re looking for something to, you know, And then they’re not chewing up their pencil or breaking it or, you know, on their [00:33:00] sleeves or, you know, those kinds of things. Yeah. Yeah. And the other thing. Well, the other thing that I, one of the fidgets, I really like that, Is kind of not a fidget, but it, you know, it’s the kneadable erasers.

[00:33:11] Yeah. Those are perfect because they can also serve a purpose. So they’re not the putty, which can get a little out of control sometimes. And that’s one of those things that is great, a great tool that can also be used as a toy. So if you have a needle eraser, that’s something they’re gonna, you know, they’re using at their desk for their work, but it’s also giving some of them, some of that.

[00:33:28] Digit or tactile input that they need. I

[00:33:30] Angie K Host: [00:33:30] I’m remembering when I taught first grade in Havre, a very long time ago, I had a little girl, a girl at which I gave her play, not playdough, silly putty. Oh. And she would just, if she had that silly putty in her hand, she would just end up the kids that I can’t. And I actually bought dang silly putty for everybody.

[00:33:55] Right. The thing  but, she is, [00:34:00] she, it was like magic for her.

[00:34:03] Angie H- Guest: [00:34:03] There are different things. And so I’ve also put like pieces of Velcro underneath their desks, if they need something, just that those are the kids that just need that little bit of a tactile input. And does that help to like ground them? Just, yeah, it’s just a fidget to kind of keep, cause you know, you see those kids in.

[00:34:21]that just, they have to move to pay attention. They just have to move to pay attention. Yeah. And so if we can give them something, that’s kind of, you know, keep someone, their space and but is giving them a little bit of input so that they’re moving, but still paying attention. It’s ideal. Love it. Yeah.

[00:34:40] Wow. Yeah. So good. Yeah. I’m learning so much. Yeah.

[00:34:45] And then also, you know, just thinking too about the, when we talked about movement breaks doing, I like to call them “Anywhere Body Breaks”. So you can see they’re not anything you have to go to a sensory room or, you know, those can, you know, and then they’re out of class and some kids do need that.

[00:35:00] [00:34:59] Some kids do, especially once they are getting services, need that extra movement, extra heavy work and the therapy, you know, the therapy with them. The therapy ball or scooters or those kinds of things, but there’s some kids that, especially that if you just need anywhere, body breaks, it’s belly breathing.

[00:35:17] The pretzel. I would like to it’s the pretzel with wrapping their arms at what is what I call it. You know, like it’s part of brain gym, and also, you know, arm squeezes.  So squeezing their arm all the way up to 10, both sides have dots. I call them Dots and squeeze. And they put the, you put pressure through your hand or, you know, just.

[00:35:34] How often do you think a typical kindergartener would need to do a break. You know what I think if I think 15, 20 minutes tops, I mean for some sort of move and it doesn’t have to be big, it could be stand up in your spot and do 10 toe touch jumps up, jump ups, do 10 heel drops, really hard stomp your feet, really hard, you know, something, you know, and then bringing them [00:36:00] back.

[00:36:00] Because that’s why you, you know, if you want them, if you need to have them attend for a little bit longer to bring them back, not moving all over, the classroom.

[00:36:08]Angie K Host: [00:36:08] I think that’s why teachers get kind of scared of taking those because it’s hard to get them back, but the more you practice it actually and if you hook a reward to one, two, three, okay. Now let’s get back. And, and yeah, everybody got back in three seconds. Awesome. Right? Exactly. Get another point or whatever, especially with distance learning now. Yes. That 15, 20 minutes. That’s, that’s a really long time for them to sit and stare ata screen.

[00:36:35] Angie H- Guest: [00:36:35] And I would say whatever, I would say, I bet distance learning wise for it’s even, you know, you got more probably like 15, 10, 15 minutes because, you know, and then that’s just hard.

[00:36:47] They attended so much better after you do it too. It’s a reward in, in their focus. Right, right. Yep. And a lot of those kids too, with, you know, like I said, with crossing midline and you can just, and it’s simple things you [00:37:00] can just add while they’re at their desk standing up, doesn’t have to be big crispy little, then it brings them right back and it just gives them a little, yeah.

[00:37:08] Does it have to be five straps worth no stuff? Nope. It could be 30, 30 seconds. One minute. Absolutely. Yeah. Simple quick. And then come back. And it’s just sometimes just enough,

[00:37:18] Angie K Host: [00:37:18] in fact, in distance learning, maybe if you had a cute little timer that you can. You know, put it up and yeah. Yeah.

