Saturday, November 27, 2021

Using Litotical/Opposite Structures

In my district, we are bound to cover specific vocabulary words for each level of Latin. This districtwide list is based on word frequency found in Latin literature and are specific for levels. While these lists do give us guidance and a map for our district-mandated "pretests/post-tests," I have never been a fan of the lists, because I feel like they squash being able to shelter vocabulary, not grammar. Essentially I end up having to do the opposite. Basically, the list dictates what I must cover; therefore, I end up manipulating readings and passages to include these vocabulary words. Luckily, this post-hybrid year there is a reprieve from these district-level pretests/post-tests for students, so I feel like I can truly focus on sheltering vocabulary, not grammar. At the same time, however, I do have a "responsibility" (to attempt) to cover the vocabulary on this list. 

Last year during hybrid teaching, my Latin 3 colleague/team member John Foulk began to use litotical/opposite structures to introduce new specific vocabulary words which were necessary to target due to this list. Litotes - denying the opposite or saying the negative for emphasis - is a poetic device with which Latin teachers (especially AP Latin teachers) are very familiar! Examples in English:

  • Person #1: Are you cold?
  • Person #2: Well, I'm not warm!
  • Person #1: Do you like your gift?
  • Person #2: I am not entirely ungrateful...

We had to introduce the word pauci (meaning "few") but also in a hybrid-teaching environment (may that learning situation be forever cast into Tartarus!) so not an easy task! In my opinion, pauci is just a weird word. As a result, John began to target the phrase non pauci sed multi ('not a few but many"), since students were already familiar with the word multi. John used this phrase over and over again in our readings, and soon the phrase non pauci sed multi became a joke among students due to the sheer amount of repetitions. The phrase even started to appear in student writings, which means that they had acquired it and were now using it on their own.

After this, we began to think that he was onto something and that litotical/opposite structures should be taught/implemented very early in language classes, especially in the lower levels. I know of some teachers who do teach vocabulary in pairs - the target word with its antonym. I used to think that this was overkill and too much vocabulary for students to grasp, but now that I see how students associate vocabulary, it makes sense to me. 

So many topics naturally lend themselves to litotical/opposite structures:

  • family members - "not this family member but this one"
  • emotions - "not this emotion but this one"
  • reactions - "not doing this but this instead"
  • size/amount - "not this size/many but this size/many"
  • animals - "not this animal but this one"
  • occupations - not this job but this one"
Litotical/opposite structures allow for natural repetitions of vocabulary, and students do remember them! As part of language proficiency, you are also teaching students a language pattern which they can manipulate as output as novice learners.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Acquisition Boot Camp (ABC)

While I may be preaching to the choir in this blog post, if you have heard about such topics as Comprehensible Input (CI), Acquisition Driven Instruction (ADI), and language proficiency vs. language performance but do not possess a working knowledge about them, please consider enrolling in the next round of Acquisition Boot Camp (ABC). Beginning in January 2022, this month-long self-directed online course is offered by The Comprehensible Classroom and is led by Martina Bex and Elicia Cardenas.

This past summer I had the opportunity to serve as one of the coaches for this course, and I absolutely loved the format and the lessons. Now the course does take a level of commitment. There are daily video lessons which need to be viewed and daily reflections/discussion board posts on those lessons. The videos are definitely viewable and easy to digest - most range from 5-10 minutes depending on the topic - and a new video is released on each weekday. There is a lot of material covered in these 4 weeks, but wow, even as a coach, I learned much too! Also in the course are three live/synchronous sessions, once a week for the first three weeks, where you will get the opportunity to take part as a student in an hourlong language learning experience led by an experienced CI teacher, and one live/synchronous session in the last week where the coaches each share a CI-based/ADI-based unit plan example.

