Designing an AP Spanish Mini Unit

AP Spanish design mini unit 5 steps

What's in an AP Spanish Unit?

The current AP Spanish Language and Culture course is designed around 6 main themes, with a variety of sub-context options within each. If you’re new to designing your AP Spanish course and units, check out this post: Planning the Year in AP Spanish to get started.

Once you have an overview of your year and unit goals, it’s time to design the day-to-day lessons for a unit! One way I love doing this is by creating mini units that fall within one of the larger AP themes. Collegeboard’s AP Spanish Course and Exam Description provides a great chart on p.14 that highlights recommended contexts under each theme. This is not an exhaustive list of course, but any of these topics (relationships, architecture, education communities, etc.) serve as a great topic for a mini unit!

What Counts as a Mini Unit?

Trying to figure out what might work as a mini unit in your course? There are endless options for mini units! As mentioned above, you can use the Collegeboard’s recommended contexts for guidance. You can also design a mini unit around an upcoming holiday or other topic of interest that allows your students the opportunity to explore language and culture in a meaningful way!

Here are a few key characteristics I like to go by when considering a mini unit for AP Spanish:

  1. The mini unit focuses on a context/sub-theme that falls under one of the overarching AP themes.
  2. The mini unit can be completed in a span of 3-7 school days (I typically choose 3-4 to tackle within a 5-week full unit).
  3. The mini unit provides a variety of opportunities for students to explore the Spanish language and culture and demonstrate their understanding (whether via formative or summative assessments).

Components of an AP Spanish Mini Unit

So you’re ready to design your first AP mini unit. Where to begin? If you haven’t already downloaded the free AP Spanish Planning templates to help organize your ideas, be sure to do so. The following ideas are based on the format provided in the overall unit planner. Each section titled “context” can be used to design a mini unit. 

I’ll this this Valentine’s mini unit on el amor y la amistad to provide examples throughout! 

Step 1: How many days will the unit require?

Some mini units, like those centered around a fun holiday-related topic (ie. Valentine’s Day), could be as short as 3 days. Other topics with a LOT of new vocabulary and content for students, that also hit on a variety of AP themes (like customs and values or human geography), could take at least a week! I try to keep each mini unit between 3-7 school days just so we can target a variety of topics throughout the year.

Step 2: Determine your essential questions

Considering your essential questions for the mini unit helps you and students to know what the learning goals are during the course of that week or so of learning. Sometimes these are provided for you within your textbook. Other times you can design them yourself. For my mini unit on el amor y la amistad, my 3 essential questions are:

  1. ¿Cómo se define la amistad y cuáles son las características de un buen amigo?
  2. ¿Cuáles son los beneficios de las relaciones interpersonales bien desarrolladas?
  3.  ¿Cómo se celebran las relaciones interpersonales en varios países?

Step 3: Determine your assessments (practice & graded)

Decide the end point of your mini unit first. Will students demonstrate understanding through a formal AP-style assessment? Will students complete a practice AP-style assessment? Will students work on and submit a group assignment/project? An individual assignment/project? A topic-based quiz/exit ticket at the end of the week?

While AP-style assessments are great, the options don’t end there! Project-based ideas might include: a persuasive presentation/commercial, a travel itinerary, a brochure, an informative poster, an educational video, a new creation/design (ie. design an invention, design a perfect town/community, etc.), and so much more!

For the amor y amistad mini unit, I opted for a topic-based quiz because the length of the mini unit was so brief (3 days). However, I also incorporated a cultural comparison AP practice activity (formative assessment) to continue practicing AP test prep skills.

Step 4: Find your resources

Do a bit of research (whether with a provided textbook or online) to find relevant resources for include in your unit! These ideas can be added under your “lecciones” or “tarea” categories of the planning template. Resource ideas include:

  • infographics
  • videos
  • articles
  • poems
  • short stories
  • quotes
  • films
  • songs
  • statistical graphics
  • & more!

When designing my amor y amistad mini unit, I found videos, articles, quotes, songs and statistical graphics that served as warm-ups, lesson resources AND homework options throughout the 3 days.

Step 5: Design your day-to-day plan

Here’s where the daily lesson planner template comes into play! Start taking those ideas you saved/sketched in the unit planner and turn them into a mini unit with some organization, specific lesson ideas, etc.

If you notice some connections between resources you saved, design a day around that particular topic. For example, in my amor y amistad mini unit, one day focuses on introducing the topic and making connections to Valentine’s Day, the next focuses on friendship and the third on love + wrapping it up.

Some resources might better lend themselves to warm-ups, others to fuller-fledged lessons and others to independent homework assignments. Logistically, I tend to design teacher slides (for warm-up prompts, discussion questions and resources/links to guide the lesson along) as well as student handouts (for student writing, analysis, annotating, comprehension question responses, etc.) to accompany the mini unit. 

As you jot all these ideas down, keep in mind your essential questions and assessment goals so that students are exposed to practice and learning opportunities that help them reach those end goals with confidence!

Step 6: Teach and enjoy!

Here’s the fun part! Teach those lessons and enjoy sharing and discussing these topics with your students. Some aspect of your mini unit doesn’t go as planned? No stress! Just make a note of it for yourself next year and move on. We have too much on our plates to stress about a lesson flop. In the end, you are providing opportunities for so much learning and growth for your students, building their confidence and fluency in both the Spanish language and so many amazing cultures. You got this!

Mini Units for YOU!

So you love the idea of a mini unit but are overwhelmed by the time it might take to get one ready. Let me help you out! Below are a few AP Spanish mini units I’ve designed around holidays and topics you might not finding within your provided curriculum/textbook. Check one or a few out and let me know how it goes with your students!

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