Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In the Art Room: A Unit on Line for Kindergarten

Completed kindergarten masterpieces. That's right, I said kindergarten. The under-6 set is knockin' it outta the park, er, art room so far this year and I couldn't be more thrilled.
What I'm about to present to you right here is one Big Fat Hairy kindergarten unit on line. And color. Oh, and shape, sculpture and good craftsmanship, i.e. how-not-to-drive-the-art-teacher-crazy(-er)-by-not-grinding-your-paintbrush-into-the-paper. Because she no like-y. And, in my art room, keeping me sane-ish is at the top of my Learning Targets. Which is way harder than you could ever imagine. Just ask the kids.
Do you recall those wild and wacky paintings created on the first days of school in this post? Those large paintings have come in very handy as backdrops for our displays as you can see here.
Without getting into all of that, let's chat about the aforementioned Line Unit, shall we? I'm not gonna lie, I do this same ole project with kindergarten at the beginning of every year. Which is unusual for me because with all the other grade levels, I love to change things up. Not so with kinder'town for a coupla reasons: A. they love it; B. it covers a whole batch o' skills/techniques/vocabulary/routines and C. let's be honest, coming up with projects that the little ones can master is not my forte. So when I find something that works, I stick with it.
So on our very first day of art, after introducing ourselves to one another and an abbreviated discussion of rules and consequences (because, after all, these kids are five. They still have baby fluff, suck their thumbs and wet their pants routinely. Rules and consequences mean nada. A wicked stare and a "we don't do that in kindergarten" usually does the trick), I like to dive head first into the art-making swimmin' hole. Which means we create our very first sculpture.
Now if you're an old warhorse at this art teacher game, this lesson is nothing new to you. You might wanna skip on down to the bottom where I discuss such things as pinwheel portrait painting and bottomless basket weaving (don't worry newbies, they'll be gone a while. I don't even know what that stuff is!). For the rest of ya, lemme tell you how I go about teaching this line sculpture lesson: 
  • First of all, we have a little chat about the difference between flat two-dimensional artwork and sculptures. After looking at some images of sculptures, we chat about the ones we are familiar with (ole Lady Liberty almost always comes up) and discuss how a sculpture is something we can see (rotating body at waist for emphasis) all...the way...around.
  • I then tell 'em that we are going to create a sculpture with a bunch of straight lines (strips of paper cut 1" X 9" but sizes can vary). I ask them how to make a flat piece of paper pop out of their sculpture base (aka the bottom paper) to which they usually answer "glue!" It's at this point that I tell 'em that if they want their sculpture to stand, just like us, it must have feet.
  • I demonstrate creating a small fold at the ends of the strip of paper thus creating feet. It's there that glue is applied (to which the strip of paper always responds, "oohh, that tickles my feet! Ohhh, that glue is soo cold!" Yes, the paper talks to us. It's kindergarten, people. They eat this stuff up). Once the glue is applied, I show the kids how to hold the paper in place on the base for about 10 seconds. 
  • From there, I demonstrate adding more paper strips to the sculpture base on top, below, behind or beside the first strip. Then I turn the kids loose on their on sculptures. 
  • The following art class, I introduce more lines. I demonstrate folding a zigzag line, wrapping a strip of paper around my pencil to create a spiral and creating a loop de loop. 
  • I also chat about how lines create shapes and demonstrate creating a circle by gluing one end of the strip to the other. With that circle, so many other shapes can be created with a pinch. Pinch the circle once and you have a teardrop! Pinch it again and you have an ellipse! One more time, it's a triangle! Anther pinch and you have a square.
  • From there, the kids go nuts on their sculptures creating lines, shapes and whatever else they can dream up.