Allow me an excursus to address this course as an Instructional Technologist. I possess a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, and I can say without a doubt that ABC aligns so much with IT distance learning theory! This course allows for learner autonomy (participants can view and complete work whenever they want, wherever they want within a timeline) so students are not bound by a prescribed physical location or time. Most importantly, participants have access to timely feedback to their discussion posts from instructor and coaches - this is a KEY point in distance learning, and unfortunately most distance-learning courses fail in this important aspect due to logistics and resources. 

Be aware though - this course may challenge your pedagogical beliefs regarding language acquisition, grading policies, classroom setup, etc., You may walk away, saying that this course is garbage and that you completely disagree with everything in it as you take part in the discussions and watch the videos. That is perfectly OKAY - what we do want is that you are open to learning more about CI/ADI and that you are willing to start incorporating what you are able to in your classroom.

So if you are curious about CI, ADI, and proficiency-based classrooms and really wish to learn more about these topics in an academic setting, I highly suggest that you look into this course. 

Acquisition Boot Camp (January 2022 session) information/web page

Monday, November 15, 2021

Picture A/Picture B Listening Assessment

Who says that assessments must be long?!! Here is a very low-key, very quick listening comprehension assessment which I learned this past summer from Martina Bex and Elicia Cardenas while working as a coach for their Acquisition Boot Camp (ABC), and it is very simple for you as the teacher to administer. Simply, you either project two pictures onto a screen or put them on a piece of paper - these pictures are labeled A and B. You read a target sentence aloud, and you ask students to determine if the sentence is describing picture A or picture B. As a teacher, however, it requires a bit of prep work.


  1. Taking a story which you have been going over in class, select 7-10 sentences. If it is from a movie talk, you could use screen shots.
  2. Illustrate those sentences. 
  3. Scan them (or use a web app drawing tool) or illustrate them onto the assessment paper.
  4. Place the scanned pictures in pairs onto Google Slides for projection or onto a document. 
  5. Label one picture "A" and the other picture "B"
  6. For each pair, determine which sentence you read will read in order to match up with the correct picture.

  1. Explain to students that you are going to read aloud a sentence from the story, and their job is to determine if the sentence being read is Picture A or Picture B. I project the pictures on Google Slides and have students on a sheet of paper number 1-10ish, and they simply answer A or B.
  2. Read the sentence a couple times slowly and then move onto the next set of pictures.
  1. Oh my gosh, why did I not learn about this assessment earlier?? It is so easy and quick to administer (although it takes some type to prepare it) - it took less then five minutes to administer. Students simply had to write down either A or B on their paper. If the pictures are on a sheet of paper for them, they simply have to mark the picture being described.
  2. I used this as a formative assessment and not as a summative assessment. 
  3. These were incredibly easy to grade too, because I was simply looking for either the letters A or B as the answer.
  4. Students liked this assessment, because it was fast and easy for them to complete.
  5. When picking pairs of pictures, select pairs which require a close listening and inspection of the pictures. In the example above, each of the pictures involved the phrase "duo comites (two comrades)" so students had to listen carefully to the rest of the sentence to determine what distinguished the two pictures. In other words, I could not have one picture have two people in them and the other picture being of a dog, because when students heard the phrase "duo comites," immediately they would know which picture it was and would not listen to the rest of the sentence. 
  6. The picture being described needs to be OBVIOUS for students.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Telephone Relay

It is funny how one can learn a particular CI activity, pass it along to others to use, and then completely forget about it. Just recently, my colleague Rachel Ash shared a post-reading activity with our Latin 3 instructional team called Telephone Relay, and I said, "Wow, how does this work?" and she replied, "I learned this from you!" Once Rachel showed me how the activity works, then I completely remembered it (and vividly remembered when I had demonstrated it at a professional development for Rachel years ago!), but I am shocked that I have not used it in in the classroom since 2016! For some reason, it just was no longer on my radar. I am grateful to Rachel for bringing this activity back to my attention, because I really do like it.

