So- this last piece of the open-ended sections of the AP Spanish Exam is the simulated conversation. Personally, I think this one is really fun! But I think a lot of my Spanish students disagree. Since it must be done, I try to make instruction and practice for my students as clear cut as possible.
Simulated Conversation: Step 1
My strategy for all 4 open-ended sections of the AP Spanish Exam is to start with direct instruction. Create a presentation to explain what this task is and what it measures. Here, we are asking students to demonstrate their skill in an interpersonal conversation, which means they need good listening and speaking skills.
I explain about the chart that shows them the general idea of the conversation. We talk about how it’s important to try to fill all 20 seconds of their answer time. I remind them that it’s ok to correct a mistake. And also very important, I remind them that they will memorize the instructions to the task now. Doing so will free up time for them to look over the conversation guide and mentally prepare for the task.
As part of my presentation, I supply a short list of vocabulary that relates to this kind of task. Pausing words like “bueno” and “pues” are good to teach, especially when they might replace curse words!! (Yes- I have heard PLENTY of those over the years in my students’ recordings!)
HERE is my presentation already made for you, if you don’t have the time to create one.
Simulated Conversation: Step 2
Next we take a look at a conversation outline. There are many sources, for those of you that are new. You can get them from a variety of AP Spanish Test Prep workbooks and also for free from the AP Classroom website.
Each student gets a photocopy, and we look it over together.
The first thing is to read the introduction! That short intro gives the student some important context to the conversation. Usually they will find out who they are talking to and at least a general idea about the topic of the conversation. Stress with your students that it is VERY important that they read this part carefully. Misunderstanding the context can lead to answers that don’t make sense.
We then review some of the verbs in the conversation guide. I have noticed that some students have a hard time recognizing certain verbs in command form. For example: “Despídete and Anímala” are 2 that sometimes my students don’t know. If they don’t know what these verbs mean, they will likely miss a step like I outline in Step 3. You may even consider making a list of the high frequency commands that students will see on the simulated conversation.
Simulated Conversation: Step 3
This little trick is so helpful to my students, though it’s so simple! I give them a paper copy of the conversation guide. We go through the prompts. Then I ask them to note how many things they are supposed to do each time they talk. For example, if it says… “Greet her and ask a question” I ask students to make 2 underscores next to that line. That will alert their brain that there are TWO things they must say to get full credit for that answer.
Every time we practice a simulated conversation, I remind them to do this. By the time they take the AP Exam, when I’m not in the room, they are doing this automatically.
Simulated Conversation: Step 4
It’s no surprise that the last tip I have for you is to PRACTICE! The native speakers will usually have less trouble with this section of the Exam than non-native speakers. But those heritage speakers will need to learn to make sure they follow each direction for each response.
Our non-native students need practice and exposure to all kinds of conversations and topics. The first time we try one of these, it’s just for practice. I usually let them try and record twice. We debrief, and often have a lot of laughs. I tell them what was said in the parts they listened to, and let them decide if they answered logically.
The first time I grade one of these, I also let them record twice. They can decide which recording they think was better, and submit that one. Doing this eases some of the pressure and anxiety our high-flying students feel about grades.
START EARLY! Who says we need to wait until AP Spanish to introduce this kind of task?? I bet nearly all of us teach other courses in addition to AP Spanish. Let’s get our students practicing interpersonal conversations more frequently earlier on! There’s no reason why students in Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4 can’t do simpler versions! They are not that hard to make!
In our school, we have started offering the Seal of Biliteracy. We ask our students to take the AAPPL test to score their proficiency. Part of that test is very similar to the simulated conversation on the AP Exam. The one difference is that there is a video of the virtual person you are conversing with on the AAPPL Test.
I created THESE practices that I normally give to my students in Year 3. That is the year at which most students can score Intermediate 4 (which is the proficiency level they need to earn the Seal of Biliteracy). The practices are just like the Simulated Conversation Task on the AP Exam, and they really help get students ready for both the AAPPL Test and the AP Exam!
To make them, create a table and shade every other row. Make up an introduction. Record the virtual person’s part of the conversation with a program that will give an audio file or a link to the audio. Then create the general idea of what the virtual speaker will say in the odd rows and the instructions for the student when it’s their turn to talk in the even rows! My version is HERE if you aren’t sure how to do this, but it’s pretty simple! They make great speaking assessments too!
Well…. I just got 2 new ideas for future blog posts… The Seal of Biliteracy and a step-by-step How To create simulated conversation activities!