Here! Lemme walk you through it.
On the third day of art class, I get real serious about the whole line thing. We look at each of these snake-y lines on the poster I created way back in first-year-art-teacher-land and then locate them on works of art. Any ole Kandinsky works great for this. It's at this point I introduce to the kids a lil poem I wrote some years ago about a snake named Larry that can morph his body into any line he likes. It goes a lil sumpin like this (complete with hand motions, you better believe it!):
Larry the Line
Is a friend of mine
(creating a snake by opening the fingers of your hand, puppet style and there's your snake!)
He can make three
(hold up a three with your fingers)
Straight lines for me!
Ver-tickle
(create a vertical line with your forearm)
Diagonal and horizontal!
(pantomime each)
Any curve, he can learn
With a twist and a turn.
When he's out of his tangle
he makes a great...angle.
(created by placing your hand on your hip and pointing to your elbow)
Any line, he can make
After all, he's a snake!
After learning the Larry the Line poem, I bust out this huge cheesey carnival snake I got years ago that happens to have a little rattle in his tail. I convince the kids that he's real (they're kindergarten so they totally buy it) and maneuver him around to create a variety of lines. If the kids guess the name of the line correctly, I let them "rattle" Larry's tail. They eat it up and learn the names of lines to boot.
After that, I give a little demo on painting. If you've read this blog for five minutes, you know that when painting, I liken the bristles of the paint brush to a ballerina: It always dances on it's toes, it never scoots around on it's bottom. After I demonstrate painting each of Larry's lines, the kids go to their seats and we do a little guided painting. Meaning, I paint and they follow along.
This school year, I have my kindergarten for 45 minutes every six days (which is different than my usual 30 minute classes, twice every six days...confused yet? That makes two of us). That slightly longer block of time makes a world of a difference in that we can accomplish so much! On the fourth day of this unit, we examine Kandinsky again and this time chat about how influenced he was by music. The kids were told that they were going to be painting a nonobjective picture of lines while listening to Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev. If you're not familiar, this piece of music introduces each character of Peter and the Wolf with a different instrument. Each character really comes to life with the music and makes for great line paintings.
On that day, the children were only given black paint. As they painted to the music, you could see them trying to capture each character in line. Once a painting was finished, I'd take it from them and hand them a new sheet of white paper. By the end of art class, each child had painted about three black and white line pictures.
The following art class, I introduced the kids to tempra cakes which you can see best a coupla photos ago. My focus was on using the art materials properly and exploration of color. I wrote about this particular painting lesson pretty extensively last year in this blog post. In that lesson, we didn't paint to music and we focused some on pattern in a follow up lesson.
Here's a collection of their finished pieces. I love how wild, bright and unique each one is, just like the artists themselves.
On the sixth and final day of this unit, the kids were introduced to Roy G. Biv and watercolor paint. Since the last lesson had just been about exploring with color and proper use of painting supplies, I really wanted to focus on the order of the colors in the rainbow. My hat helped them remember the order (even if it is missing the "B" in Roy G. Biv) as did the large rainbow I have mounted on my easel. And in case you're dying to get a rainbow hat of your own, mine is from amazon. Yes, really.
Have you read this book? I picked it up years ago at the thrift store and it's pretty cute. As you turn each page, an additional color of ribbon is added to the ribbon rainbow in the book, hence the "Magic Ribbon Book" label at the bottom.

