Planning your high school Spanish curriculum is daunting – use this free Spanish 1 curriculum map that can be adapted for all Spanish levels to make the curriculum design process faster. Below you’ll find a free class with this editable curriculum map to learn how to better use the ACTFL tools and plan for a year of proficiency and CI centered instruction.
CI Spanish Curriculum
Heads up, this class is designed for Spanish teachers aiming for proficiency – oriented instruction in world language. If you’d like to see this curriculum map in action, you can check out my Spanish 1 curriculum kit for CI teachers. This is also helpful if you need something ready-made.
Free Spanish Curriculum Tools
These are the tools any CI Spanish teacher needs to craft a Spanish curriculum and what we’ll be using in class:
ACFTL Can-Do Statements and Intercultural Communication ICCs
Free Proficiency Oriented Spanish Curriculum Unit Map for levels 1-5 from South Carolina Ed Dept
Spanish 1 Curriculum How-To
This class is part of a curriculum series. Check out the full world language curriculum series on youtube to dive deeper into other levels and ACFTL tools.
You can watch the class above or read the transcript below.
Without further ado, let’s get started! I’m not going to lie to you. I’m really excited about this class because I love Spanish 1.I’ve done Spanish 1 from day one and it is absolutely my favorite thing to do.
High school Spanish 1 curriculum is very near and dear to my heart. I love teaching novice learners and I especially love getting teachers into these questions:
- How do we teach our students about proficiency?
- How do we properly prepare them for what’s in store in our classrooms?
- What about the community that’s necessary in order to set students up for success for a whole year of language learning?
High School Spanish Curriculum Map
First, you’ll need a tool to help you with your curriculum map. Starting with a really good curriculum map is going to set you up for success for the entire year. It saves you planning time as you move through the rest of your year.
Download the free editable curriculum map for world language here
Plus this document is editable! You can either type right into this document or print it out. This one teeny tiny document and spending a little bit of time on it is going to pay off dividends.
This is going to help you a lot as we work through everything that you need in order to create a well-designed Spanish curriculum.
This post on World Language Curriculum Design especially for small departments will also help you out.
My Spanish 1 Curriculum
This class is intended for those who want to outline and improve their curriculum. However, if you’re looking for resources based on this framework, you can use my ready-made Spanish 1 curriculum for comprehensible input teachers here.
I’m building out this Spanish 1 curriculum kit using this very framework.
Our Spanish 1 Curriculum Map Structure in Stages
Stage 1 – Desired Results and ACTFL Tools
Let’s start with very first step of solid high school Spanish curriculum planning: desired results! Where you want your students to be by the end of your course?
Next, we have enduring understandings, essential questions, Intercultural communication and performance indicators. All four of those are ACTFL tools. If you are unclear on any of those terms join the club!
I have a full class on each of these so you can go back into the library here are my Facebook page
this one specifically for essential questions
Intercultural communication can do is I can do in your classroom
Stage 2 – Standards & Contact Hours
Second, we gather together the standards. These are the tools and specific proficiency oriented language to guide us. Additionally, we’ll organize our assessments for students and evaluating whether we actually reached our goal.
Make sure also that our goals are in appropriate places
making sure that we’re not putting things that really belong in Spanish 3 is
assessment and evidence
this is when you’re really going to dive deep into how am I going to make sure that they’re actually hitting all the points
The next thing in crafting your high school Spanish curriculum is to look at the structure and time frame that you’re working with.
This is going to depend on these factors:
- How many contact hours you have with your students?
- How often do you see them?
- How frequently and for how long?
- How many minutes?
that’s going to all add up to be your contact hours.
depending on whether it’s spread apart that also can influence that.
Spanish Curriculum Units, Themes, and Topics
Then, we’re going to get into units, themes and topics. This is usually where people start with their high school Spanish curriculum. It’s not a good place to start. Then you’re starting from the brain dump instead of a place with structure.
All this jazz is going to save you so much time with organization as well.
This is all from the framework of backward design and that is just general curriculum creation Basics. Then I took the aims and principles from what it means to create a World Language curriculum in order to adapt for a world language teacher’s needs. The backward design model leaves a little bit to be desired for the World Language teacher.
