Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rethinking Assessments during COVID-19 and Beyond

The pandemic has caused us to make many changes in our everyday life, causing businesses to re-think their business strategies to remain relevant and open during these challenging times. It’s no different for education. For centuries, “school” has remained consistent and almost unchanged overall. 

With people all over the world making and implementing new plans and new ways of doing things, we wanted to focus on the topic of assessment for this blog post.  

There are some hard questions that have been raised by educators about assessment:

  • Is formative and summative assessment necessary during the pandemic?
  • Do tests need to be proctored and/or timed?
  • Can it really be considered an assessment if students are allowed to use notes and resources to craft their answers?
  • Is it possible to move beyond assessing what students know to what students can do with their knowledge (apply, create, iterate, solve)?
  • Are we measuring what we value?
  • How can we use technology to assist in the creation of authentic and interactive assessments?

Matt Enlow’s tweet on December 2 started a thread that gave insight into changes that teachers were making and although there is no one size fits all assessment solution, there are ways in which we can grow and assess better.

Below are five ways we found that assessments and final exams might be given and adapted during COVID-19 and beyond. 

1. Student Choice

Design tasks that allow students to spiral back through the most important standards you have covered during the semester.  Let students earn points for the challenges that they take on. Here's a challenge board that teachers can customize.  Another way to approach this type of assessment is to list the standard and then it’s the student’s job to submit evidence that they understand or have mastered it. The length of time across the bottom of the board could be adjusted to grading periods or to the complexity of the challenge. An example of a product that might be submitted was created by high school student, Shirley Zhu, “Combinatorics: Sticks and Stones”  

2. Evidence of Mastery using Flipgrid 

Create a Slide Deck and have each slide with a standard or learning target that students can submit a flipgrid response to. Check out the Bingo Card he created for students and the Slide Deck with Instructions.  Students are presenting evidence and it’s in short snippets. If they are recording something in Flipgrid, it’s specific and not drawn out. They hit their target and move on to show evidence on the next standard in another Flipgrid submission.  Everything is linked in a slide deck which makes it organized and easy for the teacher to assess. 
     **Pro Tip: To make assessing the Flipgrid responses quick and efficient, organize students as individual topics in flipgrid.  Greg Kulowiec explains this hack here

3. Final Exams or Epic Finales by Anthony Crider
Could exam week become the best week of the year?  Anthony Crider took the traditional exam and flipped it upside down to create a culminating experience at the end of the semester.  After seeing a colleague tackle a final by asking one really good question, he set out to do the same thing. 
“It took me longer to come up with that one good question than it did to pick 100 questions for my introductory astronomy class. I also trimmed the question down to be as short as possible, requiring students to “unpack” it even before answering it. As one student wrote to me afterward, “I think I spent as much time figuring out what the question was asking as I did answering the question.” 
“The unspoken truth of education is that we don’t want students just to learn the material; we want them to want to learn the material. The final exam closes the book on a semester of learning. An epic finale primes the students to discuss the topic for weeks (or years) to come and to leave the classroom amid a bit more awesomeness than when they arrived.”

4. A Google-Proof Assessment
Developing an assessment that allows students to use their notes and the resources that are available to them on a daily basis.  It is a question that can not be directly answered via Google because it requires analysis, interpretation, and application. The web will be a very helpful resource for students in collecting information related to these questions, but search engines will not lead to easy answers. Use Blooms Digital Taxonomy, adapted by Andrew Churches, to help craft questions that cause the learner to create, evaluate and analyze. Creating these questions will take time and practice. Get with your team and divide the learning targets that you’ll be accessing and use this template to help develop your questions. 

5. ePortfolio - Collecting Evidence of Learning   

A portfolio allows the assessment to shift and have the learner own the assessment process.  John Spencer has a great collection of resources to help establish a portfolio process to collect evidence of learning and has included steps to take while curating a portfolio during distance learning. 

What sets people apart from others in the 21st century is knowing what to do with the information that is available to them, not simply having the information. Developing the skills of curation, evaluation, synthesis, and application should be goals within any assessment.   

