Spanish 4 FTW

Recently my level 4 students took the Ap exam. When I asked how it went, one said it was “a breeze” except for the conversation part. Coming from him that’s funny, because in class conversations with me he uses the subjunctive, future, and conditional without much problem (though limited). To me, that speaks of the stilted way that conversation is done by College Board. Truthfully there’s a lot I don’t like about the exam, especially given that in real life you can ask clarification questions, and you’re not listening to a professional broadcast where someone is speaking extra fast. But that’s neither here nor there. Stats on my level 4 kids:

  1. They come to me in level 2 from a grammar teacher who does not do much communication in class, and they came to me VERY novice low – only able to recognize vocabulary, but not be able to produce.

  2. This class was my guinea pig class. I learned how to do CI on them. As such, they didn’t get the best CI instuction I could give. They had me for levels 2, 3, and 4.

  3. Senior-itis was a serious factor.

  4. This was NOT an AP class.

But I’m very confident they’ll get 3s based on what they’ve been able to do in class. I think next year’s group will have a lot of 4s in it. I’ve never had 1 5 ad that was a heritage speaker. Anyway, several have asked how I structure my Spanish 4 and had success with them. Here ya go:

  1. Success with the AP test I feel starts from the moment the kids walk in the door as soon as you get them. With the exception of one film we never watch movies (though I do lots of MovieTalks and music videos). There is no wasted time. Every class from bell to bell is packed with conversation, reading, and story asking. See my previous post on how I plan my level 2 classes for an idea of how I teach in general, but Spanish 2 is all about stories about getting them comfortable and putting as much language in their heads as possible.

  2. In level 3, we do 2 novels, lots of SSR, and a few take-home novels to read. I introduce El Internado when they’re ready, beginning with lots of pre-work stories designed by Mike Peto. I sometimes use the units and activities for the show that he sold on TpT, but I understand that many activities have now been removed. Either way, go to his site and check it out – lots of great materials. We also do a unit on World Poverty I’ve developed based on Eric Herman’s materials, and Socratic Seminars as taught to me by @Michelle_kindt,

  3. In level 4 I continue El internado and socratic circles.

  4. I continue using El Mundo en Tus Manos by Martina Bex. But occasionally sneak in other articles and short news videos.

  5. I still do some stories, but they’re either the more advanced units from Señor Wooly or stories and ideas graciously presented by Joseph Dziedzic and others at They are at least loosely aligned with AP themes and give me a framework for utilizing the subjunctive much more.

  6. Most of every Monday and Friday is just talking with my kids about their weekend and their plans, plus 5 minutes every day. Sometimes we riff these into fantastical stories.

  7. I seriously start stressing the future, conditional, and perfect tenses.

  8. We do tons of SSR. We should do more take home reading than we did.

  9. I think the only novel we did completely was La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth. We didn’t do any activities, just read it together and talked about it a bit. We started a bunch of others including En busca del monstruo, but never finished any o them together. They could read it on their own if they wanted.

  10. We read random authentic literature like Cajas de cartón and a bit of poetry to shake things up.

  11. I use units from Teachers Pay teachers from CI pros that I know and respect, like Kara Jacobs, Martina Bex, Kristy Placido, and others. Essentially if they’re a CI teacher, and they have materials, I generally trust it.

  12. We try to listen to podcasts by Native Speakers about certain subjects. Here is an example.

  13. In February, we audit a MOOC (massive open online course) from the website Ed-X called Ap Spanish Language and Culture, run by Boston University. We skip a lot, but the activities are a great template for class discussion and activities.

  14. Finally, in the last 2 weeks before the exam, we practice the actual test. Click here for some practice .

I don’t think there’s a magic bullet, and you can get this done from a lot of different angles. Lots of CI, from varied sources, and constant conversation with your kiddoes will get them there. It’s become pretty plain to me that CI rules, the rest drools. As always, pain is temporary, but acquired language is forever. YMMV.

One thought on “Spanish 4 FTW”

  1. I taught AP Spanish for the first time last year and had a similar philosophy to yours. Half of my students scored 3 or higher, which was a huge increase from the previous years when a different teacher taught AP Spanish. The previous teacher stressed grammar and conjugations a lot, whereas I never taught a single grammar lesson in AP Spanish. We just conversed with each other, read and listened to a lot of different sources, and tried to stay focused on the themes and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. It was overwhelming for me to teach the class for the first time, but I ended up being really proud of what we accomplished because I felt like it was a real team effort between me and my students.


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