Stage 3 – The Learning Plan
The last part of this high school Spanish curriculum map is the learning plan. This part will probably take the most time. This is stage 3.
This is where we figure out exactly what our course is going to look like.
Then, it’s the money piece: we’ve got core structures and skills. We’ll get into that at the end of class (end of the post). I’ll show you some examples there.
We all have access to information for great ideas for what could be in your proficiency Center curriculum.
We all have access to incredible resources: you have the teachers around you that are doing incredible things in their classroom. you have a lot of information – there’s no shortage of it. What matters is do you have it in the right order? trying to reach for things in your curriculum that you might not be ready for in terms of where you’re at in your journey to proficiency leads to burnout. I did that all the time and it was not a good look.
if you are starting from content words. if you’re just starting with I have an idea that I want to do this unit and I want to do that…
Or, like most people, you’re working with a slight framework for your high school Spanish curriculum. You’re working with a textbook or you’re working with the skeleton of a textbook. Maybe you’re just using the table of contents. Or you’re working with the district outline and you’d like to supplement with your own pieces and make your own curriculum stronger. That’s why you need something like this.
even though that’s where most people start – honestly it’s the easiest thing to think of.
to save you a million years of planning time, go with this first. start with the end in mind. Think about what you want your students to be able to do by the time they are done with your course.
Stage 1 – Desired Results
Let’s jump on it and start with stage one – desired results!
When I started to map out my Spanish 1 curriculum, I thought about my desired results. I did this also when I was still in the classroom. I wanted to have a mission statement for my students.
This always helps me to choose between good resources, good units, good topics, good ideas and great resources, great topics, great ideas. We don’t have that much time with our students.
Knowing from the very beginning where I want them to go and putting in a little bit of time with the organization really helps me in those tough planning moments. Maybe you know them – when I was sitting at my desk at 4 p.m. trying to go home on time and thinking to myself I don’t know what I’m teaching tomorrow or how I’m going to teach it! That happened to be a lot. Maybe you’re like me.
if you’re trying to make lesson plans for your next week and you have a small Topic in mind you’re thinking yourself
I know I have to work on getting around town but honestly like I have a full library of things that I’ve downloaded from TPT over 5 years I have a very dusty filing cabinet of things that I’ve hoarded from student teaching and Beyond.
there’s not a lack of things for me to use, I just don’t know if it’s right for me.
My High School Spanish 1 Mission Statement
this is for you then. Here’s the mission statement: my students will leave Spanish 1 as empathetic Global citizens ready for a digital University or workforce environment.
If that’s my desired result then being empathetic Global Citizens means to me also that they are able to understand at a survival level and interact at a survival level.
in ACTFL terms is novice mid. maybe High some of them.
My specific proficiency Target for them is I want them to be known as mid to by the time that they leave most of them are going to be coming in with 0 2 novice low. a few words here and there.
Being able to understand and interact gives us some different things that we need to work with. understand at a novice level means that we’re going to be working with a lot of listening activities
Being able to interact at a survival level also means that we’re going to be doing a lot of interaction activities.
you’ll notice there is nothing about being able to read or write.
What Are Your CI Spanish Curriculum Priorities?
As a teacher, writing in the target language was not a focus of mine. Every teacher has their own preferences. I’ve met a lot of teachers who disagree with that and that’s cool. You choose what’s right for you.
Here’s why I don’t focus on writing especially in Spanish 1: my students wanted to speak and understand what was being spoken to them.
Not to mention reading is going to naturally come very easily to your students. It’s one of the easier things to grasp, especially if you’re in Spanish. No need to focus on that.
Personally, while I was studying abroad I didn’t really write that much in Spanish. barely ever.
The thing that I really wanted more practice in and I wish that I did more in the University environment was interaction.
What benefited my ability to navigate traveling and making friends was speaking and listening, not reading and writing. For a Spanish 1 class with no standardized assessment attached to it (and many students leaving after Spanish 2), my focus is for them to get the absolute most bang for their buck in proficiency and usefulness. This pays off the most when students can communicate with their Spanish speaking friends and neighbors, and understand pieces of their conversations.
so we did a little bit of writing in my classes but really not a lot.
