Back 2 School: Deciding on curriculum

Deciding on curriculum

(Missed the first few posts in the back 2 school series?  Check out my round-up, emergency sub plans, and decoration posts!)

For the past few years, I haven’t been using a textbook to structure my classes.  However, if you are going to make the jump, it can seem overwhelming.  Many times, you can wonder where to start.  I wanted to share how I personally design my own curriculum, to give some food for thought if you are leaving the textbook as well.  You can check out my curriculum here.

First, I pick a novel or two that will be an appropriate level for my students.  This will typically provide a place to start with my curriculum.  I also think about the country that the book takes place; I make sure that I am not covering these countries in other units.

Next in the beginning levels, I would try to keep some units that were traditionally taught in textbooks.  Since many of my students would be going to other classes where textbooks would be used, I wanted to mimic some of those units.  I have found that typically level 1 discusses students and their lives: characteristics, clothes, house, family etc.  Level 2 starts with themselves and starts to include their community: daily routine, restaurants, travel, community places etc.  Finally, level 3 starts to include the world around them: current events, ecology, entertainment etc.

I pick from these units what I think will be the most relevant to my students and then, I pare down the vocabulary to the essentials.  I think about the structures that they will need and come up with my unit outline sheets.  Again, I like these units because they provide the continuity of a textbook when they will have another Spanish teacher that will expect them to know some of these basics.

As I am thinking of backward planning, I try to think about what my students may actually discuss in the target language.  Then, I can develop my integrated performance assessment.  I have seen some back and forth about whether or not it is realistic to have students discuss something that they might discuss when studying abroad.  On Twitter, I found a compelling argument as to why we SHOULD be thinking in this way.  One professor wrote that many students will just take Spanish courses in literature or culture and not actually cover things that they may talk about when studying abroad or traveling to another country.  That made sense to me, and I would frequently have students come back and tell me that they used their Spanish when traveling to these places.

However, by eliminating a ton of vocabulary and structures and perhaps some units, it gives the class flexibility.  We can explore more resources by throwing in another cultural source like Google Tours.  Or we can go in depth and really look at a fast food menu.  We can add in some of the songs that may or may not connect to the curriculum but students love and if we are discussing them in Spanish help improve proficiency.  We can include more MovieTalks and really work with them by including a few different activities with each one.  It also allows my students a lot of exposure to the structures and phrases in new ways.

Finally, it gives us flexibility when great units pop up, and I want to include them.  I was able to teach about the lottery commercial this year in level 1.  I also included this AfroLatino unit from Martina.  In level 3, we were able to really read a lot about current events.  These units are rich in culture and also allow my students to delve deeper into the topic.  It also allows me to include any cultural information that really interests me like art.

With my upper levels (5 and 6), I planned a bit differently.  I still started with two books and made sure to add in tertulias.  I started checking out some pre-created units that already existed that I really loved like the Ecuadorian legends unit.  I believe that when you are navigating away from a textbook, make sure you borrow and adapt resources from trusted teachers.  If not, you will go crazy trying to plan it all yourself!  I also included the lottery commercials each year.  However, then, I allowed my students to choose the topics.  Sometimes, we would start on a narrow topic like narcoviolencia in Mexico.  Other times, we would start with a country and see where it lead us like this paquete unit in Cuba.

These questions and thoughts have helped guide me as I make the transition and have made my classes more inclusive to students’ needs.  Let me know if you have any questions if you are trying to develop your curriculum as well.

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