Sonrisas Spanish Blog

Teaching Tips from Sonrisas Spanish

From Our Classrooms to Yours

Over the years, one of the most common questions we have received from teachers looking for elementary Spanish curriculum is, “Do you have student workbooks?” For many years, our reply was, “no.” We were hesitant to create one because the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum was designed in a way that workbook activities weren’t really necessary. The lessons were designed so that the teacher could check for understanding orally through the activities and also through the one-on-one work built into the art projects. We didn’t want to encourage teachers to replace any component of the lesson with a workbook activity that didn’t provide More >

The Sonrisas Level II lessons are divided into seven thematic units. We designed these themes to have relevance in the context of young students’ lives. In each unit, students interpret written and spoken language, engage in conversations, and present information using background knowledge from their own lives while learning new language concepts. This allows them to acquire meaningful and useful language skills, rather than merely learning vocabulary in isolation. All of the thematic units are centered around one big idea, or central question, “What are the experiences that make us human?”

One of the biggest differences between humans and animals, plants, or More >

Nineteen years ago I started teaching Spanish to elementary and preschool students in Austin, TX. At the time, I did it because I was asked to by parents. Parents in my neighborhood wanted their children to learn Spanish. I was a certified ELL, bilingual elementary and early childhood teacher, and so I started teaching Spanish to youngsters.

I now find myself living and working in a community in Colorado where parents, not schools, are still leading the charge to get their children learning foreign languages in elementary school. I’ve read all the research behind early exposure to second language learning, but More >

One of the important changes in the recent revisions of Sonrisas Level I and Sonrisas Level II is the addition of the student assessment pages in the student portfolios. They serve as valuable summative assessments for teachers and students. Combined with ongoing formative assessments, the new student assessment pages contribute to the effectiveness of the Sonrisas Curriculum. Below is an explanation of how to use the different assessment pieces while implementing the curriculum.

In the Sonrisas Curriculum, you can assess your students’ progress using both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are ongoing assessments that monitor student learning and guide instruction. The goals for More >

The lessons in the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum give students an opportunity to interact in all three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The three modes of communication describe how learners use and interact with language in real-world contexts. Here, we present a brief overview of these modes and the types of activities in our curriculum that engage them.

In Interpretive Communication students comprehend written, oral, or visual communication on a variety of topics without any active negotiation of meaning. In the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum students engage in this mode by listening to stories, reading brief text excerpts and viewing images in various More >

Sonrisas Spanish is going through a big transition right now. We have completely revised our Level II Curriculum, and we have changed what is included with our Level I and Level II curricula. These changes are the culmination of over a year’s worth of research and development, and they represent an effort to make our curriculum more user-friendly and complete for teachers and more effective for students.

What is included with the curriculum now?

We heard from many of customers that they wanted workbook activities for their students. We listened, and we developed our Student Portfolio for Levels I and II (we More >

You probably are without even realizing it, because it just makes sense. In her book, Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education, Myriam Met describes what content-based language instruction looks like. Content-based language instruction reflects the real-life language needs of students.1 This is consistent with a focus on communicative language as opposed to language skills in isolation. It provides students with the opportunity to use language as it functions in the real world. Content-based instruction allows the teacher to communicate authentic meanings, for authentic purposes, and to accomplish authentic tasks. A teacher takes a thematic and a problem-solving approach to curriculum More >

We have all heard about the importance and need for collaboration among educators. Grade-level teachers should collaborate to align outcomes. Within content areas, teachers should collaborate to align standards and instructional practices. Administrators should collaborate to become better instructional coaches. What about preschool and elementary Spanish teachers? Many of us work alone, with no other foreign language teachers on our campus. Many of us don’t even have a classroom. Most of our colleagues don’t understand foreign language education. Even though all of this may be true, the fact is that elementary and preschool teachers should collaborate too.

The benefits of collaboration More >

During the recent break for the holidays, Blue and I were talking about one of the most overlooked and valuable strategies for teachers — reflection. Reflection gives you the opportunity to ask yourself, “What is working in my teaching? What is not working? What do I need to change and how can I do it? What do I want my students to come away with when they are finished with my class?” These are important questions, but while we are in the thick of planning, prepping, and teaching it is challenging to find the time to address them. When you More >

Here at Sonrisas Spanish we are big fans of good books, and by “good books” we mean books that are effective at teaching Spanish to children. Quiero a los Animales, by Flora McDonnell, is a good book. It includes two important elements of an effective teaching book: illustrations that convey the meaning of the text and clear, thematic vocabulary that allows for multiple teaching opportunities.

Quiero a los animales has huge, gorgeous illustrations. The sheer size of each one, covering both the left and right-hand pages of the book, engages children’s imagination and draws them into the story. The illustrations are not More >