During the last two years, James Hillhouse High School has revisited its AP program. The administration and faculty have encouraged the expansion of the AP courses and have expanded the AP offerings to include: Studio Art, Biology, Calculus, English Literature, French, History, Psychology, and Spanish Language. The enrollment has risen dramatically from approximately 20 students in 1999-2000 to approximately 64 students in 2000-2001. As the Spanish AP teacher, it has fallen upon me the task of developing an AP curriculum, after attending two workshops at the Taft Academy Summer Program. Rather than developing a city-wide AP curriculum, it is the nature of the Spanish AP course that each teacher design his or her AP course to meet the needs of the AP students. The guidelines are: develop the proficiency of the students in the four levels of listening, speaking, reading, and writing; familiarize students with the general goals, objectives, and rubrics of the AP program; expose students to culture; and expose students to literature by the recommended AP authors. The AP Spanish Literature Exam has recently undergone a transformation from a short list of 5 AP authors to a longer list of selected authors, which list is still in the process of being refined by the College Board. The revised format for the AP Spanish literature exam is contemplated for the year 2003. This unit may be used for preparing students for both exams: AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature.
As the AP Spanish teacher at Hillhouse, it has become increasingly evident to me that students have difficulty reaching the stated goals for these two exams unless they have a structured program of at least two years of preparation. Too often, AP students present with deficits in September, even though they have taken Spanish 4 or Spanish 4 Honors. Perhaps they are not familiar with the AP rubrics, their editing skills and writing skills are poor, they are not used to analyzing themes, or their listening and speaking skills need improvement. Often, they are reluctant to speak in class. The Native Speakers have different issues, but they still benefit from reading and writing activities. They also add an immeasurable amount to the central theme of this unit, which is the question of Hispanic identity.
In order for all students to succeed in the AP course, the pre-AP course must be rigorous and preparatory. It must build on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, so that the students enter the AP class with a high level of proficiency in all four skills. It must enrich the students´view of Hispanic culture. Culture is an intrinsic part of the AP course and culturally authentic materials must be presented throughout the year. This unit does not address all these needs, since that would be an ambitious and lengthy publication. Rather, this unit provides the AP teacher with ideas for motivating students to continue the study of Spanish and to increase mastery of the four skills via a unit that encompasses art, film, and literature. It is my hope that new AP teachers may find this unit useful and that veteran AP teachers may find renewed energy by incorporating some of the ideas in this unit into their lesson plans.