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Turning Point School - Posted Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018 11:19:53 AM

Last week concluded our 8-week winter trimester of After School Programs. For the final class of Ms. Brody’s Nature Adventurers, students were challenged to think of an engaging way to share with their community what they’d learned about Earth Stewardship, or in their own words, Saving the Planet!

The class decided to host the National Parks Service from the Santa Monica Mountains recreational area who brought their mobile Ranger Troca—complete with research tools, animal pelts and even a taxidermy mountain lion—to teach the Turning Point community about the incredible native wildlife and culture right here in our own backyard.

To honor their work, the students of Nature Adventurers earned a "Santa Monica Mountains Junior Park Ranger" badge while they took the following oath:

“I promise to protect the environment
and all the animals within it
so that future generations
may enjoy them as well!”

Dr. Laura Konigsberg - Posted Monday, Feb 5, 2018 5:21:26 PM

Our Board of Trustees plays a crucial role in Turning Point’s long term stability and vision. One way of thinking about the Board is that its core activity is planning, and its primary constituency is not today’s students but students of the future. Trustees are responsible for developing a strategic plan, for hiring and evaluating the head of school, for approving an annual budget and overseeing financial accountability, and ensuring that we are fulfilling our mission. Many of our Trustees have served on the Turning Point Board for many years, even well past their child’s graduation from eighth grade, because they are committed to the school and to the excellent teaching and learning that transforms children’s lives.

Our Board members, like our faculty and students, value lifelong learning. They are committed to ongoing growth and development. Last weekend, eight Trustees and I traveled to San Francisco for the annual California Association of Independent School (CAIS) Trustee/School Head conference. We had the opportunity to listen to the subjects CAIS inspired us to think about as we plan for the future of Turning Point. In particular, I found the two keynote speakers' presentations aligned with the strategic thinking we have been doing as a Board and as a school community.

Roberto Suro, Professor of Journalism at USC, discussed the opportunities of “Educating the Next California.” We are experiencing the rise of a “new Second Generation,” as 20-25% of California’s population under 18 years old are second generation, or the children of immigrants. Our pedagogical challenge is teaching our students to succeed in encounters with people who are different from them, and we are able to best meet this challenge by populating our classrooms with children of many different backgrounds, identities, and learning styles.

When encountering people different from us, we have three options: hostility, ignorance, or the only viable option in the 21st century: getting to know and understand them. It takes inner strength, inner security, and intellectual discipline and substance to reach beyond familiar boundaries for experiences that are not merely seeing and understanding, but that are transformative, like learning itself.

Professor Suro emphasized that students who are able to relate to and collaborate with people who are different from themselves are developing incredibly valuable life skills, and colleges and universities are taking note of this. In the years to come, a student’s ability to prosper in diverse environments will be just as valued as test scores and grades—and possibly even more so.

Donna Orem, Executive Director of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), talked about “Tipping Points for Schools Today.” She discussed how the predictions of 2018 trends in localities, technology, consumer behavior, and the workplace can help schools manage and maximize their strategic direction. Considering our recent work on Turning Point’s strategic priorities, this was excellent timing. Turning Point is lucky to be in an emerging neighborhood with public transportation and high quality of life, as younger parents are eschewing the suburbs for livable cities. Demographic changes also require a more nuanced understanding of intersectionality and representations of diversity. We want to continue to think about how to make students’ experiences personalized and individualized, and to ensure that our excellent education is accessible to a broader demographic.

In our sharing economy of collaborative consumption, we want to focus on what will give today’s students the greatest chance to thrive. We know that we need to teach both technological skills and people skills. Jobs in 2030 may look like this: tele-surgeons, able to operate remotely with robotic tools rather than human hands; healthcare navigators, who teach patients about the ins and outs of a complicated medical system; simplicity experts, who specialize in simplifying and streamlining business operations. All of these professions – and there are many more – require not only specific skill sets but also those skills that cannot be automated: individual awareness, social awareness, and self-discovery. At Turning Point, our students learn and practice crucial “human” skills alongside academic skills.