If your situation is different, then move your goals accordingly.
The Biggest Spanish 1 Curriculum Mistake
However, with outrageously overstuffed curriculums and goals in Spanish 1, the best place to make room in my curriculum was to cut all the writing focus and replace it with speaking and interaction opportunities.
I knew I had a little bit of time and that was what I chose to focus on. You do you, teach!
How to Avoid Curriculum Overstuffing
Speaking quizzes were a big thing in my class.
If you have a test for Spanish or Spanish 3 that has writing components and obviously yours is going to be different you might have something along the lines of or a novice high on presentational writing final exam for entry to Spanish, then you know exactly what you’re going to need to do in your learning plan. There’s going to be a lot of presentation writing.
Teaching Culture in the Target Language
Lots of cultural things might mean you need to move away from 90% target language in order to become more empathetic Global Citizens. I was okay with that. Your goals may be different.
With proper training, you don’t really have to do that. You can absolutely teach culture with tons of target language.
In my early days, I relied on English to teach culture. Since I’ve been out of the classroom, I’ve seen many teachers and teacher presenters show me ways to incorporate culture with 90% target language.
It’s absolutely possible. But I will say that it requires some research, practice, and know-how. Still doable, and much better than what I was doing!
Those are my desired results. For our next segment, let’s see how we’ll organize and brainstorm these ideas for our high school Spanish 1 curriculum.
Brainstorm Learning Plan to Match Desired Results
Stage 1 provides a nice little brainstorming area for you.
- Where do you already know that you’re going to need to focus a lot of your time and energy in order to hit these desired results?
- What are they experiencing in Spanish 2?
- Example: a desired result for me is to understand proficiency. What it means to be a language learner.
What does that mean for me? I know right away that part of my learning plan down here is a unit on language acquisition and study. There’s a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a language learner, right? I always did that in the first 2 weeks of my classes.
This is an example of how knowing your desired results ahead of time will lead to better content ideas. Next, let’s add our enduring understandings.
Enduring Understandings for Spanish 1 Curriculum
An enduring understanding is something that your students walk away from your course knowing about the target culture and about themselves.
It goes far beyond the surface level objective of your units. Surface level doesn’t mean bad, it just means that this is what they learn about the world through the language acquisition process.
Let me give you one of my favorite examples for a level 1 class. At some point, you’ll do greeting and leave taking – Los saludos. One of my favorite enduring understandings that students will learn, especially Spanish or other romance languages, is that greetings reflect the social structure of different societies.
They’ll notice that right away. They will pick up on that without you having to tell them. That’s what it means by being an enduring understanding.
It’s not like a standard from ACTFL – it’s more like a can-do statement, where you’ll be able to craft the enduring understandings based on your Spanish 1 content.
Another enduring understanding that you could use for Spanish 1 school units is society’s perception of school.
Our next topic is related to enduring understandings. Let’s look at essential questions for Spanish 1.
Essential Questions for Spanish 1
Essential questions are going to help you organize your Spanish curriculum. What are your students going to ask and then be able to answer throughout the unit?
Here’s an example with a date and time unit for novice Spanish learners. We’re talking about birthdays and birthday parties. What day is the birthday party? When is the birthday party? What month is your birthday? What day is your birthday?
For a calendar unit for Spanish 1 on birthday parties, the essential question is their intercultural connection.
The essential question for a birthday and calendar unit is: do people around the world celebrate birthdays in similar or different ways?
How and Why to Use Essential Questions
Most of these questions are obviously not in the target language. They’re going to be in the L1. These essential questions are also going to be pretty public. You can even post them or help craft your lesson plans with them.
Essential questions take your unit about dates, calendars and days of the week (real stuffy but you know we gotta do it) – and transform it to a whole new level of application.
Deeper meanings and deeper cultural connections can come from the question “do people celebrate birthdays the same way as me?” The answer is no. It gives your simple novice low unit a whole new level of meaning as to why it’s important to learn language. It creates tangible evidence of the benefits of exploring a new culture through their language.