How might the next assessment you develop look different? How would you lead teachers to re-think and change their assessments?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Be your own champion!


I think most educators are familiar with the TED talk by Rita Pierson. She boldly stated that every child deserves a champion. "Kids today" need adults to guide them, encourage them, and help them to become more than the child ever thought he or she could become. 

What I've come to realize through many years in education with many different experiences is that the ability to champion someone else starts with being our own champion. 

This is where the theory and the practice get muddled. In theory, we can say, "I can be my own champion." But in practice... it's a rollercoaster.

The knowing-doing gap is easily understood in a food / healthy eating analogy. We know the foods that are "good" for us (nutritious) and the ones that we should avoid based on our health and fitness goals. When we KNOW what we should eat and we choose to eat something that does not align with our goals, there's a gap there. A knowing-doing gap. (This gap can be found in most areas of our lives, sometimes wider, sometimes smaller... but this analogy seems to resonate with many, many people, whether they have a knowing-doing gap in this area or not.)

Have you noticed that when you get ready to be a champion and begin to work at being a champion, you are faced with cynics, dreamstealers, and complacency? 

Have you ever had someone to say to you, 

"Are you sure that you're the right person for that?"

Or what about... "I don't think that's going to work."

I once had a teacher say to me: "I never trust a female in an authority position." 

In the case of Rita Pierson's quote, "Every child deserves a champion..." maybe you've heard people say, 

"It IS what it IS with THOSE kids."   or   "If he doesn't care, why should I care?"

This past year, 2020, has shown us all kinds of difficulties and challenges. It has caused us to pivot in ways we didn't know we could, and it forced us to create a new dialogue and perspective about education, how we lead, and what we value. 

As we approach the close of the calendar year, we begin to think about what the rest of the school year will look like and how we will be different in 2021. I challenge all of you to join me in this journey. Let's be our own champions so that we can champion others. We are going to face negative people and those who think it can't be done. Let's change the narrative. Let's not wait on someone else to do that; let's take the lead on having hope, doing the work, and forging ahead. 

Over the holidays, my husband and I broke out the Table Topics conversation starters while we waited on friends to arrive, and the question on the card read (and I paraphrase), "If you could be witness to any sporting event, what would it be?" 

The event I chose was when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile record in 1956. Until Bannister did it, no one believed that the mile could be run in less than 4 minutes. 

What a legacy that has been left by Roger Bannister and Rita Pierson! It has me asking the question of myself, What legacy will you leave?

Teach like a champion. Walk like a champion. Talk like a champion. Lead like a champion. Work like a champion. Love like a champion.

Bring it on, 2021!  

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*This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

One Simple Habit to Improve Mood and Productivity

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you.

Are you finding it hard to be positive these days? 

With COVID cases being reported and impending shutdowns on the horizon again, it can be difficult to sustain positive thoughts and actions. 

With Thanksgiving approaching and it being our season of intentional gratitude, today I'm sharing a simple habit I learned about from Jon Gordon. Jon is a continual light in the world, spreading messages of inspiration and encouragement. He is a terrific writer, too, and has written many excellent books.

I first wrote about this habit back in 2018, when I shared a 15-week series on characteristics of compelled educators. 

Jon Gordon wrote about this habit in his book, The Positive Dog. 

Click HERE or the image above to 
order your copy or to give as a gift

I find myself needing to be very intentional about guarding my thoughts and self-talk while the stress of the pandemic looms about and fills every crevice of daily living. An intentional action can produce powerful results, especially when the action is consistent and purposeful. 

Jon Gordon recommends taking a Daily Thank You Walk.

He says, "Take a simple 10-30 minute walk each day and say out loud what you are thankful for. This will set you up for a positive day."

I want to challenge all of you to take a Daily Thank You Walk for at least 10 minutes for 10 days straight! 

It doesn't have to be anywhere perfect, and the weather doesn't have to be perfect. It can be indoors or outdoors, it can be around your yard, it can be down the street and back, it can be in your building where you work... before work, during your lunch break, during work, or after work. No place is off limits!