[00:37:25] Angie H- Guest: [00:37:25] There’s another, there’s all kinds of that.

[00:37:26] That I have an app on my phone that I like to use and it’s, you can set it for literally like 10 seconds up to, you know, I think 10 minutes and it it’s a disappearing timer. So at the end isn’t like an animal appears or a car, you know, and they make a noise and the whole time their guests, like they’re thinking, what’s it going to be?

[00:37:45] I wonder what, you know, like helps like, okay, we’re going to find out and. Yeah. I can see more of the picture that I want to see moving. Exactly.

[00:37:54] Angie K Host: [00:37:54] I don’t see you moving. Right. I’m going to hide the picture. Right, right. Exactly. That’s how I roll. [00:38:00] You work hard for me it will be good. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:05] Angie H- Guest: [00:38:05] And distance learning is. That has thrown a  whole,  another wrench into teaching and trying to, you know, where did you go? I’ve seen, I saw the really cute one too on Facebook, on a post that said, I always wondered where they went and it shows the boy there’s the computer and he’s hanging upside down underneath the desk.

[00:38:25] Like. The teacher and the teacher was like, Oh, I wondered what happened up here. That’s what he was doing. Hanging outside your body. Can’t see you.

[00:38:37]Angie K Host: [00:38:37] Okay. Hot seat. I’m getting my paper out here. Okay. Hot seat time. Favorite book, adult, or. You can do picture book or whatever.

[00:38:48] Angie H- Guest: [00:38:48] So I wouldn’t say that’s one of the books that I love to do with kids is the good night moon, of course, just because I know my poor kids as they were [00:39:00] little, like, of course I always have to do the OT thing, you know, making sure they’re scanning to find the, you know, look, are they finding everything, they naming everything or, you know, so that, I mean, it’s just a good book for all of those things too.

[00:39:13] Yeah. So good. Yeah. Oh, yeah. And they have like, holiday, versions or, you know? Oh yeah. So I would say, I would have to say that one. And then for, you know, I really thought about, do I do, I don’t know her an adult I’ll have some I’m I’ve been such an avid reader since I was little. I just don’t think I could pick one.

[00:39:33] Angie K Host: [00:39:33] Like picking a favorite kid.

[00:39:35]Angie H- Guest: [00:39:35] Exactly. You just can’t do it. Right.

[00:39:38]Angie K Host: [00:39:38] What are you currently reading?

[00:39:39]Angie H- Guest: [00:39:39] What am I currently reading? I am actually currently reading a book about, on philosophy about the existentialists. I know. Yeah.

[00:39:49] What’sit called?


[00:39:50] Angie K Host: [00:39:50] And then I’m, it’s hard even though Ah, The Existentialist Cafe.

[00:39:55] Angie H- Guest: [00:39:55] Cocktails at the existentialist cafe, I think. Yeah, it is. And so to check that. [00:40:00] Yeah. Yeah. So that’s one that I’m reading sounds amazing.

[00:40:05]Angie K Host: [00:40:05] Favorite classroom tool or favorite OT tool.

[00:40:08]Angie H- Guest: [00:40:08] You know, I, I don’t know that I have a favorite tool. I, I guess some of the things that I, I, one of the things that it’s been super easy that I’ve found as a tool is just I’ve kids seem to love the lap pads.

[00:40:23] And so I’ve had, you know, the luck of having either high school, classes make them for us. And, you know, they’ve had the material and the rice and they that way can donate to almost all. Yeah. The classrooms. And it’s just a little extra, you know, if they’re sitting have it in their lap, like I said, or around their neck and it just is, it’s something that’s just feels, you know, maybe putting a little lavender in it for a little smell and, you know, that’s kind of been one of my, I think  it’s extra special.

[00:40:51] Yeah. Not that it’s extra special, but I feel like it’s. They’re used a lot by, by students. They seem to be one of the things [00:41:00] that are, can be in demand

[00:41:01] Angie K Host: [00:41:01] and it doesn’t require a whole lot, a lot of commotion to know use it.

[00:41:06] Angie H- Guest: [00:41:06] Nope. Yeah. And usually they’ll noticed, okay, they’ll go grab it or stays at their desks.

[00:41:11] Angie K Host: [00:41:11] Yeah. Yeah. Oh, love it. Yeah. Okay. favorite part of your day, your school day or your just your day?