As a school committed to relevance, we constantly consider our mission, our values, our philanthropy, and what distinguishes us in light of these trends. We want to be crystal clear on our mission and direction and intentional about our strategy, balancing an understanding of the market with our uniqueness—always remaining true to who we are.

With direction from the Board of Trustees, the guidance of our dynamic administrative team, and our strong partnership with families, we will lead with intent by identifying what we care about as a school, and as a community. I am excited about the future of education and the opportunity we all have to help raise the next generation to find their roles as intentional leaders in our ever-changing world. 

Laura 

Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

Turning Point School - Posted Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 9:25:00 AM

Representatives from Turning Point—including seven teachers, two administrators, and two parents—attended the Educators Consortium for Service Learning’s workshop on Poverty in Los Angeles: A Call to Action, which we hosted right here on campus on January 30.

The workshop was led by service learning consultant and author, Cathy Berger-Kaye, who has previously presented at several teacher professional development workshops at Turning Point School. Cathy used dynamic discussion protocols with the adults in attendance that could be applied to any grade level classroom.

She applied an inquiry model that encouraged “100% participation, 100% of the time” to engage all participants in critical thinking activities about a relevant and resonant topic: How does poverty intersect with the 17 other UN sustainable goals for development?

At Turning Point, we have many age-appropriate access points to these global issues—many of which are evident right in our Los Angeles backyard. Authentic, reciprocal service learning opportunities, such as our partnerships with Weemes Elementary and the Culver City Senior Center, as well as our annual contributions to the Students Rebuild campaign are just a few of the many ways our students engage in civic and community life on the local and international levels.

Those who attended the workshop were inspired by the call to action through the connections to our existing curriculum, and are eager to continue identifying opportunities for our students to make meaningful, respectful connections with people and issues that affect our region, and our world.

For Further Reading:

What is Service Learning? A Guide for Parents

The Purpose and Promise of Service Learning: Ideas to Address Poverty

UN Goals of Sustainable Development

A book to teach young children about food insecurity:
Maddi’s Fridge

LA Times article on the homeless crisis:
L.A. homeless crisis grows despite political promises, many speeches and millions of dollars. How do we fix this?

Dr. Laura Konigsberg - Posted Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018 10:42:00 AM

At last Thursday’s State of the School event, I had the pleasure of sharing the strategic priorities that will guide Turning Point School’s future direction and orient us for the choices we will make over the next few years. These priorities have emerged from many sources; from the surveys distributed to all our community members to inform the Head of School position statement, to the many “entry conversations” during my first year, to the work we did on the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Accreditation exercise, and finally, by my day-to-day impressions and experiences over the past 18 months working with a talented faculty, administrative team, and staff.

Over the course of several months, our Strategic Planning Committee—consisting of a collaborative group of trustees and administrators—developed four strategic priorities, which were approved by the full Board of Trustees earlier this month. Strategic priorities offer clear compass points for Turning Point’s evolution. These interconnected, dynamic priorities are:

Mission and Identity
What is the logical evolution of Turning Point’s unique identity? How do we use our differentiating features to tell the Turning Point story?

Academic Excellence
How can we refine and articulate our outstanding, innovative academic program to align with our mission and identity?

Financial Sustainability
How might we further support and promote our values and priorities through financial and operational sustainability?

Culture and Community
How do we continue to foster a highly inclusive, engaged community?

You may notice that we have presented these crucial priorities in the form of essential questions rather than in declarative statements. Just as teachers structure their lessons around essential questions to stimulate thought and spark more questions, we wanted our strategic priorities to provoke inquiry and stimulate discussion. 

At the State of the School event, in addition to unveiling our strategic priorities, I reviewed the significant progress we have made since July 2016. If you’d like to learn more, you can view the slides from my presentation.

After the presentation, participants had the opportunity to engage in an inquiry-based exercise in which they were asked to project five years into the future and consider the following: What evidence would demonstrate that we had accomplished our goals for each strategic priority? What does success look like for each priority?  The answers provided will help us create important implementation steps as we operationalize each strategic priority.