You can be alone or with a friend. Maybe there's someone else who would take the challenge with you and you can each share out loud what your grateful for. You can hold each other accountable, so when the negative self-talk creeps in and tries to talk you out of your daily thank you walk, you will be armed and ready to defeat it!

We can't be grateful and stressed at the same time, and when we combine gratitude and physical movement, you flood your body and your brain with positive energy. Let's get moving!

Related Gratitude Posts

Do you want more of Jon's books, or do you know of someone that this would be the perfect gift for? See the incredible limited edition box set below!

-The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy
-Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else
-The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work
-The Shark and the Goldfish: Positive Ways to Thrive During Waves of Change
-Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture
-The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work
-The Positive Dog: A Story About the Power of Positivity
-The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

How a Facebook timeline can help you reach your goals

For the past few days, I've been holding individual meetings with our new teachers at our school. We've hired some phenomenal teachers this year, and while I've visited their classrooms and had a few conversations here and there with them, I still was left wanting and needing to know them better personally and professionally.

Due to COVID, our New Teacher Orientation over the summer was much different than in the past, and our physical meetings and get-togethers have been limited this school year. We've been having virtual "chats" and learning in the Google Classroom for New Teachers, but as you can guess, it's just not the same as getting to look in each other's eyes, read body language, and feel the energy from each other when you're learning together.

I emailed all of the new teachers to let them know that I wanted to meet with them and I shared a link to my appointment calendar (I just learned how to create apointment slots in my Google calendar to share with others. Very neat trick!)

Here's what I included in my email:

I would like to schedule short, individual meetings with all of you beginning this Friday. These are 15-minute meetings, and I'd like to talk about

     - What motivates YOU

     - How can I support you in what you're doing

     - What do we (HHS) need to do better 

     - What's 1 thing you're grateful for right now

It was a conversation with one of our new teachers that led to writing and sharing this blog post. When I asked him, "What drives your engine? What motivates you?" He said that he loves learning and always wants to keep getting better and growing. I followed up by asking him if he had always been that way, even from a young age. 

What he said next was very cool. 

He said that a few years ago he was looking through his Facebook timeline, and he noticed that he seemed to be in the same place in life, doing the "same old thing," and he realized that he needed to make some changes and be intentional about what he was learning and doing to ensure that he was continuing to grow and evolve. 

...he was looking through his Facebook timeline, and he noticed that he seemed to be in the same place in life, doing the "same old thing,"

I thought that what he shared was so inspiring! If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I'm a planner and goal-setter, and the idea of using my social media timeline as a tool for goal setting really resonates with me. 

We're in the last quarter of 2020, and this is the time for us to be personally preparing for a new year of personal and professional growth. This weekend, I plan to review my timelines and take some notes on where I've been and where I would like to go. 

Here are the nitty-gritty questions that are a part of my goal-setting framework:

     -Where have I been?

     -Where am I now?

     -Where do I want to go?

     -What do I need to do to get there?

     -What do I need to learn to get there?

     -What speedbumps or roadblocks will I need to overcome?

     -Who will I need to help me get there?

     -Who can I help along the way?

Do you have a method to your goal-setting? I would love to hear from you in the comments below, or you can reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Why it's Important to Look for the Gifts [ blog post + podcast link]

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you.

Gratitude is more than a word. It's an action. And the research shows that it's beneficial for us to show it, express it, and live it. 

With 2020 nearing a close, there are many people who are looking forward to closing this chapter and opening a new one. I've expressed on many an occasion that I'm ready to drop-kick 2020 and bring in 2021! 

Throughout the year, we've experienced stories of loss, struggle, grief, and negativity. However, I would be remiss not to mention the gifts that have come about during the COVID crisis. 

Admittedly, there have been times during the COVID crisis that I've not been grateful. I've been angry, bored, selfish, and frustrated, and everything in between. I've done a lot of work during my teen and adult years on ignoring negative feelings that want to play over and over in my head. While I did experience those thoughts over these past months, I knew from the work I've done (and are still doing!) on myself that gratitude wins out. Every time.

