AP unit: el medio ambiente

We just finished a three week unit on environmental issues in my AP class. The experience was mixed: I enjoyed the gallery walk quite a bit and the short stories that the students wrote were a lot of fun (a necessary diversion in a very heavy unit). However the major flaw of the unit is that I often anticipated far more prior knowledge than students actually had. Here are the highlights of the unit:

part 1: what is your personal responsibility?

Brainstorming on essential question: ¿Qué podemos hacer para protegernos de las amenazas medioambientales? My students responses were limited to reciclar and ahorrar agua (in English), which should have been a warning sign indicating weak prior knowledge.

Encuesta:  Click here to download the encuesta   that we completed in groups of three to identify behaviors we can change. I was surprised that only two of us in a class of 34 bring our own bags to the supermarket. This encuesta is largely based on the work of another teacher who passed this on some time ago and whose name I have lost… 🙁

video: Click here to view the video Recomendaciones para ahorrar agua y energía eléctrica 
Using the list of transition words, we discussed how to conserve water

ecobiciReading: Ecobici from Veintemundos, with graphic organizer. Click here for the link to the original article , which includes two interesting videos (click on the multimedia tab). I decided to break the reading down a bit so that I could guide my students through it as they completed a graphic organizer.  Click here to download my power point class reading with graphic organizer .

  Using the list of transition words (click here to download them) to use in a discussion, we discuss whether the ecobici project could be modified so that it could be set up in our own community.

Video: Ese no es mi problema  This is a perfect video for the movie talk technique, which provides a lot of no es mi problemacomprehensible input. Although the video is little more than 8 minutes long I took an entire class period because I stopped it every 10 seconds or so to describe what was happening, to ask if my descriptions were correct, to solicit student opinions about what was happening and to offer my own commentary (often asking students whether they agree or disagree with me). Click here for more information on the movie talk technique .

Student led debate: Is it okay if others refuse to help conserve the environment? Students prepare at home for the debate, but they do not know which side they will argue. They must pass in an index card with their debate points prior to the debate, which both encourages preparation and semi-spontaneous responses during the debate.

part 2: this problem is bigger than any one of us; the role of government

revistaMagazine article: Las 10 consecuencias medioambientales más alarmantes de la economía actual .” Compromiso RSE. March 19, 2012. We read this quite closely together in class so that they would be prepared to make their posters. At home students make persuasive posters titled El mundo de mañana, which present the information from the article in a more eye-catching way. I jokingly told them that their grade is tied to subsequent decrease in carbon emissions; hopefully their posters will be convincing enough.

Gallery walk, discussion of strengths of posters. Student to student conversations about posters for twenty minutes while teacher observes, takes notes. Students carry their transition word cheat sheet to encourage usage of academic transition words.

Video: España, uno de los mayores productores de energía eólica   I talked throughout this video so that they would focus on the big picture and so that they would be prepared for the next video, which they more or less analyse on their own (with the help of a processing sheet).

Video: Denmark, a country that has adopted green energy technology with processing sheet. I slowed down the denmarkvideo significantly (to 70%) and had them fill out a processing sheet to direct their attention. I replayed the video three times before going over the answers. Here is the link to the video and you can also download the processing sheet by clicking here .

After so much discussion over the past two weeks I created a review list of the scientific vocabulary that we have seen in authentic sources in this unit. Click here to download the list.

Magazine article: El 95% de los españoles cree que los gobernantes no hacen lo suficiente para combatir el cambio climático .” Compromiso RSE. May 14, 2013. Student led discussion comparing their perceptions of European and American attitudes towards climate change. This is certainly an activity that I did not prep enough, partly because I did not anticipate lack of knowledge about American attitudes towards climate change! Nonetheless I am including this activity among the highlights so that I remember to develop it further next year.

Normally our units end with a formal essay reflecting the essential question of the unit, but there was so much fatigue among students that I decided to assign something that would end the unit with an activity that would allow students to highlight their strengths rather than their weaknesses. At home students wrote their own short story called Aumento de temperatura that depicted the world in the year 2050. While this was a piece of fiction, and creativity was encouraged, students were required to use three of the vocabulary phrases from the scientific vocabulary sheet. Perfectionism was discouraged; just sit down and write!

In small groups the next day students read their stories to each other. Student to student discussion; transition words used in discussion, eventually large group discussion sharing our favorite plot lines.


  1. I added some things to the encuesta:

    21. Traigo comida para el almuerzo en bolsitas de plástico.
    22. Conduzco de 0 a 60 millas por hora en pocos segundos.
    23. Llevo mi propio vaso a Starbucks.
    24. Monto en bici en vez de usar el coche cuando puedo.
    25. Uso la misma bolsa para mi almuerzo cada día.
    26. Tenemos más de una bolsa de basura cada semana.
    27. Mi familia tiene un montón de compost.
    28. Mi familia tiene un jardín de comidas y cosecha la comida de allí.
    29. Me ducho por más de 5 minutos.
    30. Me ducho más de 2 veces al día.
    31. Me pongo los jeans más de una vez antes de lavarlos.

  2. Hola Mike! How did you slow down the Dinamarca video since it’s not on YouTube? I have VLC, but only know how to slow it down if there’s a YouTube link. Any help would be appreciated. Gracias!

    1. I have an extension on my Firefox browser called Video Download Helper. There are a lot of these kind of programs, but the important thing is that I download everything that I use so that I have my own personal copy since things posted on the internet come and go. Once you have the file on your own computer then you can open it with VLC, click on Playback and then speed, which will give you options. Clicking on SLOWER will slow it down by 10% each time.

  3. PSA’s in Spanish from Animal Planet http://youtu.be/vFa2NxAAdao This collection of video shorts match the survey you give your students at the beginning of the unit. Also, a great way to reinforce los mandatos.

    Thank you for your posts.
    The website posted to this comment is the e-portfolio template that I use with my Advanced Spanish students. They are using this template to build their own portfolio.

    1. Wow, thanks for pointing this out… I’ll bring it into class around April when I’m trying to reactivate some of this vocabulary before they take the exam.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.