Sonrisas Spanish Blog

SunMeet Irene Quinonez

Irene holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in education from Arizona State University with a minor in Spanish. After a thirty-year career as a teacher and curriculum specialist in the Mesa Unified School District, she retired and went into the mortgage business for nine years. Irene was approached by the principal at Christ the King Catholic School in Mesa, Arizona about teaching Spanish, and she accepted. She is in her sixth year of teaching there, and she teaches eleven different classes in grades K-8. When Irene started teaching Spanish, she noted that the school did not have any teaching materials that were appropriate for young children. She knew they needed something exciting, special, and engaging.

BookHow Sonrisas Spanish is Effective for Irene

The Sonrisas Spanish curriculum helped reaffirm for Irene that she was going in the right direction and teaching what children needed to be taught. Because of the time frame of her classes, Irene uses the teacher’s manual to pick and choose activities that work well with her classes. She loves using the songs in her classes and appreciates how they keep her students engaged. Her students love the songs on the Sonrisas CD so much that they often sing them completely on their own. Irene tells the story of the kindergarten teacher taking her children on a field trip to the Phoenix Zoo. When the children saw the elephants, they began singing the song “Un elefante” (track #7 on the Sonrisas CD) to the elephants in their enclosure! Needless to say, the kindergarten teacher as well as visitors were surprised to hear the children singing in Spanish. Irene also utilizes the storybooks not just with her younger students, but across the grade levels.

lightbulb4Teaching Tips from Irene

Irene’s advice to teachers is to start slowly and realize that you do not have to teach your students everything right away. It is more important to take the time to determine what your students’ needs are and then do what you have to do to meet those needs. In regard to native speakers in Spanish class, Irene believes that we need to assess where they are and move forward from there. She recognizes that while many of them know how to speak Spanish, they do not know how to read or write Spanish, and they have much to gain from Spanish class.

Irene also offers this idea for teaching colors. Cover some food boxes and cans with colored paper. Then you can do a variety of the following:

  • Put the items in a grocery bag. Unpack the grocery bag, one at a time, and ask children to give you the name of the color.
  • Set out the colored items. Select one student to choose an item. Let that child say the name of the color in English. Another child then gives the Spanish word for that color.
  • Have students pack up the grocery bag. As they put each item in the bag, have them say the name of the color in Spanish.


heart4What Inspires Irene

Irene is inspired by being with children and seeing the love they have for learning. She enjoys hearing stories from her students about them being in their community—for example in a restaurant—and then telling her that they heard Spanish and were able to understand it. She is also rewarded by the love her students show her and the opportunity to give it back.

Circle TimeIf you would like to connect with Irene, you can visit her teacher page on the Christ the King School website or email her at


Sonrisas Feature Teacher celebrates teachers who are using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum and tells their stories. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Sonrisas Feature Teacher, email us at

spanish curriculumThere is no doubt that early language learning is in the best interest for children — after all, between the ages of 8 and 12, kids lose the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds in the same way that they did when they were younger. This makes language acquisition much harder later in life. And if there is one language that would be helpful for your kids to have under their belts, it is Spanish.

At the same time, preschool Spanish lessons might not captivate every child’s attention, even with engaging Spanish story books and a well thought out Spanish curriculum for kids. Check out these ideas for adding some variety to that curriculum and keeping Spanish learning engaging for kids:

Tell The Story of Their Favorite Characters
Nothing is as sure to get a kid’s attention as their favorite cartoon or book character. Show them that their fictional friends exist in Spanish, too! By reading familiar stories or watching beloved shows in a different language, kids might gain a new taste for learning.

Compose a Song or Rhyming Poem
Let the kids be the writers of their own songs or rhyming poems. Instead of just learning to listen and read, they will learn to apply the vocabulary and grammar they’re learning to tell a story or a joke.

Let The Kids Be The Teacher
Let every child teach a small segment of the day’s lesson, or lead an overview for the class. They’ll get a chance to show how much they’ve learned and will be so excited to address the whole class.

Skype With a Native Speaker
Call a native Spanish speaker on Skype to talk to the whole class. They will be so excited to understand and be understood, not to mention the thrill of talking to someone across the country or continent!

Play Games
Of course, every strong Spanish curriculum should draw heavily on games as a learning device. From dancing and acting to matching and memory games, the kids will soon forget that they are at school.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and use local history, songs, and field trips to make learning Spanish an immersive and interesting experience!