With our strategic mindset at the forefront, eight trustees and I attended the annual CAIS Trustee/School Head Conference in San Francisco this past weekend. The dynamic keynotes and workshops helped us to think about the opportunities and challenges that schools face in our rapidly changing world. We are lucky to have a dedicated Board composed of talented people who love Turning Point and work hard to make it an exceptional school and community. As you may know, independent school boards are tasked with ensuring long term sustainability for their schools. I want to thank the Board for their outstanding long-range, strategic work on behalf of Turning Point School.

Additionally, I would like to thank the parents who arranged child care and gave up their own family time to attend the State of the School presentation last week and so thoughtfully engage with one another and members of our Board to share ideas and wisdom. If you were not able to attend the presentation, please feel free to email me any thoughts or ideas you have. The faculty and staff enjoyed the same exercise, and I am eager to see everyone’s input.

As I consider the exciting journey ahead, I am exceedingly grateful to be surrounded by so many creative, talented, and engaged community members – from parents, to trustees, educators, and colleagues. I look forward to our continued collaboration, and am eager to see the expression of our priorities begin to take shape!

Laura 

Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

Turning Point School - Posted Thursday, Jan 25, 2018 12:00:00 PM

In Ms. Pritchet’s Algebra I class, students are continuing the study of Polynomials. The students keep asking, “When in life are we going to use Polynomials, and why are we studying them?”

It has been said that 90% of all mathematics relies on the ability to recognize patterns. In addition to applications that involve polynomials - such as calculating postage - the patterns of polynomials appear in the numbers we use every day. It is for this reason that polynomials have been frequently used to “model” and study numbers.

Polynomials that deal primarily with real numbers can be used in computer programming and developing ciphers for encoding messages. They are also used in the pharmaceutical industry when determining scales of production and ensuring the correct amount of all chemical components make it into every dosage of medication. Polynomials can be used to plot complex curves that decide the path of missile trajectories, or design a roller coaster, or that model a complex situation in physics experiment. Polynomial modeling functions can be even be used to solve questions in chemistry and biology.

So, they are pretty important after all! To make studying them fun, students perfect their golf skills while playing Polynomial games in class.

  

 

Turning Point School - Posted Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM

In seventh grade Humanities, students have been exploring different forms of propaganda and the various types of media used as a vehicle for propaganda. As they wrapped up their study of the Russian Revolution, the spread of communism, and their reading of Animal Farm, the students created their own forms of propaganda through the voice of an assigned character from the novella.

This segued into their next unit on European Imperialism and colonial independence movements as the students analyzed and discussed a famous piece of poetic (and imperial) propaganda, The White Man's Burden, by Rudyard Kipling.

This unit has given students an opportunity to further examine the essential questions: "What is power?" and "How is power gained, used, and justified?"

 

Turning Point School - Posted Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018 10:00:00 AM

To enhance the cultural studies aspect of eighth grade Spanish, students recently learned about the Kuna, a group of indigenous people from the islands of San Blas, Panamá, and the intricate and beautifully decorated molas they produce. A mola is essentially an artisanal garment constructed by sketching a design onto layers of different colored fabrics, and then by making small incisions in the fabric to reveal the various background colors. The molas typically represent images found in nature, such as animals, plants and flowers.

Students, after learning about the Kuna people and the process of making molas, made molas of their own, using layered paper instead of fabric. 

Turning Point School - Posted Monday, Jan 22, 2018 12:00:00 PM

How much does it cost to make a life-sized Jenga? How many boards do I need to buy at the hardware store?

These are just a few questions that sixth grade students generated in a three-act task applying fractions and decimals. In act one, they watched a video and generated questions that they could solve based on the video. In addition, they had to communicate what information was missing in order to solve the problem. In Act 2, they were given the information in order to solve their questions, wrote a plan, and executed the plan. Act 3 was the big reveal! Ask a Turning Point sixth grader how it all stacked up!

Turning Point School - Posted Friday, Jan 19, 2018 12:49:00 PM

In Grade 8 Latin students have been learning about the ablative case. Students first read stories in which the use of the ablative case was highlighted and then they were asked to identify the ablative case in those passages.

Finally, to demonstrate their mastery of the case and the use of prepositional phrases, students drew images and described each image in Latin with a prepositional phrase. Through writing their own phrases, students gain confidence in their knowledge, and the learning is deeper and more sustained.