After that chat, I demonstrate to the children how to use watercolor paints. This is an easy transition from the tempra cakes as the cleaning-your-brush-before-getting-another-color is exactly the same. We do chat about the differences between the two mediums (you know, watercolor being more translucent) and also discuss painting in Roy G. Biv order. After that demo, the kids returned to their seats with their paintings created on that third day of art class and rainbow-ize the thing. This is the first year I've added this portion to the line unit and I love the result.

And there you have it. One Big Fat Hairy line/shape/color/RoyG.Biv/sculpture/abstract Unit for the wee ones. I know these lessons are nothing new...so I'd love to hear how you approach teaching line. Also, for the sake of space, I may have not answered all of your how-you-teach-that questions, so feel free to email me or leave a comment. I may or may not get back to you. Just sayin'.

59 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this amazing line unit! As my 2nd year of teaching art, still learning the ropes here! I've been practicing a lot of shapes and cutting and pasting skills, but not enough line! This is perfect. Thanks again!

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    1. Yay! So glad you could find it helpful. Have fun :)

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  2. Fabulous unit! It's amazing how you are able to pack in all the concepts and vocabulary while keeping the party rolling with all that the painting and pasting going on. I love the use of music, too, and I'm sure the artists enjoy it.

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  3. I also start with lines with the kinders! We did the paper sculptures about two weeks ago... and I thought I was the only one who called the folded tabs for gluing feet. Great minds and all :)

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  4. I wish I had seen this sooner. This is awesome!

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  5. Anonymous2/15/2014

    Fantastic unit - just what I was starting with my new class of wee ones, (first time I've taught this age group!) - so easy to follow and EXACTLY what I wanted - thanks so much for sharing your resource: means I don't have to reinvent the wheel ;) tracy from NZ

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    1. Yay!! I hope you and the kids have fun -- it's sooo nice not to have to reinvent the wheel :)

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  6. Love the lesson but I REALLY love the rainbow hat.

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  7. Anonymous5/08/2014

    Just black tempera? Black watercolor?

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  8. I love the music and art tie in!

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  9. Anonymous8/18/2014

    Hi Cassie,

    First of all I want to say how much I loved your lesson about line for the kindergarteners. I have been a 4th grade teacher for 6 years, but I recently became an art teacher and now I see students from preschool all the way to 5th grade. My idea was to focus my lessons on the elements of art, but it is so hard once I find a lesson to adapt it to older kids or younger kids (if that makes sense). I wanted to know if you had any suggestions/ideas I could do to make this year worthwhile for the kiddos.

    Thank you so much!

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    1. Hi! I believe I may have gotten an email from you about this question, is that right? My apologies if that was you and I failed to get back to you. I actually have been giving some thought to your question. There's a couple of great books out there that might help you...one especially does exactly what you are thinking but it's at school and I cannot think of the title! So I'll get back to you. Other books that you might consider are Children and Painting by Cathy Topal and Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks. Mona Brooks also writes another book for older children too. All those books can be found on amazon and I bet you could get 'em used. I'll get back to you on the other title. Thanks for writing!

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  10. Anonymous8/19/2014

    Did you use tempera paint or watercolor for the paintings?

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    1. Hi! We used tempera cakes on the paintings that are square and abstract and watercolor paint on the ones that are rectangular and where I taught them to paint specific lines. I hope that makes sense!

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  11. Anonymous8/20/2014

    I love this unit - it looks like such fun! Did you use glue sticks for the sculptures? I never use glue sticks but hesitate to break out the glue bottles at the beginning of the year with the little guys. Do you have any tricks for avoiding big puddles of glue?

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    1. Hi! I don't use glue sticks (they never hold!) or glue bottles (they clog up!) instead I pour a little glue into small cups and the kids apply the glue with a "glue brush". For a glue brush, I use those junky dollar store paint brushes. The kids simply paint a small amount of glue onto their surface. I hope that helps!

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    2. Anonymous9/05/2014

      Great to see the glue post reply that you wrote to someone else - as glue bottles for K in the first week would be crazyyy!

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    3. I'm the first one that asked about the glue - I actually just did this and did use glue bottles but told them to use a "lady bug size dot of glue" like I always do, and gave them a ladybug stamp on their hand if they followed the directions. It worked pretty well since they REALLY wanted that stamp!

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  12. Kristin9/07/2014

    Love this but feeling a little overwhelmed (not an art teacher but a kinder teacher trying to incorporate art time). Do you use the same paper sculpture from day 1 to day 2?

    So day one is straight lines (which I'm assuming the papers fall over and are no longer straight lines). And day two you add zigzag and curvy lines? Or is day two a whole new sculpture?

    Does this even make sense?! ha

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    1. Hi Kristin! YES! You've got it! Day one, let's just learn the process of making the paper adhere to the surface and make curved lines (trust me, it will keep them entertained for hours ... or 30 minutes, whatever you've got)...and then the next day, zigzags, loops, etc. Don't feel overwhelmed! Remember, it's kindergarten. Have fun and enjoy it -- I know they will!

