I teach high school Spanish without text books at Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I typically teach the last three years of Spanish to sophomores, juniors, and seniors; my students generally take the AP exam and do very well, and place into high-level courses in college. (I have recently begun teaching some lower-level classes as well, and use no text books there, either.) I have no gate-keeping for admission to my AP class – all well-behaved students who have passed Spanish 3 and Spanish 4, and who give me their best effort*, are admitted. For six years, I have assigned homework to only one student per class, per day; have administered exactly zero grammar-based tests; and have required not a single, solitary student to memorize any vocabulary.
They learn Spanish despite all this. Or, I would argue, because of it.
I have lived in Ecuador, where I was a Peace Corps volunteer doing agriculture work in Chimborazo, a province in the central cordillera. I also lived and worked in Quito as the in-country director for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s study abroad program at the Pontificia Universidad Católica. I have lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I spent two summers with my wife and children, and I regularly lead student trips to northern Ecuador and to Córdoba, Argentina, where my wife, Janneke, was born. Janneke and I speak Spanish at home with our two children.
* The shortest definition I can come up with for “best effort:” Pay attention; try as hard as you can to learn as much as you can; don’t cheat. There are occasionally students who don’t manage all three.