SunMeet Rebecca Schackow

Rebecca graduated from the University of Florida in 1999 with a degree in Spanish and Education. She moved to Denver, CO where she helped create the elementary and middle school Spanish program at St. Thomas Moore Catholic School. After teaching for two years, Rebecca moved back to Florida and spent twelve years raising her children. Two years ago she was offered the opportunity to teach Spanish at Brentwood School in Gainesville. Rebecca teaches Spanish to every class at Brentwood—two year olds to 5th grade—with each level receiving one class per week ranging from 15 to 30 minutes long. She travels to the preschool classrooms, and the elementary students come to her Spanish room for class.

BookHow Sonrisas Spanish is Effective for Rebecca

Rebecca started using Sonrisas Level I with all of her classes last year. The content was the same for everyone, but she differentiated the activities for age, space, and length of class time. She does not do any of the art projects with the preschoolers—instead doing a completely oral class with the songs, games, and stories. Rebecca appreciates the literature component of the Sonrisas curriculum. She remarks, “Children love books!” Rebecca values the time saved planning and trying to find good books in Spanish, with good illustrations, that fit the topics her students are studying. She says, “Sonrisas has done that research for me—what a gift!” Rebecca follows the Sonrisas curriculum pretty closely and moves at a slow and steady pace with her students. Last year she completed twelve lessons from Sonrisas Level I, and she expects to complete another twelve lessons this year. Last December Rebecca’s fourth and fifth grade classes practiced and performed the “Las Posadas” play (Lesson 32 in Sonrisas Level I) for some of the younger classes. They studied the history behind Las Posadas and practiced speaking and singing the lines of the play that is included in the curriculum. With simple costumes and props they performed the play, and it was wonderful.

lightbulb4Teaching Tips from Rebecca

Rebecca suggests that teachers need to be willing to look up something or create a new lesson plan if students show a real interest in a particular topic. For example, one of her students asked if they could learn the dance “Macarena.” Rebecca found a teaching video on YouTube, learned the dance, and taught it to her students. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get the wiggles out before class. Students learned about who wrote the song, who made the dance, where the song originated, and more. Rebecca says, “It was a great lesson—and one that I had never intended!”

heart4What Inspires Rebecca

Rebecca is inspired by learning. She loves to learn new things, and she loves to help people learn new things. She has loved studying and learning Spanish throughout her life and is thankful to be able to share what she knows with the children at Brentwood School. She finds Spanish to be a beautiful language that is fun to learn. Rebecca hopes to pass along her love of the language to her students.

Circle TimeIf you would like to connect with Rebecca you can reach her at or visit


Sonrisas Feature Teacher celebrates teachers who are using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum and tells their stories. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Sonrisas Feature Teacher, email us at


preschool spanish curriculum lessonsIt’s hard to argue with the benefits of bilingualism, but harder still to implement it into the daily life of your child — especially in America. Let’s be real: it often feels like everyone in the world already knows and speaks English, which can make it hard to immerse yourself in a foreign language.

According to the Summer Institute of Linguistics, more than two-thirds of the world’s children are bilingual, but in the United States, only 17% of the entire population speaks a second language. There is an added urgency when you consider that between the ages of 8 and 12 your child will lose much of their previous ability to reproduce new sounds. Very young children have a natural ability to learn new languages, and the closer they get to puberty, the more difficult language acquisition becomes.

All languages have value, but Spanish might be the most helpful and best language for children to learn in the United States. The frequency it is spoken and the geographic areas it covers can both help your child learn the language and use it. Spanish is the official language of 21 countries worldwide and is the second most-spoken language in the world. So if you’re looking for the best language for American kids to learn, there’s really only one practical option.

But how to bring language acquisition into your life and the life of your child? Check out these three tips for helping kids learn a foreign language.

Spanish Curriculum For Kids

When looking at school options, prioritize a program that has an elementary Spanish curriculum. Spanish for preschoolers will help them get very far ahead in terms of later, more complex learning. Preschool Spanish curriculum lessons are also designed to engage your child’s developing and evolving mind.

Read Spanish Books

Every night, read Spanish story books to your children. The illustrations and repetition will help you both to solidify words, grammatical conventions, and associations. Plus, foreign language will be more normalized in your home and you can branch out by watching Spanish-language movies and listening to Spanish music.

Learn From Each Other

Make learning Spanish your prerogative too. You and your child can label things around the house in Spanish, make a rule to speak Spanish in the mornings, and do activities in Spanish together. This will encourage you both to learn and make it a part of the daily routine.