[00:41:19] Angie H- Guest: [00:41:19] Just, I would say I do a lot of driving. So part of my favorite part of my day is getting to listen to podcasts.

[00:41:26]Angie K Host: [00:41:26] Nice. And besides Rockin’ This Teacher Thing, which ones do you like?

[00:41:32]Angie H- Guest: [00:41:32] I actually like Sam Harris. Oh yeah. I actually listened to a lot of Joe Rogan. I liked Joe Rogan. I find him fascinating except now you got to listen to them on Spotify instead of Apple. I still listen to one to add an Apple. Somehow I still get his on Apple. I don’t know how.

[00:41:49] What I know, but I like the diversity of, you know, he has comedians to astrophysicist too, you know, it just to like come and I’ve, you know, I feel like [00:42:00] it’s like, I’ve got to learn a lot and to learn a lot about a variety of things.

[00:42:06] Angie K Host: [00:42:06] I think I heard some place that the average person has seven podcasts that they listen to.

[00:42:12] I’m like, I have, like, I had to go count mine. I’m like, I think I have like 33 or so. I don’t listen to them all all the time. Right? Yeah. Okay. Favorite stress Buster.

[00:42:28] Angie H- Guest: [00:42:28] Oh, favorite stress-buster. You know, and especially since Covid, walking, just going for walks as been, and I’m lucky to live close to the Yellowstone river.

[00:42:40] And so I like to take, you know, that put in also then sometimes I put in my. Headphones sometimes I don’t, but just to just go and decompress that way, there’s, I’m not stuck at home to do some thinking. I have to do something. I, your only task is to walk and you know, that’s been one of [00:43:00] my favorite things that I’ve kind of, I used to run and now it’s walking. I’m older. No, I know.

[00:43:09] Angie K Host: [00:43:09] I tried running. That’s a really long story. Funniest thing never did or said, 

[00:43:15] Angie H- Guest: [00:43:15] I have one or there’s, you know, there’s every day there’s something, some are shareable. Some are not shareable. I know. there’s been, there was one, so I don’t know.

[00:43:26] Teachers will understand. It’s called the zones of regulation. And so it’s for those that might not know it’s teaching students emotions and what zone zone they’re in. Are they green ready to learn? Are they angry? Red, sad, blue. So, I had a student once that came to me and I said, well, so how are you feeling today?

[00:43:45] He’s like, I am in multiple zones today. And I just thought it was hilarious because you know what, it’s true. And you can be absolutely true. I was just the end. It’s the way he said it was just so he was very [00:44:00] heartfelt about it and it was just like, yup. You know, that is exactly. I’m sure you are multiple.

[00:44:05] Angie K Host: [00:44:05] That is wise, honestly.

[00:44:06] Angie H- Guest: [00:44:06] Yeah, exactly. I am in multiple zones right now.

[00:44:09]Angie K Host: [00:44:09] I think that’s what this whole Covid thing has it’s taught me. I can be happy and miserable. Right. All at the same. Exactly. Yeah. Oh, I love that. That was so wise kids.  Kids can be so wise.

[00:44:21]Angie H- Guest: [00:44:21] It makes you just stop and think. Oh yeah, dude, for real look at a different perspective. I mean, it’s pretty awesome.

[00:44:29] Angie K Host: [00:44:29] Goodness. Do you have a favorite art project?

[00:44:32] Angie H- Guest: [00:44:32] No, I don’t know. I actually do a lot of different art projects because that’s a great way to build fine motor skills. And so I kind of, I do art projects all the time. Okay. How about this glitter or no glitter? I am a, I am a girl. In moderation, glitter girl, and very strict moderation.

[00:44:53] And I don’t use it very often. Yeah. It’s a mess. That’s everywhere. And then you keep finding it everywhere.

[00:45:00] [00:45:00] Angie K Host: [00:45:00] Never go. Right. Years later, there’s glitter in my belly. Right. Literally I’ve had glitter in my bellybutton. Okay. Favorite smelly marker.

[00:45:09] Angie H- Guest: [00:45:09] I have to tell you this. It is, I found this the start of this school year, a marker pack that it’s their double-sided markers.

[00:45:17] And so they have some great. My favorite is peanut butter and jelly. Peanut butter on one side jelly on the other. I know. And there’s one, strawberry and banana there’s. Yeah. So each side has a different combo. yeah. One is cotton candy, one side. I don’t remember popcorn and something else. I don’t know.

