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"