What does a Pre-AP Spanish course curriculum include?
Theme-based curricula that build to the AP Spanish course content
Preparing for AP Spanish Language and Culture begins the first day of level 1. Students don’t have to be highly proficient to begin communicating about the six course themes and contexts for AP Spanish Language and Culture. The best pre-AP curricula have theme-based units that align with the AP Spanish Language and Culture course themes, starting at the beginning of the program. Communicating about the challenges of contemporary life may seem intimidating to a first-year language student, but learning to talk about pastimes or entertainment within the context of contemporary life at a novice-high or intermediate-low level is not. With effective scaffolding built into individual lessons and over the course of a four- or five-year program, students gain the skills needed to communicate about those same AP Spanish course themes and contexts to a higher degree of proficiency and sophistication. (Student proficiency and performance are best measured using the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.)
Vocabulary and culture in context: authentic resources through a variety of media
Language and culture are inseparable. If students are to become both culturally and linguistically proficient and meet the demands of the cultural comparison portion of the exam, they must be exposed to culture through the language. The best pre-AP curricula do this through a variety of authentic print and audio texts presented across different media. From culturally appropriate greetings to the nuances of cultural perspectives surrounding rites of passage, for example, units that expose students to language and culture through video, audio, literature, music, and art with which students can interact through an online format do much more to prepare students to communicate about the products, practices, and perspectives of Spanish-speaking cultures as they are required to do in an AP Spanish course.
Grammar as a tool not a topic
I love how the Senderos series treats the topic of grammar. Since our move to a proficiency-based curriculum, my students can produce much more language than they could otherwise. However, grammar continues to be an important part of proficiency. Grammatical accuracy and variety are characteristic of the higher proficiency levels. Some grammar can be seamlessly woven into lessons using authentic resources. The more complex grammar skills may be more quickly acquired if they are taught explicitly within the context of the unit themes. Regardless, grammar is a tool for proficiency, but it surely is not a theme of a unit, or the topic of a lesson. With that in mind, it is important to know that the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam does not test grammar explicitly, but rather considers grammar as one point among many in effective communication.
Integrated performance assessments that incorporate all three modes of communication in a Pre-AP program
The AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam tests students’ academic proficiency in all three modes. Therefore, it is vital that student proficiency be assessed in a similar way from the beginning of the pre-AP program. Task-based assessments that measure student communication skills in all three modes—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational—not only determine the content of an effective pre-AP curriculum, but they also help students prepare for the demands of the AP exam. Students should be required to react to some type of interpretive, real-world stimuli in both written and spoken form. They should be required to present cultural comparisons as well as defend their viewpoints on topics of current interest. A variety of level-appropriate performance tasks that require students to synthesize and apply learning best serves students to move toward an AP language course. From creating informational pamphlets at a novice level and presenting plans for the weekend, to developing an app with practical travel information at an intermediate level, or describing the cultural perspectives surrounding religious traditions at an advanced level, these real-world tasks form the summative assessments of the best pre-AP programs.
Learn more about Senderos here.
By Robert Collard