Essential Questions vs Enduring Understandings
It’s easy to confuse the two. Are enduring understandings public to your students? Maybe not. Your students might not see those because they describe the internal changes in their cultural viewpoints over time in a measurable way. They’re not necessarily something you can assess. It’s more like a milestone to measure where each student is at, not push them to that milestone.
Then you have an opportunity to explore resources that aren’t just the same old YouTube videos of different ways to say days of the week. This is a good way to diversify your curriculum a little bit with authentic text without falling down that terrible black hole on YouTube.
ACTFL Can-Do Statements and Standards
This is where you’re going to be putting in copy and paste those standards from ACTFL or the European equivalent.
What are you going to work on here?
There are a few different things:
We still have that product, practices, Perspective that we’re all used to from a few years ago but now it’s a little bit different.
It now has more layers which is better.
Since you know that your goal is novice mid-to-high, go to Intercultural communication.
ACFTL Can-Do Statements and Intercultural Communication ICCs
Example: I can identify appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the target culture
Other performance indicators are the ones that you know and love. Now it’s time for the can-do statements.
Can-Do Statements for Spanish 1
The can-do statements are the way that you are going to make them unique to your specific situation.
your unit, your topic, themes. all that good stuff. They’ll be based off of the overarching level indicator of proficiency for your students. For example, if we’re trying to get to novice mid we might use something for like interpersonal communication
I can express an opinion about a familiar and everyday topic using familiar memorized (fill in here)
that would be your novice mid one. for the performance indicators, you’ve got all the standards right there.
ACFTL Can-Do Statements and Intercultural Communication ICCs
The performance indicators make sure that you know exactly where you want them to be.
Stage 2 Assessment and Evidence
I used to teach block high school Spanish 1. with 90 minutes half the year, that means that I get to see them technically on an everyday basis. you might want to think about your final assessment. Are you going to do a portfolio? Some type of MOPI? a task based assessment? This is a place for you to organize where your assessments are scheduled. I know that I would have to remember to schedule a summative assessment (for me that was an IPA) every 3 to 4 weeks. I would write down here to make sure that my units were conducive to that structure since it was a requirement for my school. What’s your structure and your time frame? If you are teaching grades 1 through 8, spend some valuable time on your structure and time frame – it will pay off in weeks of saved planning.
Spanish 1 Unit Ideas
Hopefully you have a little bit of freedom with this. If not, I have other classes for you!
Spanish High-Frequency Verbs
Here’s a resource for you. This is a high-frequency dictionary of Spanish. * (affiliate) This has all of the frequencies for a huge library of spoken word Spanish across all 21 Spanish speaking countries. It’s based off of subtitles from TV, all written, and auditory media that they could gather. it’s a database of 22 million words – it’s wild.
This book has this awesome index with themed vocabulary lists too. I found it for $30 on Amazon. This is how I’m creating my units, themes, and topics. It has a really cool index of the frequency of things based on the topic.
if you’re doing food, family or time, etc. you can use this to make sure that all the stuff that you’re doing really is high-frequency.
Also, I use this high frequency dictionary * (affiliate) for an exclusive unit on high-frequency words. It shows me the 100 most frequently used verbs in the language. This also means that my Spanish 1 content is not organized by types of verbs. I’m going off of what are the top 50 verbs my students need to be able to know? it also means that I’m going to be able to look at some of the typical units themes and topics that I might talk about and say that while you know that might be a high-frequency were but really
context is just as important as frequency.
Units, Themes and Topics
Think about when students need to speak the target language.
- context of school
- talking about friends
- talking about activities
- things teens / kids like
- media and technology
- be able to say hey in Spanish
- keeping the conversation going – things like rejoinders and conversation starters
Your students are learning how to speak so conversation starters are going to be a big one for them: hey how’s it going? How are you? How was your day? What are you doing tomorrow? What are you up to? Where do you go to school?
Conversation starters is a great topic for a unit! Your students would love a unit on meeting a new friend, especially in a high school class where they have friends who speak Spanish.