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  13. You continue to amaze me, Cassie. Great energy! Super lesson!
    You rock! Your students and school district are fortunate to have a teacher such as you.
    Thanks! John Lentine, ART's Diner

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  14. Love you lessons! Just wondering how you had them paint with black watercolors first and then rainbowized it WITHOUT the black paint bleeding into the colors? Thanks

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  15. Cassie, thank you thank you THANK YOU! My daughter attends a school with no art class, oh how it breaks my heart, but this line unit mends it some. I'm glad I found your blog it's fabulous.

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  16. thanks for this! it is GREAT!!

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  17. What would you suggest for someone with no drying rack? I want to do paint, but have little space to let stuff dry! I have six classes a day with 24-29 kids per class.

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  18. Anonymous8/16/2015

    with no dryig rack for years I used cloths line and cloths pin.

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  19. Anonymous8/16/2015

    Cassie, are you a glue stick or glue bottle person with those little ones?

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  20. Hi Cassie,
    Love your blog! I'm putting together a curriculum for K-2 grades and have found your posts inspiring. A question about how you store your tempera cakes: do you have each color in a separate plastic container with a lid?

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  21. Firstly, I can totally relate to your chaotic scheduling. That was my life last school year! Also, I am totally having the same issues with the kindy kids. I attempted a project yesterday dealing with lines that I thought for sure would be in their skill range. NOPE. So today I am completely changing what my original plans were. Not gonna lie, I am going to be stealing this project, minus the great outfits of course. Kindergarten is a hard breed to teach that is for sure.

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  22. Hi Cassie!
    I did this with the 1st graders last year, they loved it! Now I am going to move it down a grade and do it with the kindergarten class. I know they will love it!
    I wanted to tell you there is an amazing sculpture that looks like these paper sculptures in the Discovery Garden at
    the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The sculpture is "Noodles & Doodles" by Matthew Placzek. Here is a link to the sculpture. http://matthewplaczek.com/sculptures/organic-sculptures/noodles-doodles-ribbon-sculpture/
    Enjoy!

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  23. Caitlin D10/13/2015

    Hi! I'm a fresh-out-of-college kindergarten art teacher and I just wanted to say thanks so much for this blog! You mustered up so much inspiration for me and my little ones! I'm excited now to introduce the element of line, as we already discussed color (but now I definitely have to introduce Roy G. Biv!)

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  24. I did this with my Infants a few weeks ago -4-5 year old .They look great .They all drew their own lines but shared the painting in .Made a great wall display for School open day .

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  25. I meant to add that we took it one step further the following week by printing in black on top with found objects .They had great fun especially with the little toy cars and trucks that they drove over in wavy lines .Needless to say I had a lot of washing up to do ! But it was so worth it .

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  26. Hey Cassie,
    I'm in the Art teacher FB group with you. I tried out the paper lesson above today with my kinders and made "Lisa" the snake (we are an all girls school). They went gaga for it and I can't thank you enough for the inspiration. Some of my students (specifically weaving afterschool) already know your name. Thanks for always sharing and being so energetic!

    Holly Brown NYC

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  27. Thank you!!! I love this! I'm teaching art to k-12, second year in! I have my little guy for kinder, so wanting to make it really special...I used everything you had done with kinder including a snake!!! and it was so magical! The kids ask for Larry every day as I pass them in the hall. I catch my kid singing the line poem and doing the hand motions at home, and the kids are "spying" lines EVERYWHERE! THANK YOU! I needed the inspiration!!!

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    1. YAY!! That makes me so happy!! Thank you for letting me know :)

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  28. You are incredible!
    I love your poem. I will definitely try to use it with my little ones. I don't think I can do it as good and entertaining as you do but Ill do my best.
    Love your ideas. Thank you for sharing them.

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  29. Amazing! What a great lesson.

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  30. Anonymous11/08/2015

    You are FANTASTIC! Thank you so much for your super-fun, highly engaging art lessons.

