Building Confidence with AP Students

Building Confidence with AP Spanish Students

I’ve been teaching AP Spanish and Language for a while now, and what sticks out to me about the beginning of each school year is the HIGH level of nervousness and anxiety that my students have, particularly with non-native speakers. How can we combat this self-doubt? What works in building confidence with our AP Spanish students? How can we scaffold our activities to build confidence and comfort? Keep reading!

1. Allow Small Amounts of English for Building Confidence.

I’m afraid I may get some disagreement here. But let me argue my point. I am writing this after we all survived a pandemic. I am coming from a place of SEL and mental health first. Building connections with our students is fundamental to helping them learn and grow.

AP Spanish students will surely improve their language most by hearing it and using it. No question. But before they are fully comfortable doing that, it’s ok to have a little dialogue in English. Remember that humor is very hard to understand for people still learning a language- they translate and interpret very literally. But joking with students is a great way to build community and relationship!

Get to know your students by asking questions in English before class starts. Most likely, students at the AP level can understand your question and even answer it in Spanish. But…. when they are allowed to use the language they can communicate comfortably in (once in a while) they feel less anxious about communicating. They don’t have to work as hard to relate to you. And building relationships is so important!

2. Use Edpuzzle to Scaffold Listening Activities

For non-native speakers, there is often a pretty significant jump in difficulty from their previous Spanish courses to AP Spanish. One of the most difficult parts for my students is understanding authentic Spanish. On the AP Test, they will hear audio clips that often involve background noise or poor recording feedback (on purpose!). But that makes it harder for students to focus and understand.

When I find a podcast or a short video that I want them to watch, I create an Edpuzzle. You upload the video (and you can cut the video down to make it shorter!). Then you can add in questions. The neat part is that you add the questions in RIGHT where you want them to be answered! So- you can insert a question right after the answer has been given, or one minute later. Your questions can be multiple choice (great for autocorrecting and instant student feedback) or they can be open-ended (great for higher level of rigor/difficulty). Teachers can see student scores and how much time was spent watching as well!

In the end, breaking down what the students are listening to into smaller chunks, and cuing them as to when the answer was said is a great for building confidence with AP Spanish students!

3. Give Students the Tools They Need to Perform Well on the AP Open-Ended Responses

No one likes to teach to the test. I certainly don’t! But there is a small game to be played for our AP students if we want them to do well and earn the college credit they deserve. Just like we practice driving before we take our driver’s license test, we must practice answering the open-ended responses with our students to make sure they understand the rules and requirements of each task.

Experience has taught me that students need to practice these tasks many times throughout the year. I created this set of Google Slides presentations to explain the rules and requirements of each task. There are tips and do’s and don’ts as well. Students can save these or find them in their Google Classroom throughout the year. They can refer to them each time we prepare for another practice task. Included in each presentation is a short vocab list that gives suggestions for the kinds of words and phrases that will boost their score! There is even a Quizlet linked in!!

Having these easy-to-use references really helps me with direct instruction the first time we learn how to complete one of the complex open-ended response tasks for the AP Test. And they really help with building confidence with my AP Spanish students because they know they can refer and review the information at any time.

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Building Confidence with AP Students