My students agree, actually. They complained a bit about the stories in level 1, then in level 2 this past year did a complete about-face, telling me they remembered everything from level 1 because the stories really worked. They wanted to make sure I was still going to tell stories in class. My students are extremely blunt. They will not hold back in telling you exactly what they think, and they have opinions on everything. So when I got this feedback from them, it was really gratifying to have them recognize what worked for them in their learning and tell me so.
So this is my plan: 1) In both levels (3 and 4) to speak a LOT of Spanish, and to do a lot of free-form conversation activities. 2) To weave all the required vocab into stories that I will (deep breath) mostly make up with my classes on the spot. I have a good enough relationship with these students to feel comfortable "winging it" (especially the incoming threes, because I've taught them now for two years already,) accepting the fact that sometimes a spontaneous story falls flat. 4) To take the best of the spontaneous stories we make up and write a reading to go with it, which I'll have my own (native-speaking) Spanish tutors edit before I copy for the class to read. 5) To figure out more reading activities involving outside books and sources. This has been just too hard for me to do in levels 1 and 2, for two reasons: most of what you find (even in children's books) is just too hard for those levels, and I have an intense desire to recycle my target vocab in readings so that I know they'll really know the vocab. That's next to impossible unless you write your own readings, which is why I do it.
I plan to prepare something for publication and sale next summer, for level 3 especially. Not sure about level 4/AP (whether I'll have something ready to publish or not.) But I will keep anyone interested updated throughout the year, and share my stories and what I'm working on, so...keep in touch, especially if you are teaching levels 3 or 4 this next year...please! I'll need your good ideas too.