 

Turning Point School - Posted Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018 11:49:28 AM

During this month’s Family Event, our mixed-age Turning Point Family groups participated in the Healing Classrooms: Facing Difference Challenge. Family members discussed differences and answered questions such as, “What makes you different in a special way?” “What might people never guess about you just by looking?” “Can you really tell what others are like just by looking at them?”

After meaningful discussion, student then created self-portraits, which will be sent in to the Facing Difference Challenge, funded from Bezos Family Foundation, to support peace-building programs run by CARE and Search for Common Ground in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and the South Caucasus region of Eastern Europe. Each of these programs empower youth from areas of conflict to come together to explore their differences and build peace. We’ve collectively raised $2,500 to help our fellow peacemakers living abroad!

Please be sure to stop by the first floor of Building 1 in the next coming days. Grade 2 students led the charge in displaying the self-portraits that showcase our engagement, connectivity, and shared values in a very visible way.

 

The Turning Point Family Program provides a multi-age environment that builds a sense of community among faculty, staff, and students. Faculty and staff “elders” facilitate monthly Family meetings that help younger students benefit from interaction with older students, encourage older students to practice responsible modeling, and inspire all members of the Turning Point community to learn, share, and grow together.

Dr. Laura Konigsberg - Posted Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 2:37:18 PM

At Turning Point School, we believe that it is essential to provide students with opportunities to acquire knowledge in ways that are meaningful, rigorous, and endure beyond what they need to know to pass a quiz or ace an exam. A key element to achieving this is to have the best teacher possible in each classroom, and at Turning Point we ensure our teachers have the ability to learn, grow, and develop their craft, right alongside their students.

Last Friday we dedicated a day to the professional development of our faculty and staff. All professionals participate in continuing education, and educators are no different. Just as we trust that our doctors are informed about the latest research and diagnostic techniques, we want our teachers apprised on the best strategies for improving the educational experiences of our students.

In selecting the areas we wanted to focus on for this day of learning and discussion, we asked our faculty and administrators to tell us about strategies they were employing in their classrooms, areas where they wanted to learn more, and topics that motivated and inspired them to be better educators. In these discussions, some important priorities emerged.

Teachers want to create lessons that differentiate to meet the needs of diverse learners. They want to organize units around essential questions, and create projects that involve a challenging problem requiring sustained inquiry. They want to design lessons and curricula intentionally—from the learning outcome backwards to the introduction of the new concept. And, many of our teachers already do these things quite well—so well, in fact, that we asked them to share their expertise and experience in these key areas with their peers.

We also unveiled our new “Maker Space” and every teacher enjoyed the chance to explore the space, brainstorm about the projects that could reside there, and to participate in a hands-on assignment designed to get everyone out of their comfort zone.

Our first workshop, Engaging Learners at all Levels led by Diana Bender and Rachele Malonzo, focused on differentiated instruction as a framework for teaching. In order to reach all levels of learners, teachers must consider each of the following:

  • Content (information or skills the student needs to learn);
  • Process (activities to help students master the content or skills);
  • Products (assessments that require students to show, apply, evaluate, or extend their learning); and
  • Learning environment (how the classroom works and feels).

Differentiation depends on knowing each learner and assessing him or her regularly, adjusting assessments when appropriate to meet students where they are, and adjusting the learning environment to provide multiple opportunities to teach content. Our teachers thoughtfully shared their successes with differentiated learning, and highlighted lessons they feel could benefit from further differentiation.

In Backward Design: Strengthening Curriculum through Essential Questions, Paige Montesano and Justin Lemucchi helped teachers reimagine traditional lesson planning by starting with a desired outcome and working backwards. Key elements of Backwards Design include:

  1. Structuring lesson planning by first identifying desired results (learning outcomes)
  2. Determining acceptable evidence of learning (assessments)
  3. Designing the learning experiences and instruction (lessons)

Assessments should allow students to explain, interpret, apply knowledge, show perspective, empathize, or use self-knowledge. Essential questions anchor a unit: these open-ended, thought-provoking, justifiable, and revisable questions require critical thinking, provide a touchstone for evolving understanding, offer cohesive lesson planning, and create a culture of inquiry in the classroom. They tell students that the classroom is a place where we ask questions, not receive information statically.

