Advice to a first-year AP Spanish Language Teacher

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.

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

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.

This entry was posted in AP Spanish Language and Culture, Curriculum and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Advice to a first-year AP Spanish Language Teacher

  1. Delores Alcazar says:

    What a wonderful publication, I have been teaching AP Spanish for 10 years I sure wish I had had this advice years ago and I still found useful advice for next year. Thank you for posting this advice I will definitely share it.

  2. Ana-Maria says:

    Hi! Thanks for the info. Do you have any post AP projects that you use with kids? They have an entire month before school let’s out and I am curious if you might have any ideas for project based learning.

  3. Pingback: SWCOLT AP Spanish Presentation | Señora B

  4. Pingback: 21 Riveting Resources for AP Spanish Language Practice | FluentU Spanish Educator Blog

  5. Jenien says:

    Thank you so much for all these wonderful tips! I need to put an order in for one AP review book. I like several of them for different reasons. If you had to choose one, which AP prep book would you say best prepares students and most accurately reflects the AP exam? Thanks again!

    • senorab72 says:

      I would go with Triangulo Aprobado 5th edition. It has all the subthemes covered, so you can pick and choose what you want to use. Temas is popular, but the readings are sometimes long and not so engaging, in my opinion. You also have to buy the AP workbook to supplement the textbook because it does not have all of the free response question types in it.

      • Jenien says:

        Thanks so much! What about one of the review books to recommend to students…5 steps, Barron’s, Princeton Review, etc.?

  6. senorab72 says:

    I have a copy of each one, but I use the 5 Steps to a 5 for practice exams and some of the practice exercises out of Barron’s and REA.

    • Christina Crews says:

      Thank you for all your help here. Where would I be able to purchase the 5 Steps to a 5 for practice exams, Barron’s and REA?

      • senorab72 says:

        In the blog entry, I list textbooks and links to where they can be purchased. I just checked the links for books you asked for and updated a couple. They are also all available at and probably Barns and & Nobles, as well.

  7. Lisa K. says:

    I am a big fan of the AP question box from Barron´s. They are a “fun” way to keep some skills sharp and start class, depending upon what you have in store for the day.

  8. Sandra Camacho says:

    I just want to say Thank You Very Much for sharing your tips and experience with AP Spanish. I am about to start this journey, and I find your blog quite helpful.

    Muchas gracias,


  9. Martha Bermudez says:

    Este año será mi primer año dictando el curso AP. NO tengo ninguna preparación y no sé cómo empezar. Estoy muy confudida pero a la vez siento que es un reto que debo afrontar. Por favor, podría darme algunas sugerencia cómo empezar por lo menos las dos primera semanas. Espero poder contar con su apoyo y experiencia si no es abuso de confianza de mi parte. Gracias por las buenas ideas y material presentado en este blog.

    • Yo tambien me siento igual. He estado bastante agobiada por este curso Tanto que he pedido a mi gente de la Universidad de Cordoba y de la Universidad de GRanada me crearan un programa dirigido a los alumnos que están matriculados en este curso. Mis alumnos irán a fomentar todo lo que les enseño durante 10 días. Si te interesa podremos juntar nuestros alumnos y colaborar con este programa?
      Saludos, y espero tus noticias

  10. Daniel Kelty says:

    Thanks for the wonderful resources you have on this page. Very helpful! I have a question. I am or will soon be an AP Spanish teacher, but am on my own in creating my units (that is, identifying a theme, collecting auth resources, and constructing the assessments. This biggest challenge I have had so far is identifying good themes. The AP themes listed on the website are very broad, such as Beauty and Aesthetics, Global Challenges, Personal and Public Identities etc. I have trouble narrowing them down to acceptable themes. Could you tell me what themes you incorporate into your AP class? Thanks in advance.

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