Researchers have determined that gratitude does four things:

1. Gratitude disconnects us from toxic, negative emotions and the ruminating that often accompanies them. 

2. Expressing gratitude helps us even if we don’t explicitly share it with someone. 

3. The positive effects of gratitude writing compound like interest. You might not notice the benefit of a daily or weekly practice, but after several weeks and months, you will.

4. A gratitude practice trains the brain to be more in tune with experiencing gratitude — a positive plus a positive, equal more positives.


In the podcast episode "Looking for the Gifts" (linked below), my friend Allyson Apsey and I share with listeners some of the benefits we discovered during the pandemic. 

Allyson and I had connected with each other multiple times over the summer and into the start of the new school year, but none of the times were right for either of us to continue and/or record the next episode. As we geared up to get back to our podcast series, we intentionally chose to share positivity and joy we discovered during the chaos.


I would love to hear from you! What gifts did you discover during the COVID chaos? How do you practice gratitude? Leave me a comment below or connect with me on twitter

You can order Allyson's books by clicking on each picture below:


Related Posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

5 times you need to press the Pause button

Slowing down can be hard. If you work in a job that is fast-paced, demanding, or highly task-oriented, you can start to feel like a hamster on a wheel. If you're a "Type A" person with a healthy dose of perfectionism (Type 1 on the Enneagram), you may put pressure on yourself to constantly achieve and keep the wheel moving (and usually faster than the day before).

In today's connected world, with so much coming at us, we can sometimes feel a fight or flight response in reaction to the stress, "noise," and demands. If you're facing a fight or flight response, pressing the pause button is an option that shouldn't be overlooked.

Pressing the pause button is important because if we don't, life will come at us in the form of burnout, overwhelm, exhaustion, breakdown and/or illness. Maybe you've experienced a time when you got caught up in all the things and didn't take time to pause. Maybe you're there now, needing this message and needing to hit press pause. 

When should you hit the pause button?

1. When you're under the weather. Illness is a strong signal that perhaps you're overdoing it. It's your body's way of signaling to you to take a rest.

2. When you need to make an important decision. Whether it's to "sleep on it" or to give yourself time to make an intentional choice, hit the pause button during this time.

3. When you're not giving your best. When you know your standard of excellence you've set for yourself and realize that you're not living up to your own expectations, you probably need to hit the pause button. Re-evaluate and re-energize before taking on another task.

4. When the busy-ness leads to boredom. Spending time on menial tasks that don't lead to end results can be a sure sign of needing to hit the pause button and take time to re-visit priorities.

5. When you need a break. Consistently pushing yourself without time for rest and recovery can lead to burnout. 


What does hitting the pause button look like?

- It may be taking time for deep breathing

- It could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator

- It could mean taking a break from social media

- It may mean spending time doing something you love

- It could mean leaving the email in draft form instead of sending immediately

- It may be closing your office door and turning off the lights for a few minutes

- It might be a walk around the block, building, or parking lot

While you may not be able to slow the pace of your life, you may be able to put some calm in it by pressing the pause button at important and regular times. 

I would love to hear how you "Press Pause" in your own life. You can leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook

Related Posts:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Flipping Office Referrals from Discipline to Praise


Are you looking for a way to celebrate students? A way to recongize positive behavior? I've got a proven idea for you (that can also be used in a virtual setting), as well as an update on a most-read post from 2013. 

While a lot has happened since I wrote the original post about Praise Referrals, and I'm no longer the administrator for a grade-level at our school, we are still finding ways to sustain a culture of high expectations for positive behavior.

The original post is below, and you can read to the end to see how we've updated the process as well as an update on the student that was highlighted in the post. 

When I meet a parent of a freshmen, they often say, "My daughter/son is ________. I hope he/she never has to come to your office!" or "I guess if you don't know him/her, that's a good thing!"