[00:45:38] I should have looked closer, but peanut butter and jelly. My favorite. Right. I know exactly. There’s you can get anything.

[00:45:47] Angie K Host: [00:45:47] Now there’s something magical about the smelling marker though, right? There is it’s just magic, low or no cost reward for kids, you know,

[00:45:58]Angie H- Guest: [00:45:58] I, I feel like [00:46:00] even just offering. You get an extra recess, you, or you get to come and have lunch with me, or, you know, those are the simple things that kids really like.

[00:46:10] I mean, you know, of course I was there a treasure box and I don’t really do treasure boxes because I really do like the other or, you know, things that don’t cost anything. Yeah. Those are just as great. And I agree to build on lose building on some of those intrinsic, you know, what. It’s going to feel good.

[00:46:31] I get to go invite a friend to a recess or get to go sit with my teacher, or I get to, you know, just stay in the classroom with a friend or, you know, just small, small things like that, I think are the best rewards. Quite honestly.

[00:46:44]Angie K Host: [00:46:44] I agree. I agree. That’s why I have it in there. Cause that’s what usually people can, Have you ever come to work, dressed to somebody besides yourself?

[00:46:56] Angie H- Guest: [00:46:56] Yes. A lot. It’s a school [00:47:00] Halloween every year. Just about you name it. I’ve probably been, I think, I don’t know if I have, what was the hardest to pull off. Last the last year was the hardest. And I can’t even remember who I was because Angie Dailey, who you had on here, it was all Harry Potter characters.

[00:47:17] And so, so you were somebody who was a Harry Potter. She is going to be mad at me for not remembering professor. Dumbledore? No, she has the long, Oh, I don’t even last. They sent me to yeah. Harry Potter professor. Yeah. And so, you know, I’ve been a Ghostbuster, a witch. All the things. Oh, different things. Yeah.

[00:47:41] Every Halloween, whatever is in Vogue you are it.  You were exactly so good. Alright. Right.

[00:47:47] Angie K Host: [00:47:47] Well, thank you so much for coming and yeah. If anyone has any questions for Angie or, some. You know, issues that you would need some help with, with your students. [00:48:00] Give us a little comment and we’ll see if we can get an answer for you.

[00:48:03] Okay. Thanks. Thanks for having me

[00:48:10] Angie H- Guest: [00:48:10] Mike drop, right. I mean, wow. That, that was pure gold. If you like today’s episode, and I know you did, please leave me a review in whatever way you listened to this podcast. And most of you listen then with Apple podcasts, but some of you are listening on Spotify. You’re coming right to the website, all those work.

[00:48:36] So please leave a review so that other teachers, like you can find this and we can help spread all this great knowledge. That you, learned today?

[00:48:50] Teacher friends. You are amazing. I know that the last few weeks have been super tough. So please take care of yourself. Give [00:49:00] yourself time to rest and relax, and breathe and laugh and be quiet and heal.  Your family and your students need you. And they need you whole and they need you healthy. If that means saying no to something that other people want you to say yes to, well,

[00:49:23] Lottie Dodd to them, you just tell them that you need, you know what? You don’t need to explain anything to them. Just say, no. All right. You don’t have to explain you, take care of yourself, no explanation or reason given.  You deserve to take care of you. And when you say no on thing, you’re really saying yes to something. And right now, you need to say yes to yourself, to your mental health, to your physical health, to your spiritual health.

[00:49:58] You need to [00:50:00] take care of you. And sometimes I know sometimes you’re the only one that can take care of yourself. Don’t rely on others. You do it for you because you matter you’re worth it. You have my permission. Okay. So if that means, like running your classroom a little differently or your life a little differently and saying no to some things that you’ve always said yes to then that’s what it means.

[00:50:28] This, this is a season that you really have to evaluate, what’s what’s going to make you a whole happy person. Okay. Because you’re the only person that we have. You’re the only you that we have and we need you, so being good to yourself, you don’t have to sacrifice yourself to save others. You don’t. All right.

[00:50:51] So I love you. God bless you. And I’ll see you in two weeks with some more Rockin’  This Teacher Thing. Bye. Bye [00:51:00] .s


Picture of 3 kids doing yoga plank and another Head shot of Angie Holmes, ocupational therapist and guest on Ep. 23 of Rockin' This Teacher Thing, in front of an autumn colored bush

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Angie K

Angie K

I love to help teachers create an amazing teacher life.
I've taught for 25+ years and I want to help you find joy and energy in each day.

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