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Planning the Year in AP Spanish

planning the year AP Spanish

Don't Skip the Planning Process!

Are you a plan-the-whole-unit-at-once teacher or a plan-by-the-day teacher? Whatever your style, I highly recommend taking some time to plan out your year and goals for your students so you (and they!) know where you’re headed! Below are the steps I take when planning a new year of AP Spanish. These were especially important before teaching the course for the first time!

Step 1: Overview the AP Course and Exam

Whether you were able to attend an AP Institute or not, it’s important to overview the goals and components of the AP Spanish Exam. Here’s a brief 2-pager from CollegeBoard about the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam & Course.

Understanding the AP course and exam will give you some pillar points of focus as you design your units and lessons. While we teachers don’t always love the idea of “teaching to a test,” one of the huge goals of students taking this course is to pass the exam. Providing exposure to sample exams and similar tasks throughout the year will aid them in their success.

You’ll want to ensure students are instructed on the format and expectations of each component of the exam and have regular practice + assessments on each type:

  • Elección múltiple
  • Conversación simulada
  • Comparación cultural
  • Correo electrónico
  • Ensayo argumentativo

Step 2: Sketch Out the Year

There are 6 recommended AP themes/units to address in the AP Spanish course. Look at how many teaching days/weeks you have available and divvy up the 6 units. Consider the order of units as well! I love to start with the Identidades unit because it lends itself well to the start of the year – sharing about one another, interests, components of our identity, etc. Here’s the order I’ve taught the units in the past (although there isn’t a wrong way to do this!):

  1. Las identidades personales y públicas
  2. Las familias y las comunidades
  3. La ciencia y la tecnología
  4. Los desafíos mundiales
  5. La belleza y la estética
  6. La vida contemporánea

Step 3: Decide on Skills & Routines

What are the foundational skills you’d like your students to walk away with upon completing your course? These will likely relate to the objective of the AP course and exam. Ideas include:

  • reading comprehension
  • organized and clear writing
  • confident oral expression
  • improved listening comprehension
  • broad cultural competence
  • etc.

These foundational skills can lead into routines you’d like to implement in your classroom. Routines can refer to anything you do regularly – daily, weekly, monthly, per unit, etc. There are a wide variety of things that can become routine when teaching AP Spanish, such as:

  • daily warm-ups? (ie. identidades warm-ups)
  • students study one country all year? (ie. via temas culturales)
  • weekly vocabulary or grammar to refine writing skills?
  • weekly AP exam practice?
  • unit-long HW to explore culture and improve skills? (ideas here)
  • biweekly assessments?
  • etc.

Step 4: Consider Assessments

It’s important to consider assessments before sitting down to plan out your units and daily lessons. Your assessments are your end goal and all tasks leading up to the assessment should help prepare students to succeed on the assessment task.

Because many of your students will likely take the AP exam in the spring, it’s important that many of your assessments mirror what they’ll expect to see on that exam. Of course, you can always add in variety to keep students engaged! Examples of assessments I’ve used in the AP classroom include:

  • AP-style multiple choice
  • AP-style free response (email, essay, cultural comparison, simulated conversation)
  • Individual or group presentations
  • Individual or group projects
  • Vocabulary and grammar mini-quizzes

Including a variety of assessments helps to target all the important skills students are developing throughout the year. I typically assign an assessment every week or two in AP Spanish instead of too many at the end of a unit – this helps spread the work load out for both me and students!

Step 5: Plan your First Unit

Once you have a general overview of the exam components, your unit order and other routines you personally want to implement in class, it’s time to pull it all together into your unit plans! 

This can feel overwhelming as there are so many components to consider – AP prep, exposure to culture, grammar review, reading and writing, all the speaking practice, input galore and more!

To help myself out, I designed a unit planning template to organize all of these ideas in one place. With this template you will:

  1. determine how many days you’ll spend on the unit
  2. review the unit’s essential questions
  3. decide which of the 6 sub-themes (contexts) you’ll address during the unit
  4. choose a grammar focus or two for the unit
  5. schedule AP practice tasks
  6. determine appropriate and relevant AP-related assessments
  7. sketch out lesson ideas for each of the individual contexts you plan to teach

The download also includes a daily agenda planner for you to slot out your lesson ideas into the days on which you plan to teach them. In the download, you’ll see sample snapshots of how I’ve designed parts of the Identidades unit. Download here and check it out!

Step 6: Review & Adjust Regularly

Teaching AP Spanish is a big undertaking, especially if it’s your first year teaching the course. One of the best things you can do is reflect and adjust as necessary. Are you finding your students struggle with one of the AP tasks over another? Schedule in more practice. Did you plan not to teach grammar but quickly realized your students are struggling with some foundational concepts? Add grammar pop-ups once a week! Did a lesson flop? No biggie – take note on what to change next time!

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¡Hola! I’m Kristen, the teacher-author behind La Profe Digital. I design Spanish teaching resources rooted in culture, communication and authentic resources to help save YOU time!

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