In my job as the disciplinarian for the freshmen class, most of the students I see in my office are there for negative reasons. Often, my first personal encounter with a student is because he or she has violated the code of conduct... misbehaving in class, skipping class, cheating, out of dress code, etc. 

Fortunately for me and the students, I'm not a person who enjoys negativity. I WANT to know the students... the ones who are behaving and having consistently successful days as well as those who aren't. I find ways to meet students outside my office by talking to them in the hallways, cafeteria, classrooms, etc. 

After attending a session by Bloomfield High School at the annual conference for National Association of Secondary School Principals a few weeks ago, I found a mechanism by which we (grade-level principals) could see students in our office for a positive reason: Praise Referrals. At Bloomfield HS, teachers can "write up" students for positive reasons. I immediately knew that I wanted a copy of their form so that I could bring it back to our school. I emailed one of the presenters while I was in the session and requested a copy. Once I returned to school the next Monday, he had emailed me a copy of the form. Bingo!

While we do recognize Students of the Month (2 per grade level per month), Finley Character Recognition Award winners (7 per grade level), and classroom award winners (recognized at a breakfast in the spring), I still felt like at a school of nearly 2700 students we needed a way to recognize more students for the positive things they do. Now, staff members can recognize students positively throughout the year. When staff members send us grade-level principals a praise referral, we call the student to our office, shower them with praise, and make a positive phone call home. We collect the praise referrals and put them in a box, and at the end of each month we will have a drawing for prizes such as food coupons, iTunes gift cards, etc. and announce those winners over the intercom. 

In giving praise to students, I'm reminded to praise the process rather than the person. In a recent study, it was found that children who received more "process praise" felt as thought they could improve their intelligence, and they approached challenging tasks with a more positive attitude. I have a sign in my office that states, "Smart is not something you are. Smart is something you get by working hard."  

It's been fun to see the students faces as they come to my office then how their faces change when I tell them why they're there and then when I tell them I'm going to call their parents. I think they all float out of my office when they return to class. :) 

Here's what one student posted on Twitter:


How does your school recognize students for positive reasons?


“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.”

― BrenĂ© Brown

Today, our school uses a different but similar system to recognize students for positive behavior. We created a Google Form that aligns with our school's PBIS acronym, PRIDE: Productive, Respectful, Involved, Determined, Eager. 

When a student displays positive behavior, a teacher or staff member fills out the form about the student. The staff member has to enter the parent's email address in the form, and there is also a place to enter other comments. 

We use an add-on (Email Notifications for Google Forms) that will automatically send an email to the parent to let them know the positive comment that was written by the staff member. 

The email notifications have been a huge hit with the parents, and being able to use this process in our current virtual / blended learning setting has been a wonderful addition to our school year. 

What happened to the student in the original post? 


He's currently pursuing a degree in education, and has been working at our school this year as a long-term sub and assistant football coach.  We are thrilled to have him back at our school, and we are excited about his choice to be an educator and coach!

"We must model the behavior we want to see, and reward the positive behavior we want repeated."    

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Is 2020 the year we've been waiting for?

Back in June, I sent a Vox to my friend Debbie who also works at a large, public high school, and asked, "Have you listened to the recent Ali Brown podcast with Dafina Smith? We both listen to the weekly podcast and learn from the incredible women that Ali interviews each week. I shared in my Vox to Debbie, "They talk at the end of the podcast about 2020 and ask, "What if 2020 was just the year that we needed?"

By framing the question as a 'What if' question, it caught my attention, because I believe that 'What If' questions turn problems into possiblities. 

It was the first time I had heard someone talk about 2020 in a way that made me think differently about what was happening in the world, our country, our state, and our community. Believe me, there have been some scary and tragic events around COVID-19 and the pandemic. I definitely don't want to minimize the tragedies. I do want to be hopeful and also mindful that our purpose is bigger than the pandemic. 

Did you see the hopeful poem that went viral on Instagram? The writer, Leslie Dwight, begins like this: “A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow.”