I truly wish that I remembered from whom I learned this post-reading activity so that I can give proper credit (maybe Martina Bex or Cynthia Hitz?), but here are the directions:


  1. Print out a reading of a known story - you will need a reading for every 3 students.
  2. On index cards, write sentences from the story - again, you will need to make copies for every 3 students. For example, if you have 10 groups of 3 students, you will need to have 10 copies of each card. 
  3. Number those cards accordingly so that all card #1s are the same, etc.
  1. Divide your students into groups of 3. Groups of 4 are possible but one student will sit out each round. Groups of 2 will not work.
  2. Each group will need to have two whiteboards and two markers.
  3. Number each person in the group as #1, #2, and #3.
  4. Persons #1 and #3 will have a whiteboard and marker. Person #3 will also have a copy of the story.
  5. Person #1 will pick up card #1, and read the sentence on the card silently but not showing it to Person #2 or #3. After reading the sentence, person #1 will DRAW that sentence on the whiteboard without anyone seeing it, and then Person #2 (and only Person #2) will take a look at the picture.
  6. Person #2 will TELL Person #3 (most likely in English but can be in the target language depending on the level) what was seen in the picture.
  7. Based on what Person #2 said, Person #3 will look through the story to find the sentence which best matches that description and then will WRITE that sentence on the whiteboard.
  8. As a class, you as the teacher reveal what the sentence was on card #1 - hopefully that is what is written on every Person #3's whiteboards.
  9. Erase the whiteboards and move the whiteboards in a clockwise position so that there is now a new person #1, person #2, and person #3. If it is group of 4, there will be a new person sitting out.
  10. The new person #1 will pick up card #2, and the activity starts over again.
  1. This is a novel way to review a reading due to the variety of duties/tasks and rotation.
  2. I give about 2-3 minutes for a round. Students will work on their own pace during that time, with the goal of having Person #3 finished when time is up. 
  3. There are some strict rules about Person #1 which I enforce during this activity:
    • When drawing, Person #1 cannot draw with the whiteboard on one's lap, because then everyone (especially Person #3) can see the picture as it is being drawn.
    • When showing the picture, Person #1 needs to show it to Person #2 in a way that Person #3 cannot see it.
  4. I like how this activity addresses many modalities and that each student does get a chance to experience them.
  5. This is a great activity to get students to re-read a story and to do some close reading. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Hot Potato

This is another activity which I learned from Emma Vanderpool, a Latin colleague and few CI-user in Massachusetts. It is a collaborative activity which can be used to preview a story, to review a known one, or as a warmup using known vocabulary. Here are her directions:

  1. Students should sit in a large circle. All should have a whiteboard/marker/eraser.
  2. Project the story/reading on the board.
  3. Students have a set amount of time to draw (varying from 20 seconds to 1 minute).
  4. After the timer goes off, students then pass the whiteboard clockwise.
  5. Students should then pick up from where their peer left off.
  6. After the timer goes off again, students again pass their whiteboard, and so on until you judge that the time is up.
  7. Return the original whiteboard to students to review what should be illustrated there.
  1. For each round, I gave students 25-30 seconds to read what was on the board and then 15 seconds to draw. The 25 seconds gave students a chance to re-read the story/sentences on the board, to look at what had already been drawn, and what needed to be added. Giving students only 15 seconds meant that they had to be quick in their drawing but essentially, they drew less which allowed for more rounds and for the activity to last longer.
  2. There is a lot of critical thinking in this activity, because it causes students to re-read the sentences and to compare it with the whiteboard pictures which they have each time to see what is missing. Lots of close reading required!
  3. Instead of a circle, I made it one continuous circuit so that the whiteboards traveled about 8-9 students. When we finished, students got their whiteboards back, and it was fun for them to see what had been added to their original drawing. Plus, since they had illustrated the story over a series of different whiteboards, they knew how they themselves had drawn the various parts of the story, so they liked seeing how others had drawn it.