Where to Start When You Have No Spanish Curriculum

Are you starting a new job but lack a curriculum? How do you decide what to teach your first-year Spanish students?

I’ve noticed that Spanish departments typically fall into one of two categories: those with a mandated textbook and those without any curriculum at all. This is where many elementary and middle school teachers turn to SarahsSpanishSchool.com for a complete and robust curriculum.

Although I technically had a textbook, I supplemented almost everything. By the time I finished, my students didn’t even realize there was a textbook! They never saw it!

I used the vocabulary and grammar concepts from the book to ensure my students were ready for the next teacher, but I made the lessons as engaging as possible! I created new speaking activities, modified listening exercises, wrote stories to include the vocabulary, and developed countless games to keep my students engaged!

How to design a Spanish curriculum from scratch

Designing a Spanish curriculum from scratch without a textbook can be incredibly overwhelming. The endless possibilities can feel liberating to some, but for me, it was too many choices. I needed a guide.

As a middle school Spanish teacher, I decided to look at what was being taught in Spanish 1 at the high school level. I wanted to ensure my students would be prepared to advance to Spanish 2 in high school.

Using the high school Spanish 1 scope and sequence was the most logical approach to prepare my students for future Spanish studies. Therefore, I adopted the high school scope and sequence but slowed it down, spreading it over 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Here is what my first quarter included:

What if I am at a high school with no Spanish curriculum?

If you’re the only teacher in your department and there’s no one else to turn to, here are my scope and sequences. Throughout my career, I’ve seen several different textbook series, and they usually cover the same units, just in a different order. You can download these for free and use them as a guide.

Great! But where should I start?

The first thing you’ll want to determine is what your students already know. If they’re coming from another teacher, start the year with some review. I give my 7th-grade students an ungraded pre-test that covers everything I expect them to remember from 6th-grade Spanish. You can download my free beginning-of-year Spanish review test and read this blog post about the quickest and best way to review. I complete the beginning-of-the-year review within 2-3 class periods.

From there, see where the majority of the kids struggled. That’s where you start. If 80% or more of your class aced the pre-test, look at your scope and sequence to see what comes next.

How to make your Spanish curriculum fun

One word: Games!

I teach letters with a catchy song, a battleship game, and a hilarious spelling bee game. Students line up, and I give them a word to spell in Spanish. Each person says one letter until the word is complete. The next person says “¡Adiós!” and the person after that is out for no reason at all. The kids LOVE it and ask to play it throughout the year with other vocabulary.

Numbers: We play tic-tac-toe, bingo, and many more games!

School supplies: A game called “Pásenme.” I call out a school supply or series of items that I want: “Pásenme 3 lápices y una pluma roja!” The students work with their table to hold up the items as quickly as possible. The first team gets two points, and all other teams that complete the task earn one point.

At the end of this unit, students use all the vocabulary they’ve learned to create an itinerary for a vacation to a Spanish-speaking country. They must include the dates and times of their activities and what the weather will be like at that time. They also tell me the price of the activities to incorporate numbers. They really enjoy it!

This sounds like so much work!

It is. There’s no way to sugarcoat it—teaching is hard and requires a lot of effort. Feeling overwhelmed is totally normal, and it’s perfectly OK to ask for help. Since 2017, resources have been available to support teachers by providing ready-made lesson plans.

If you like what you see, you’ll appreciate how much time and energy you can save with these pre-made lesson plans for Spanish I and Spanish II. Each unit includes everything you need to teach effectively!

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