I've been thinking about the things that we've done differently this year, the lessons we're learning, and the realizations that are coming to us. I want us to come out on the other side with possibilities and not just problems. I want us to keep pursuing excellence as we face these hurdles along the way. By asking 'What If' questions, it keeps my thinking forward and not dwelling on losses, status quo, and despair.

Here's my 2020 edition of 'What If' questions. What would you add?

What if I stand up and speak for those who are weak or can't defend themselves?

What if I speak up about my faith and stand for it?

What if I pursue a career that brings me daily happiness, even if it means changing careers?

What if we celebrate the things that we do have and stop wanting for the things that we don't?

What if I connect daily with someone online who does what I do professionally for moral support, encouragement, ideas, and affirmation?

What if we finally give up doing the things that we know are not healthy for us?

What if I seek to own and enjoy my journey instead of seeking "balance"?

What if we stopped doing half of the things that we've "always done"?

What if we come out of this year better than before?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Support Students' and Teachers' Mental Well-Being

This post is sponsored by WE Teachers, made possible by Walgreens. All opinions are my own.

One of the key reasons I started The Compelled Educator long ago was to create a space where I could share lessons learned, ideas, practices, and resources with others. My goal has always been to empower others in their journey to becoming the best version of themselves, which is why I'm so excited to share an incredible resource from WE Teachers and Walgreens with all of you!

Walgreens has partnered with WE Teachers to provide FREE resources to teachers all over the country. Times are changing, classroom needs are changing, and the free resources come at a perfect time as we are working through the chaos of a pandemic and trying to continue to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of students. It is a crucial time to help students, ourselves, and our colleagues to feel safe.

There are seven modules from WE Teachers that serve as professional resources for trauma-informed classrooms (The modules are also available in Spanish)

  • Introduction Module
  • Mental Well Being
  • Bullying
  • A Pandemic-Informed Community
  • Poverty
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Youth Violence

All of the free resources can be found at, where educators will find curriculum resources, online courses, online community forums, and other virtual learning opportunities. It's basically a one-stop shop to educate, support, and equip teachers!

WE Teachers TeacherHub

My interest lies with ALL of the modules, but I want to share about one in particular, the Mental Well-being Module. I fully believe that we can't help others until we help ourselves. 

Remember what the flight attendant tells you: Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put their oxygen masks on.

The Mental Well-being Module is chock-full of good and actionable information. The first section helps to create a common understanding by sharing facts and statistics, definitions, and protective and risk factors. I love how WE Teachers has created a section that is devoted to creating a comprehensive foundation for all of us as we learn to support another person's well-being.

The next two sections are about mental health challenges and how to respond to students and nurture their well-being. A neat feature that is included is a Classroom Check-Up Tool. It's a chart that shares signs of normal development in children ages 5 to 18 and provides suggestions on how to support students at the different age levels. I also appreciated the section about social media and well-being. While there are many positive things that can come out of social media, it can also be a place that can cause problems for our youth and even be dangerous for them and their well-being.

The last section (before Resources) is titled, The Importance of Teacher Mental Well-Being. This is a section that I was greatly interested in, and it provided a ton of self-care tips and resources to help us help ourselves during trying times. 

This year is going to be like no other year in my 25+ years in education. I want to be ready and equipped for ALL of the curve balls, and I know how important it will be for me to be extra prepared to support our students and staff and their well-being during the pandemic. WE Teachers, in partnership with Walgreens, has created some phenomenal resources for us as educators. I will be using and sharing the modules at my school this year, and I encourage all educators to get all 7 modules at the WE Teachers Hub

In addition to providing a learning hub, WE Teachers also recognizes teachers that go above and beyond! The WE Teachers Award is a $500 Walgreens gift card. (How could you use $500 for your class needs??) You can nominate yourself or someone else who deserves it. 

Learn more and start the application or nomination process for teachers who go above and beyond

Direct application link

Direct nomination link

Note: The 2020-2021 application process is opening as of July 1st and awards are granted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Use the links above to nominate yourself or someone else!

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