I just completed my second year of teaching AP Spanish Language (2014), and I would like to share my reflections on what I have learned these past two years. I had 18 years prior Spanish teaching experience before starting AP, but I had a lot to learn about the course and exam itself. This blog post was inspired by the startling number of comments I have read and heard from Spanish teachers who were told by administrators that they were going to teach AP, but never given any guidance on how to implement the course.
1. Familiarize yourself with what the AP website has to offer.
- The AP Spanish Language Course and Exam Description is indispensable. Read all of it before teaching the course. It has the test format and rubrics, in addition to a sample exam.
- The Course Overview is useful because it lists the reading and audio types to which the students should be exposed during the course.
- Visit the AP Spanish Language Course Home Page for sample planning and pacing guides and other links.
- You must visit the AP Spanish Language Course Audit Page. It is where you submit your syllabus to AP. It also has sample syllabi and a full-length practice exam with sample student responses.
- Join the AP Spanish Language Teacher Community. You will learn valuable information and be able to ask your own questions. The resource library is quite useful, as well.
- Since the 2014 test is in a new format, not all of the free-response student samples of past exams are relevant, but some can still be useful for your students to read and listen to. After the new test has been given for a few years, the bank of student samples will be much more useful. For each exam there is a document, the Student Performance Q&A, that contains comments from the exam graders about how the students performed on the free-response questions and advice to teachers about how to prepare their students in the future. For the 2014-2017 exams, the free-response questions and audio have been released, along with the student samples with commentaries.
- Familiarize yourself and your students with the four free-response rubrics. Here are the ones I use in a more student-friendly format.
2. Check out the exam administration materials in advance. You cannot proctor your own test, but read the proctors’ manual thoroughly so that you can prepare your students for what will happen that day, particularly with the recording section. There are several sets of instructions for recording depending on the type of equipment you are using, so be sure to tell your proctors which parts pertain to them and which parts they can skip. You, your students, and the proctors also need to know what to do in case of an administration incident, such as recording problems. I did not know my first year that the proctor could immediately re-test a student if there was an equipment issue during the recording portion, so that student ended up doing the entire free-response sections again on the AP make-up test day. AP also has information about options for recording the speaking portions. Starting with the 2017 exam, all recordings will be uploaded to a Digital Audio Submission (DAS) Portal rather than burning the recordings to individual CD’s as has been the case in the past. The AP site has useful documents and access to webinars that shows how to record and how to upload the recordings. A DAS account must be set up by the AP Coordinator at your school in April before testing begins in May.
3. Obtain as many AP test preparation resources as you can. I like being able to pick and choose what materials I want to use for my lessons rather than sticking to one textbook. I realize that “textbook” has almost become a dirty word in teaching languages, but with exercises already created in the format of the exam, I do not see a point in re-inventing the wheel. Besides, that textbook reading or audio with comprehension questions is just one component of a well-constructed lesson. I can build a lesson around the textbook resource that is not textbook-driven.
- McGraw-Hill Education http://www.mheducation.com/prek-12/category.30715.html
- Prentice Hall http://www.phschool.com/
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt http://www.hmhco.com/classroom/shop-by-subject/world-languages
- Wayside Publishing http://waysidepublishing.com
- Pearson Education http://www.pearsonschool.com
- Amsco Publishing http://www.amscopub.com
- EMC Paradigm http://www.emcp.com
- Vista Higher Learning https://vistahigherlearning.com/
- 5 Steps to a 5 https://www.mhprofessional.com/9780071803663-usa-5-steps-to-a-5-ap-spanish-language-and-culture-with-downloadable-recordings-2014-2015-ebook
- Cracking the AP Exam http://www.randomhouse.com/princetonreview/college/ap/
- Barron’s http://barronseduc.com/1438076827.html
- Barron’s practice exam online: http://barronsbooks.com/ap/span/
- REA http://store.rea.com/0738685364.html
- Carlex http://www.carlexonline.com
- Filmarobics http://www.filmarobics.com
- TPRS Storytelling http://tprstorytelling.com
- Santillana Publishing http://www.santillanausa.com
- Teachers’ Discovery http://www.teachersdiscovery.com
- Scholastic magazines https://classroommagazines-beta.scholastic.com/spanish.html?promo_code=3156
4. Check out Pinterest. A number of teachers are creating boards and pinning resources for each of the 6 themes.
5. Have a list of websites for good listening and reading comprehension materials.
6. Since graphs and tables are now on the AP Spanish exam, seek out websites with useful data and incorporate them regularly in your classes.
7. The AP exam is essentially one big integrated performance assessment. Practice the 3 modes of communication regularly in class.
- interpretive (reading, listening)
- interpersonal (e-mail correspondence, conversation)
- presentational (persuasive essay, oral presentation)
8. Join an online community like this Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1880918648814626/
9. In July, check the Online Reports System to see your students’ scores. You will need the username and password you use for the course audit page to access the information. You can also generate reports to see how your students as a group scored on each section in comparison with all other students who took the exam.
10. Become an AP reader and experience firsthand how the free-response sections are scored. According to the website, AP is in need of Spanish Language and Culture exam readers, in particular.
11. Attend an AP Summer Institute. Your principal or AP coordinator should inform you and get you signed up for this, but not all administrators do. Please advocate for yourself and request to attend if they do not take the initiative.