Backwards Plan your Units for Spanish Class

What is "Backwards Planning?"

Backwards planning is a strategy for planning your units that starts with the end goal in mind. Instead of working through a unit and then, at the end, designing and assigning an assessment, backwards planning encourages you to start with what comes last – most often, the assessment. Grant Wiggins has some helpful books on this topic if you want to dive in further!

Step 1: What is/are the end goal(s)?

A great way to think about end goals is through I CAN statements. ACTFL has a great list of examples of this. Some textbooks come with “I CAN” statements or objectives at the start of each unit as well. You can have I CAN statements that pertain to one or more modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal, presentational) as well as cultural competence. These statements are great to share with your students and utilize to guide your planning of unit activities and assessment(s). You’ll often have several for any given unit! 

Consider a back-to-school unit about Mis amigos y yo in which you want students to be able to describe some basic information about themselves and several others. Some I CAN statements for the unit may include: 

  • I can describe my personality characteristics
  • I can describe personality characteristics of others
  • I can describe what I like to do
  • I can describe what others like to do

Notice these example statements pertain more to presentational communication. You would likely have others related to interpersonal communication, interpretive communication or cultural competence as well. These end goals could all collectively factor into one unit assessment (ie. Integrated Performance Assessment) or several separate assessments (each targeting a different mode). 

Step 2: How will students demonstrate it?

Your next step is to determine how students will SHOW what they can do at the end of the unit. This can vary a bit depending on your teaching style, curriculum, or the goals of your department. A few ideas for the previously mentioned unit/I CAN statements might be:

  • A writing exam: students receive a prompt and write an email or letter describing themselves and friends. (presentational writing)
  • An infographic poster: students create an infographic describing themselves and friends and “publish” this to share with the class (presentational writing; project-based learning)
  • “Quién soy yo” presentation: students prepare a spoken presentation that describes what they and their friends are like, including similarities and differences – can be done 1-on-1 with teacher, in front of small groups or full class (presentational speaking)

These are just examples of presentational writing assessments! Your unit might include an interpersonal speaking assessment as well, depending on your goals set in step 1.

Step 3: Which activities will get them there?

Finally, to the lesson planning! Now that you know your end goal and assessment(s) for the unit, you can use this to guide your planning! Consider the following questions:

What structures and vocabulary will students need to meet these goals? 

What kind of comprehensible input will you need to provide (yourself, through text, video, song, etc.) of these terms and grammar structures?

What kind of direct instruction will you include on these topics? (Read here about grammar instruction with a proficiency-based spin).

Which authentic resources can provide sample input and interpretive practice for students? (Read here about finding authentic resources for Spanish Class!).

What formative practice activities might you include to help students put these goals into practice? Include a variety of learning and communication modes: interpretive (reading & listening), interpersonal (speaking & writing) and presentational (speaking & writing) so that students are provided ample examples and practice opportunities.

Use these ideas to guide your day-to-day lessons to best prepare your students for the final objective(s) and assessment(s). Another post coming soon on how to outline/organize your unit and daily plans!

Planning Templates

I am a HUGE fan of writing all of this out so that you can refer to it both throughout the unit and in future years! Doing so digitally has saved me hours upon hours because I can copy/paste my plans and tweak them year to year. It also helps me to house all of my ideas and links in one place for easy access.

I have a FREE Back-to-school download that includes planning templates for you, along with two lesson ideas for your first week of class. Check it out!

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