This is why it’s so important to look first at your ACTFL tools, especially in your high school Spanish 1 curriculum map. We often get tempted to put too much in there because high schoolers are so smart and like to move fast. But they don’t need to know every single possible phrase to be successful at these skills:
- describing environments
- ordering/buying things
- going to the market
- conversation starters
- meeting a new friend
if there’s so many different things that you could do it doesn’t necessarily rely so heavily on content
like you don’t have to be all gung-ho about it let’s go to the market.
your unit could just be ordering a buying things how to order and buy things and then you could teach them just 15 quart
Let’s go to the market. Your unit could just be ordering things.
how to order and buy things. You could teach them just 15 core-functional chunks and phrases that they need and they can pick whatever content words they want for the things that they like to buy.
What my Spanish 1 Curriculum Looks Like
Now that we have an idea of the skeleton of our curriculum, the time frame and rough Assessments in place, we can use this to sketch out what it’s going to look like for the course. this is going to be incredibly specific to your situation so I’m going to let you go on with your bad self.
Here’s what my high school Spanish 1 curriculum (roughly) looked like for the first few months:
- Mini unit on language acquisition study
- mini social justice unit Día de la Raza with a high-frequency verb Focus
- High frequency unit
- Novel for a little bit
empathetic Global Citizens and all that good stuff from being able to talk to go right it’s language from day one. Now that I have spacing sketches I know that it’s time for a speaking quiz.
This space for you to outline and figure out what your learning plan is really going to be.
I do a pre-unit on language acquisition study and then I mix in a little bit of high-frequency verb focus on the very first day for my Spanish 1 students.
In my French 1 students, for their core structures and skills I know that in order for them to be able to get to that novice low range they need to be able to stay things right away. they need to be able to say the most used words in the language.
Super 7 Verbs
Since I want them to understand me, I’m teaching the things that are used the most in the context.
Especially since we work with beginners in a high school Spanish 1 curriculum, that means high frequency structures. I’m going to do the super 7 verbs. what I do in the first few days of classes I’ll pick two to three of those in first person. if they’re going to understand other people and be able to interact with them, they need interrogatives. The next thing that Spanish 1 students need at survival level of interaction is to buy and request things as a traveler. So I know I need interrogatives. An advanced question unit might fit so that students are able to ask whatever kind of questions that they would like.
- I can get anywhere I need.
- I can find a bathroom.
- I can find a restaurant.
- I can find a place to have fun.
- I can get directions to things.
You’re going to fill in all those content words that match up with buying and requesting. for an advanced question unit and getting around town it’s going to be:
where is the… And through, store restaurants and so on and so forth.
Add in your Content Words
fit in all your content words here.
the first time that you sit down and do this it’s not all going to just flow out of you. It takes a little bit to create a really solid curriculum. I created this for you because I can’t tell you how many times that I sat down to work on my curriculum during a PD day and had no idea where to even start.
Your High School Spanish Curriculum Map: Advice & Tips
Lastly, a little advice for when to work on your high school Spanish curriculum map. When you’re trying to sharpen up your Spanish 1 curriculum a little bit, you might put together all the different resources that you bought, all the ideas that you came up with during the summer that you’ve been saving, and you have a Pinterest board for a really long time. Then you actually get into your room and you realize all the things that you have to do before the back-to-school season.
1. Start Organizing before the semester if you can
This is my number one piece of advice for you – just start organizing.
2. Start with the 1st 2 weeks of school, then map out the rest after school starts
start with the first two weeks of class first. make sure that you get that mapped out after that, start to settle, get into the curriculum, you can figure out where you want the rest of your year to go.
3. Start with the end in mind – AKA assessments first, then content and topics.
When sitting down to map out your high school Spanish curriculum, you might be tempted to start with your content ideas, your required units, your textbook outline, etc. This will actually cost you more time. Start with your desired results, ACTFL tools and standards, time frame, and assessments first. Work backwards from there.
This prevents curriculum overstuffing and makes sure that you teach the absolute best material, appropriate for a high school Spanish 1 curriculum.
3. Invest a few hours in your curriculum map – and get back WEEKS of planning this year
Investing a little bit of time in organization up front is going to save you lots of hair pulling down the road. and lots of moments when you’re sitting at your desk at the end of the day and your copies aren’t done and you’re trying to figure out what on Earth you’re going to teach tomorrow and how you’re going to do it… this curriculum map will make sure that a lot of those decisions are already done for you.