In Design Thinking, Amy Philpott, Travis Reynolds, and Vivan Ariza encouraged teachers to generate ideas for solutions that emphasize:

  • Desirability (does your idea solve a problem?)
  • Feasibility (how does it work?)
  • Viability (how is your idea sustainable?)

Design thinking combines the practical and analytical thinking of engineers with the intuitive and creative thinking of designers. At Turning Point we already participate in many design thinking projects, such as the Halloween Carnival, in which our Grade 8 students design games for younger students with recycled materials. The purpose of this community-minded project is to design for someone else. It requires stages of engagements:

  • Empathize (what is the problem? Whose problem is it?)
  • Define (what are the user’s needs? What is most important? What are the challenges?)
  • Develop ideas (what can you create to solve the problem?)
  • Prototype (what will your solution look like? Is it the best solution? What materials are needed?).
  • Test (what worked? What didn’t? How can my solution be improved?)

 To see a great example of this type of thinking in action, watch this video.

Finally, in Rigor through Project-Based Learning, Tessa Short, Karen Pritchet, Jamie Wagner, and Matt Kline discussed the definition of PBL and ways to overcome apprehension to implementation. Project-based learning involves identifying student learning goals, designing essential project design elements, and implementing project-based teaching practices. Student learning goals involve demonstrating mastery of knowledge, understanding, and skills. When designing a project, teachers utilize:

  • A challenging problem or question
  • Sustained inquiry (no easy answers)
  • Authenticity (how “real-world” the learning is)
  • Student voice and choice
  • Reflection (what, how, and why they are learning)’
  • Critique and revision
  • A public product (which like student voice and authenticity, motivates students to present high-quality work)

Workshop leaders shared projects such as this one where students can build a business, or propose community development projects.

Some very common themes emerge in these workshops: authentic learning, individualized learning experiences, student inquiry, critical thinking and reflection, meaningful assessments, creativity. Workshop leaders incorporated these values into each workshop, and provided opportunities for faculty to reflect on their own teaching approaches, to assess their curricula through these lenses, and to envision assessments that will provide data that enables us to continue to refine and improve our craft for the benefit of our students.

Have you seen any of these themes emerging in your conversations with your children? If so, I would love to hear more. Email me your stories, or please stop and chat the next time we see each other at carpool. I was incredibly proud of and impressed by the acumen, openness, and appetite for collaboration that I witnessed among our teachers last week, and I am excited for your children to experience those outcomes in the classroom! 

Laura 

Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

Turning Point School - Posted Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Grade 2 students recently journeyed to the reDiscover Center to learn more about sustainability and upcycling. They heard a story called “The Tin Forest” about a man who transformed his world of trash into a forest made of tin thereby making space for real animals to thrive. This tale conveyed the message that one individual who dares to dream can make a world of difference. 

Inspired by the story, students then used recycled and discarded materials to create parts of their very own tin forest. Great work, Grade 2!


Turning Point School - Posted Friday, Jan 12, 2018 6:47:00 PM

Level 8 Humanities students recently investigated current international civil and human rights issues by participating in a guided activity using Martin Luther King Jr.’s “ Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

In connection with the essential question, “What is justice?” students analyzed what King says about recognizing justice and injustice in his letter. After a guided group reading and individual written analysis, students then discussed specific related quotes from the text.

Finally, students used one of the quotes that inspired them as a basis for a poem about recognizing justice and injustice. The poems provided some analysis/evaluation of King’s words and their own thoughts on justice today. Grammatically, students focused on using juxtaposition and personification in their imagery, as well as reinforced new grammar skills by correctly identifying and using participial phrases and absolutes.

