1969: 50 Years of “4%ers”

Just a few months after the moon landing, Superintendent John Lawson (Shaker Heights, OH) gave a speech at the Symposium on Foreign Language Teaching at Indiana University. Its age certainly shows. Then again, were it not for the typeface, you’d think some of these statements appeared yesterday in a blog! I find it striking that such “progressive” and “controversial” ideas have been discussed for 50 years, pretty much coinciding with the civil rights movement, yet without much fundamental change to either. There’s no excuse for the latter. As for second language teaching, that’s slightly more understandable considering the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) was hardly established by the late 60s.

To give you a sense of how relevant Lawson’s ideas are today, look at this statement addressing the importance of compelling topics, and what now has become criticism against using unadapted texts driving the AP Latin problem:

There’s also a section, while brief, managing to address topics like teaching to the test, teacher perception of status in their field, elitism, exclusivity, ineffective pedagogy, compellingness, connectedness, comprehensibility, and confidence. All that back in 1969. Holy moly, right?!

That speech also happens to be the source of the “4%er” term that Keith Toda just shared in his latest (and last-for-a-while) blog post. Now, Keith is somewhat of a self-proclaimed man of the shadows not really active on social media, so my first thought was that he didn’t know the “4%er” term doesn’t really come up these days. In fact, I had to go back to a 2015 moreTPRS list email to search for the references contained in here! But maybe that term is exactly what teachers need to be reminded of right now. Let’s start with its history:

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Comprehensible Online 2018 Takeaways

In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!

Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:

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5.5.16 Tea with BvP Takeaways

Today on the show, Bill did not give the same definition of Forced Output from Episode 18 when he told a caller that anything more than one word responses (e.g.yes/no, either/or, fill in blank) was considered “forced” (listen to that brief definition, here). Why? He was thinking about that term in a new way, referring to what happens when you make someone speak in an activity or task, which may not have anything to do with what has been acquired (e.g. “I am teacher, you are student, do this.”). The definition of Forced Output was expanded by Karen Rowan on Mixler to include any “Output beyond the level of acquisition.” Bill’s previous definition along with Karen’s mean that although acquisition rates vary, all students can give a single word response, so it is the only thing we should expect. Anything else is a bonus.

We also got a definition for Output as “any learner production that is embedded in the communicative context/event.” Martin Lapworth noted that this immediately rules out  a lot of what’s been going on in classrooms involving certain acts of speaking and writing, which some teachers have misunderstood as Output for the sole reason that something is coming OUT of their head that other people read, see or hear. Here’s how we can categorize Bill’s take on some examples of exercises, activities, and tasks within the context of Output…

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