Curriculum Planning for Upper Level Spanish - Mis Clases Locas

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Curriculum Planning for Upper Level Spanish

Curriculum Planning for Upper Level Spanish 

I recently had a request for a post about curriculum planing for upper level Spanish. As you probably know, for the last couple of years I have not been using a textbook and instead have been focusing my curriculum around novel units. Below is a rough outline of how I have been planning for a year, a unit, and a week. As with everything, remember that we all are doing the best we can in the situation we are currently in. If you have an existing set curriculum, maybe you can use some of these ideas to add one new novel unit, or weekly routine next year. 

Curriculum Planning for Upper Level Spanish

Planing for the year

I typically plan about one novel unit per quarter. This means about four class novels per year. Around third quarter, I like to do the novel in literature circle style. This means there are groups of 3-5 students reading the same novel. Novels build in difficulty as the year progresses. Depending on if the group has read a novel before, decides with which novel we start with. You can see all of my posts about novels here, starting from easiest, to most difficult. 

If a class has never read a novel, I like to start with a "easy" one to build confidence. I have started level 3 with no prior novel experience with Esperanza or Robo en la Noche (past tense). Other good culture filled options include Felipe AlouFiesta Fatal or Bianca Nieves. All of the above books are labeled level 1, but have themes that can be taken much deeper in conversation. 

This year my Spanish IV started with La Llorona de Mazatlán while I was on maternity leave. Even though they had read five novels by this point, I wanted them to start the year feeling confident, since they did not have me there. Then they read Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, the short story Cajas de Cartón, literature circles (La Guerra Sucia, La Hija del Sastre or Todo lo que Brilla) and finished the year with La Calaca Alegre. Each of these novels was the center of a unit including much more, which I will explain below. 

Also in my overall yearly plan, is that we watch the show El Internado every Friday. It provides a great break from the typical routine, while providing compelling authentic listening. I usually start second semester of Spanish II going very slowly. I believe it took five class periods to watch the first episode this year. The resources and guides from Mike Peto are amazing and with pausing, and subtitles in Spanish, help to make the show comprehensible. At the start of the year I have all parents and students sign a permission slip, as well as skip a few parts. 

Planing for a unit

Most of my upper level units are anchored by a novel, but also have authentic films, music and other resources to complement it. See below for some examples, with links to whole posts dedicated to these particular units.

Novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha
Film - Voces Inocentes with songs Niño Soldado & Casas de cartón
Other resource MS 13 Stations
Unit themes - El Salvador Civil War, MS 13

Novel La Calaca Alegre
Film - El Orfanato 
Other resource - Duarte artist interview (teacher's guide)
Unit themes - Identity, The Supernatural, Chicanos in the U.S.

Novel Cajas de Cartón (or ch.9 as short story)
Films - Mc Farland USA, Abused, the Postville Raid
Other resources - Guide & Postville reading
Unit themes - Immigration, Migrant Farming

Literature Circle Unit 

If you do not have the funds to purchase novels there are also amazing upper level units from Kara JacobsCarrie Toth & Kristy Placido

Planing for a week

A typical week in my upper level classes consist of the following to complement whatever unit we are currently on. If you want an organized slideshow of class starters for Intermediate students, check out Para Empezar - Intermediate.

Monday - Weekend Chat  - We start the week talking in Spanish about what everyone did over the weekend (hello past tense!) To mix it up I often reference this post - 18 Activities to Talk about the Weekend

Tuesday & Thursday - Free Reading in Spanish - We start class two days a week with 10-15 minutes of free reading from my classroom library. In addition to reading TPRS novels, many students chose to read El Mundo en tus Manos current news stories from Martina Bex. 

Wednesday -  Música miércoles - On Wednesday, an authentic music video is playing as students enter. We typically just quickly discuss how students feel about the video, unless we are doing a more in depth study of a song that is related to our unit. hopefully the students tell me the next day they have added our new song to their Spotify playlist ;) If you would like more resources to implement Música miércoles, check out this bundle

Friday-  El Internado - Unlike the other days of the week where we have a class starter and then get back to our unit of study, Fridays are exclusively their own unit surrounding El Internado. Depending on the week our activities could have a goal of pointing out a specific grammar point, such as predicting what will happen (future), what they would do if they were a character (conditional), or retelling what happened in the past episode (past tenses). Once we get farther, our overall goal is just authentic listening practice to improve proficiency. Many of my students have said that El Internado is their favorite part of Spanish class and have gone on to watch the entire series at home. 

I know that this is not a set curriculum, but hopefully it gives you a better idea of how you can plan for upper level comprehensible input classes. For more resources for planning for teaching intermediate level classes, read Lista lunes: Intermediate Spanish Resources.

How do you plan for upper level language class?


  1. Fabulous ideas! As a warm-up on Mondays in my AP course, I teach them two idiomatic phrases. Students keep a running list of them throughout the year and we have a quiz over them every so often. If I read or hear them used in class or an assignment, I always make a big deal out of it. Students think it's fun to know some different and fun terms to use in everyday life. Happy to share my list if it's useful to anyone!

    1. I would love to see that list. Great idea!!

    2. I would love to see the list as well. Please share!

    3. That sounds great! I'd like to see the list too!

    4. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! What do you do when multiple students have gone on to watch the ENTIRE Internado series?? That happened to me. So we kind of stopped watching it in class.

    5. Katie,
      I actually love when they watch it on their own, it means they are practicing Spanish at home! We just have a no spoiler rule.

  2. Totally just realized people commented and asked for my idioms list. Here is a link to the Google Doc. Let me know if it doesn't work!

  3. I have read several ideas on how to teach using El Internado. How much of an episode do you show? And do you have the English subtitles on?

    1. We watch with Spanish subtitles. We start with only about 10-15 minutes stretch out over a while class. After watching a while, we mostly watch with minimal stopping.


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