Pantoum Poem

Quotes from: MLK Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail

In response to: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Our world is tangled in a web of just and unjust
Little girls marching in big shoes
Fighting peacefully in the streets

Our world is tangled in a web of just and unjust
It is our hottest day on our coldest night
Fighting peacefully in the streets
I can see the voices of women floating away 

It is our hottest day on our coldest night
Can you see how you are blinded by hatred?
I can see the voices of women floating away
I can not sit by and not stand up

Can you see how you are blinded by hatred?
Little girls marching in big shoes
I can not sit by and not stand up
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

In response to: “Perhaps I have been too optimistic”

Perhaps I have been too optimistic
Children plucking flower petals on green grass fill my heart with hope
They do not see the war above
We must shout from the rooftops to be heard above the noise

Children plucking flower petals on green grass fill my heart with hope
Some say people hate loving, but it feels like people love hating
We must shout from the rooftops to be heard above the noise
Staring at the sun will blind us all

Some say people hate loving, but it feels like people love hating
I should not have to beg for fairness
Staring at the sun will blind us all
I am frantically waiting 

I should not have to beg for fairness
They do not see the war above
I am frantically waiting
Perhaps I have been too optimistic

Turning Point School - Posted Thursday, Jan 11, 2018 3:02:47 PM

To culminate the Grade 7 first trimester Geometry unit, Ms. Pritchet’s Pre-Algebra students worked on an exciting Community Redevelopment Project, which combined knowledge and skills gained from their studies in Pre-Algebra, Environmental Studies, and in SmartLab classes.

The assignment was to imagine and design a structure or house that could be built or “flipped”—with the intention of improving the local Culver City community.

Some students decided to build a new structure, using a vacant lot on Wesley Avenue between Washington and National as the location. Students visited the empty lot and used Google images and maps to measure the space and formulate their basic ideas.

They then created a 2-D blueprint of their design on poster board with the area measurements and flooring costs, and then used SketchUp to build a 3-D model of their structures that included all specifications used to create their redevelopment center. The structures the students created included a food bank, educational/sports complex, library tutoring center, and a pet adoption/animal shelter, just to name a few!

 

Other students worked on a “House-Flip” low-income housing project where they remodeled a house in order to flip it and sell it back to the city as a housing development community. These students also used SketchUp to build 3-D models of their houses.

 

In order to complete both projects, students had to apply the mathematical skill of finding the area of geometrical shapes, implement sustainable elements into their designs, and use knowledge gained from their SmartLab classes to produce magnificent work. As a concluding exercise, they presented their vision and work to their classmates.

 

Their next step is to try to secure a meeting with the City Council of Culver City to propose one of the redevelopment projects for the vacant space, or to combine the House-Flip structures to create a low-income housing community.

Lessons such as these that incorporate real-world issues allow students to make learning come to life, and enhance their skills as problem-solvers. At Turning Point School, students embrace opportunities to study, create, and develop social change. This is especially true when the problem exists in their own lives or in their own communities.

Turning Point School - Posted Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 12:47:01 PM

Check out the new video in our Glass Classrooms channel! 



“Learn, Practice, Share, Revise” is a core philosophy in Turning Point’s faculty Professional Development model and provides a natural connection to the Design Thinking teaching method, which includes five steps to problem solving: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

In the fall, middle school students used this process to create their Halloween Carnival games for the community. They ideated their games by empathizing with their audience, which consisted of students in preschool through Grade 3. Their prototypes were beta tested by Grades 4 and 5, who gave feedback for redesign in the form of comment sheets. The final designs were enjoyed by all! 

The important role of community was never more evidenced than at Grandfriends’ Day when we asked our visitors to collaborate, empathize, and design with their grandchildren during classroom visits. As you can see in the video, by engaging members of our entire community in these types of activities we create opportunities for learning, spread inspiration, and provide insight into “making” and “doing” all year long!

View our Glass Classrooms Channel on YouTube
View our Glass Classrooms webpage

TURNING POINT SCHOOL
8780 National Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

 

Turning Point School is an independent, coeducational school providing a premier education to students in the greater Los Angeles area. For over 45 years, we have educated confident, curious, and globally-aware preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school students.

Located in the heart of Culver City, we enroll students from the west side of Los Angeles including Beverly Hills, Venice, Pacific Palisades, Marina del Rey, Hancock Park, Cheviot Hills, and Playa del Rey.

       

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