With upfront thinking and some organization to guide you, you can just quickly pop into this.
4. Use your map to help you choose resources, not the other way around
Then you can see if whatever resources that you have will actually meet the needs of your language goals. When you are following a curriculum map you’re going to get to where you want to be, and experience a lot less of that daily frustration with a lot less time planning.
Go Deeper with World Language Curriculum Design
Now this is just like a brief taste of what curriculum looks like.
If you’re ready for the real deal I have a full glorious curriculum workshop for you that is going to get you through every single piece. You can go top to bottom a gorgeous curriculum and the workshop will help you get there.
This shows you the steps but the curriculum workshop will walk you through it with me holding your hand. This is the what, but the curriculum workshop is the how, step by step. It even includes a 90 minute workshop where I show you my actual curriculum map for Spanish 1.
You can also find more tips in this free ebook for proficiency oriented world language teachers below:
Have you ever wished the transition to proficiency were easier to do? Grab the FREE toolkit here to learn the framework for updating your practice and curriculum to comprehensible input – without all the overwhelm – and prepare for the challenges ahead.
Conclusion – More Curriculum Resources
Let’s review – in this guide, we helped to organize things for you, you got an example to go with, and an editable curriculum map and tools for how to use it. Hopefully you have a few ideas of your own of how you can maybe organize your curriculum better for this year.
This is not by any means the end of your curriculum journey. I hope that helps you!
Make sure that you download this map so that you get somewhere to put all of your ideas.
Lastly, I’m so grateful that you were able to join me for this class. It has been really fun to hang out with you today!
Free Conference for World Language Teachers
If you’re ready to jump in and get started with proficiency and teaching with comprehensible input, I have another resource to help you on your journey below:
Sign Up for the Next Practical & Comprehensible Free Virtual Conference! Every year, I gather together the best and brightest in the field of world language to share with you how to switch to proficiency through comprehensible input. All with practical ideas that you can use tomorrow. It’s a FREE virtual conference – join the waitlist and find out more about the speakers here.
Sincerely rooting for you,
I’m curious about the high-frequency dictionary of Spanish. There’s no link or name whatsoever. Could you share the title, please?
Of course! You’re absolutely right, I forgot to add the link. Here’s the amazon link – https://amzn.to/3IcNwPE (affiliate) It’s now added into the post. Thank you!
Thank you o much for sharing! How many hours is of instruction are required or suggested for Spanish 1?
Thank you Paula! That’s a good question. For US teachers, it’s usually whatever the school is willing to give us, which is not enough. It’s best to get as many hours of exposure as possible, but that usually translates to roughly 1 hour a day for high school students or less. The average high school student will not go past intermediate low, even after 720 hours of exposure, according to a recent study by University of Oregon. Here’s the full article that shows what levels students demonstrate https://casls.uoregon.edu/research/language-research-questions/ My short answer to your question is that your Spanish 1s will hang out at novice mid for a while – and that’s exactly where they’re going to get with less than 180 hours of instruction.
Devin Ward says
Hi! I am glad I just found this page and your conference coming up! I am a new spanish teacher and been given a text book series I am completely unfamiliar with! If I incorporated the high-frequency words and language acquisition units at the beginning of the years, is it okay to introduce different spanish verb endings out of order according to the text books curriculum outline? If I want my students to begin communicating, I don’t feel it is too complicated to teacher all ar/er/ir endings up front for CI when the text book spaces them out over several chapters.
Hey Devin! Great name, by the way. The whole point of high frequency words is equipping students with what they need to communicate. Every single time you introduce something to students, ask (whether it’s in the text or not) “is this going to help them communicate at the novice low-mid-high level faster?” if the answer is no, then you don’t need it, no matter where it falls in the grammar syllabus. Honestly, look at the frequency of nosotros /ellos forms and you’ll find they are very infrequent compared to singular and 2nd person (tu/usted). if your goal is communication, look more towards what will help students communicate with you in the classroom. They will ask for the grammar when they have been exposed to so much language that they are naturally curious to construct utterances themselves.