Tips for Sequencing a Unit in Spanish Class

Let's Chat Unit Sequencing!

Do your units have a certain pattern to them? Do you wish they did? In my personal experience, deciding on a general unit sequence helps me to save time lesson planning and gives my students an expected flow throughout the unit. You can design a template of a unit sequence that works for YOU and your curriculum and reuse it each unit, with minor edits, to help save you time and brain power!

Components of a Unit Sequence

Your teaching style, provided curriculum and department expectations may impact what goes into your unit sequence. Below are a list of ideas to consider:

  • unit intro / buy-in
  • vocabulary input
  • grammar/language structure input
  • additional input practice opportunities (reading, listening, music, visuals, etc.)
  • output practice opportunities (speaking, writing, etc.)
  • project steps (for a project-based unit)
  • culture-based lesson(s)
  • formative assessments (Google Form checks, in-class whiteboard practice, assignment submissions, etc.)
  • summative assessments (project, IPA, writing submission, spoken conversation, spoken presentation, etc.)

Sequencing a World Language Unit

It’s important to remember that, in a world language class specifically, the start of your unit will likely be much more input-based than output-based. Providing students with ample opportunities to hear, read and see the target language vocabulary and grammar structures in context will help to build their confidence to produce the language later on. 

The first practice opportunities of a unit might be heavily scaffolded (sentence frames provided on the screen/board, vocabulary list aids, etc.). Later practice opportunities might require more independence (Q/A practice with a partner, free response writing, etc.) and can also function as formative assessments for you to check for understanding and reteach/review topics as needed. 

You might also find that assessments don’t only take place at the tail end of a unit, as is traditionally the case in most subject areas. Because we assess so many skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking), it’s impossible (or extremely overwhelming) to attempt to do ALL of these the last days of a unit (for you and for students!). Decide at the start of your unit which skills you’ll assess and where during your unit they most make sense. For example, students may be ready for an interpretive-based assessment a week or so before a presentational-based one! Check out this post for tips on backwards planning your unit!

How I Sequence a Unit

The schools in which I’ve taught have provided me a required textbook curriculum to follow, which included a pre-set vocabulary list and several grammar topics. My goal was always to balance this with comprehensible input, authentic texts and context-based communication whenever possible. It can be a tricky balance sometimes, but I felt it provided my students a well-rounded exposure to Spanish language and culture.

Let’s see an example! Below is a sample outline for a unit on LA FAMILIA. The unit targets  family & activity vocabulary and -AR verbs, with review of SER + adjectives (taught in a previous unit).

Sample Unit: La Familia

Days 1-3: Unit Intro & Vocabulary Input

The first few days, I focus on getting students engaged with the new topic and exposed to as much of the new vocabulary as possible. 

Day 1 might included a video about family in Spanish, during which students listen for cognates, or a culture-based video in English to allow students to learn about family values and perspectives in one of our countries of study.

Vocabulary input might include posting pictures of my own family and describing them using as much target vocabulary as possible. This also lends itself well to asking students heavily-scaffolded (yes/no) questions to keep them involved (“Mi hermano toca la guitarra. Alex, ¿Tu hermano toca la guitarra? ¿Sí o no?”). You can also display visuals of a famous TV family (La Familia Moderna) or a real family (La familia real española) to provide additional input. 

Other ideas: Provide students with a text or sentences describing family members. Find an infographic in Spanish that utilizes some target vocabulary/cognates so students can grasp main ideas (here’s a simple and relevant graphic!).

These first few days are a great time to recycle a relevant grammar structure. I might use SER + adjectives frequently when discussing family members and their characteristics. You could also review introductory phrases such as “se llama” and “tiene _ años” plus numbers in Spanish.

Days 4-7: Target Structure 1 (input & practice)

Whether you choose to teach grammar explicitly or not, you’ll likely have a target structure or two you’d like students to learn during the given unit. I’m going to focus only on AR present-tense verbs since it’s such a big and foundational topic for students.

Day 4 is when I would introduce the topic, providing input, a mini lesson and some simple, scaffolded practice opportunities. Check out THIS POST to read more about how I teach grammar with a proficiency-based spin! This -AR verb grammar lesson and activity bundle includes all those steps I referenced.

The following days I’d provide ample opportunities to practice through speaking, writing and more reading/listening-based activities that I can also use as formative assessments to check students’ understanding. Here are some ideas:

  • Describe activities our family members do
  • Analyze images/visuals – what does each person do in their free time?
  • Partner interview using AR verbs
  • Textbook-provided audio activities
  • Read excerpts about different individuals’ activities of choice, compare to own
  • Read a short story, search for examples of verbs, comprehension Qs
  • Watch a relevant video, listening for activity verbs
  • Individual free write
  • Read a letter/email about someone’s family members and write a response
  • Google Form check-ins/formative assessment
  • Mini poster project (-AR verbs)

Have another target structure? Repeat this process!

Days 8-10: Putting it Together / Review

Spend a few days putting it all together – vocabulary, the 1-2 grammar structures, etc. This is a perfect time to provide assessment practice opportunities as well. Will students be responding to an email as one of their assessments? Give them a sample one first. Will students be participating in an interpersonal conversation? Get students up and talking using question cards! 

This might also be a time to include an interpretive assessment, if you were planning on one.

Day 11: Culture

While culture is likely sprinkled throughout your unit, it’s also nice to have a lesson or two that more heavily prioritizes culture – ie. learning about family structures and values in other countries, comparing to one’s own, etc. Think about the 3 Ps emphasized at the AP level (products, practices and perspectives).

Looking for an idea? Check out this FAMILIA Webquest! Students can work in pairs or independently. This provides a great opportunity for you to check in with students 1 on 1 or complete a Q/A-based assessment.

Day 12+: Assessments

Depending on your assessment, you may need 1 or more days for students to show what they know. Students may complete a written response, perform a spoken presentation, dialogue with you or a partner, complete a project, and more. 

For a project-based unit, consider sprinkling project steps throughout the unit, as students are ready for each one. This last day could be used for putting the final pieces together. Add another day for “publishing” and sharing their work with classmates!

To Recap...

To review, there are a variety of ways you can outline your units. Try to find a flow that you can repeat and reuse to save yourself time and provided routine to your students.

Looking for templates to outline your plans? Check out the Back-to-School Resource Bundle, which includes unit and lesson planning templates, plus two activities for your first week of class!

I’d love to hear what your sequencing looks like! Share your thoughts or questions below!

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