Are you looking to create engaging Spanish unit plans? I think we all are, I mean who doesn’t want their students on-task, focused, and having fun while learning a foreign language? If you’re like me, you absolutely love the language and culture, but sometimes it’s hard to get the kids on board with you. Download my free unit plan brainstorming worksheet and follow along – you can plan as you read!
When I started student teaching, my cooperating teacher had not requested a student teacher. She was so surprised when I turned up and asked if I could “go away and come back in a month.” I couldn’t, I needed a set number of hours to be ready to graduate. So instead she sat me down with a bunch of articles about backwards planning and had me unit plan for the upcoming semester.
In that moment, I didn’t know anything about backwards planning – seriously, why hadn’t they taught me this in school? Oof, there’s enough about what they don’t teach in college for a whole other blog post, or even another blog.
Anyway, let’s get back on track!
What is backwards planning?
Unfortunately I didn’t learn much from reading those backwards planning articles in a warm basement copy room in Brooklyn. Instead, I picked up backwards planning when I got into my first classroom and we had weekly (yes, weekly) benchmark assessments.
Here’s what i learned about backwards planning:
- Start with the end goal (project, assessment, presentation, essay, etc.)
- Consider what your students need in order to reach that end goal: Do they need to practice? Write a rough draft?
- Build your way backwards, sliding down the challenge scale until you reach the most basic skills. This is where you start teaching. Slowly, you’ll grow your students’ skills and knowledge so they’re ready for that final assessment.
Sounds easy, right? It is!
Start Backwards Planning for Spanish Class
Backwards planning for engaging unit plans means you start with the assessment, which demonstrates the most advanced version of the skill or content (more on that below!). Then you brainstorm the vocabulary and concepts your students will need to achieve the goal, and plan from there!
For example, if I want my students to present the news at the end of the unit, my backwards plan might look like this:
- End Goal: Present the news using past tense and who, what, where, when, why details
- Penultimate Step: Revise rough draft or practice with a small group of peers
Then I’ll build backwards from what my students need in order to reach this goal. Moving backwards toward the most simple step, it might look like this:
- Write a rough draft of the news story, request feedback from teacher or peers
- Deepen the plan with details, quotes, events, etc. using wordreference to find new words
- Share the plan with a peer to make sure it’s interesting and newsworthy
- Make a plan including the who, what, where, when, and why
- Brainstorm interesting news topics
- Evaluate strong and weak news stories
- Look at bias and word choice in articles
- Examine author’s purpose in a news article, who they’re writing for, why it matters
- Consider opinions vs. facts and read news articles looking for both
- Summarize news articles including the who, what, where, when, and why
- Read news articles through an investigative lens
- Summarize news articles
- Read news articles for comprehension
- Introduce news as a topic, connect to student interest
Woah! It seems like a lot, but once you put it on the calendar, you’ll see that this quickly turns into a four week unit about the news.
Skills Focus vs. Content Focus
Spanish Skills: Reading, Speaking, Listening, Writing
We want to hit them all, right? When I write engaging Spanish unit plans, I consider what skills I want them to show off and how they can do that.
For example, with my news unit above, my students will ultimately demonstrate writing or speaking skills. But they’ll practice all of these skills along the way. In the beginning, we’ll focus on reading skills so they can rely on cognates and familiar words to guide their understanding. As we progress, we’ll move to using radio, podcast, or TV news clips to expand to listening skills. Throughout this practice, I’ll encourage them to rely on familiar words.
Building this out might look like this:
Content Focus: Planning Thematic Units
Instead of starting with skills, you might focus your Spanish unit plan on a theme. This is more common when you’re using a textbook or you have a curriculum calendar to follow.
When building backwards, I’d still start with the end goal or project in mind, but instead brainstorm the vocabulary or grammar concepts students would need each week. Rather than planning out the skills, you’ll plan the content.
Start Unit Planning!
Grab my free Spanish unit plan brainstorming worksheet! There are six different formats to help you create engaging unit plans for your students!