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  31. I LOVE THIS BLOG!!!! I just began my own art program for grades 1-3 here in Calgary, Canada and used your line unit and your class Pop Art mural with amazing results!!
    About the rainbow watercolour painting - Do you set the black tempera line paintings with anything? Or talk about how overlapping onto the black will muddy the colour?

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  32. You are a riot!
    I have taught all grade levels except elementary, until this year. This is my first year teaching K-5 and I'm on a cart!!!( that's a first , too) cart awful..kids cute.
    Even though on a cartI'm determined to use paint but it is difficult, especially with the K-2- I have to do it in small groups while others busy with a drawing of some sort. I enjoyed watching you so much- so funny and great ideas.

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  33. You are a riot!
    I have taught all grade levels except elementary, until this year. This is my first year teaching K-5 and I'm on a cart!!!( that's a first , too) cart awful..kids cute.
    Even though on a cartI'm determined to use paint but it is difficult, especially with the K-2- I have to do it in small groups while others busy with a drawing of some sort. I enjoyed watching you so much- so funny and great ideas.

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  34. Erika Andrea12/09/2015

    Your page is saving me my first year of teaching! For the past four years I have taught outdoors on a farm on Long Island in New York. But this year I finally made the switch to a public school in NYC, and am going crazy being indoors, and coming up with go-to lessons for my K-2 pipsqueaks. I felt like I would try ten things, fall on my face with 9 of them, and save 1 thing for next year. Lol but your page is FANTASTIC and I can FEEL you positive vibes through my computer! Thank you for everything you do! xo Erika from NY

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  35. Love this. We used Kandinsky as inspiration, too, as we learned our lines this year. We learned a line direction with a song and "dance". "Horizontal, side to side."(arms held parallel to the floor and rock from side to side). "Vertical, we reach the sky." (Arms reaching up to the ceiling, rocking up and down on tiptoe). "Hand high, hand low - Diagonal!" (Following the directions, the arms make a diagonal line and we rock side to side again). "All three lines I know!" (One hand holds up three fingers, the other hand points to their head). As soon as they get the hang of it, I go faster and randomly go silent so they are the ones singing the song. However, I think I'm going to use this as a great follow up to introduce more vocabulary.

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    1. What tune is this song in???

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  36. Hi!!
    Do you happen to have the snake templates?!?! Thanks!!:)

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  37. Love this lesson! You are so funny with your blog posts! I started a blog this year at http://www.alisonklein.com/art-education-blog
    I do a line lesson with kindergarten students very similar to this, minus the rainbows. Great tie in with color! I only teach K/1 students so your K-2 projects are extremely helpful for me- Thank you :)

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  38. Love this just wondering I always have students use black last. Does the black paint effect the colors?

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  39. Love this just wondering I always have students use black last. Does the black paint effect the colors?

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    1. We've never had issue with the black effecting the paint...but we did use India ink which is permanent!

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  40. Do you have the snake templates? thanks! kosharem@yahoo.com

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  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  42. INCREDIBLE! You rock! Do you have masters for the snake template?? :D

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  43. I was looking for this certain info for a long time. Thank you.
    Calgary childcare

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  44. I love this lesson! Especially the "Larry the Line" poem! Thank you for the inspiration!

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  45. Oh my goodness! I had started a unit on lines by making line monsters with my pre k and kindergarten students and this gave me so many more ideas! Thank you!! 100% going to be singing the snake song!

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  46. Barbara aka:MIss Barbara1/22/2017

    YOU....are a frigging genius! I need to channel you when I teach. Do you provide your genius for other grades too. I teach (in NYC) from 2yo to 8th graders and I think it goes without saying' that I go nuts sometimes and I lose it...git mad...yell...it's not pretty...and it makes me sad so I could use your help and plan to watch all your videos. Thanks for sharing...(squeaky voice) "sharing is caring". Can I move to Nashville (who knew I would ever say that) and be your assistant? half kidding...but only half?????????????

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  47. I really like this post.I hope Everyone also like this post.

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)