The countless benefits of learning a second language and encouraging it in your child are numerous, plus, it’s fun! If you can’t find a school that teaches Spanish, buy preschool Spanish curriculum lessons and do it at home together.

Home Page ImageOnce again summer is coming to a close, and it is time to start planning and prepping for a new school year. Summer break is a valuable time for teachers to relax, reflect, and recharge. Hopefully you are feeling rejuvenated and excited about the year to come and all the rewards that it has to offer. As you get ready to teach your Spanish classes, here are five things you can do to plan and prep for your Sonrisas Spanish lessons:

  1. Read the introduction to your teachers manual thoroughly. The introduction is an in-depth look at the methodologies and implementation of the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum. The perspective you will gain from reading the introduction will make your lessons more effective and will provide you with knowledge that will be useful when talking to parents, administrators, and colleagues about your classes. Reading the introduction to the Sonrisas teacher’s manual is like taking a class on how to teach Spanish to children.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the activities in the lessons and practice them. Every lesson in Sonrisas Level I and Level II has a main lesson activity that introduces the language concepts. Some of the activities are simple, some are more complex. Become familiar with the activities, and even practice them beforehand. This will insure that they will go smoothly and that your students will benefit from them.
  3. Use the music CD’s as a resource to learn the songs and sing them yourself with your students while you perform the accompanying movement and gestures. This is way more effective than playing the songs on a player for your students. Your teacher’s manual has a section that contains the lyrics to the songs and the directions for all the movement and gestures that go along with the songs. The movement and gestures provide comprehensible input for your students, and they connect the language to your students’ physical bodies. This is a very important component of early childhood language acquisition.
  4. Start gathering art supplies for the art projects. There is an art supply list in the appendices of your teacher’s manual. Look at this as a starting point. Review the first several art projects that you will do and make sure you have the supplies for them. Most of the necessary supplies are common school supplies such as crayons, construction paper, and glue.
  5. Before you teach any given lesson, read the accompanying storybook. The storybooks that you read during the Story Time segment of each lesson have been chosen based on their effectiveness at teaching Spanish to children. They contain elements such as illustrations that convey the meaning of the text, repetitive text, and familiar, age-appropriate themes. The storybooks give your students an authentic experience with Spanish, and they engage your students’ imaginations in Spanish. When you are familiar with the book, you can use your tone, facial expression, and gestures to create an engaging and effective storytelling experience.


Remember that we are always available for any questions or support that you may need in teaching the Sonrisas Spanish lessons. Feel free to contact us anytime.

(970) 946-9780

spanish for preschoolersThe way that young children soak up a foreign language often seems effortless, especially to those of us who struggled with Intro to Spanish in high school or college. This means that earlier is better when it comes to starting a Spanish curriculum for children, or a curriculum in any other foreign language, for that matter. Children naturally acquire language skills over their first eight years of life. They learn primarily through things like imitation, repetition, songs, Spanish story books, and games — but, experts say, kids begin to lose their natural language acumen between the ages of 8 and 12, making foreign language acquisition more difficult if they don’t already have a solid foundation.

At Sonrisas, we believe strongly in the benefits of early foreign language adoption, which is why we provide ample materials for Spanish for preschoolers. And one new school in Pennsylvania will be founded on the principles of bilingual instruction. According to, Petit Paris is a French-English bilingual preschool opening later this month in Greensburg, PA. It may be a different language than the preschool Spanish lessons we offer, but the results are equally impressive.

“I definitely see a benefit to having dual languages at a young age,” said the mother of one of the school’s enrollees, Harper Watson, who already speaks French pretty well for a four-year-old. “She’s flexible in the way she thinks and is a little bit more creative.”

Whether you’re talking about preschool French lessons or Spanish for preschoolers, the advantages are the same. Acquisition of one foreign language leads to easier fluency in a second foreign language, studies have found. It works in the other direction, as well, helping to boost language arts proficiency in the child’s native tongue.

“Research has shown students who study languages score higher in creativity and problem-solving,” said Nancy Rhodes, a senior consultant for world language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C. “Learning a second language actually enhances their native language skills.”

Teaching young children a foreign language offers a wealth of advantages beyond just equipping them to communicate with Spanish or French speakers later in life. It actually increases their overall language acquisition skills and boosts their creativity. With easy-to-use preschool Spanish lessons from Sonrisas, you can help children get started at home or in the classroom.

preschool spanish lessons Learning a foreign language is one of the most fun and exciting experiences to embark upon. It can also be one of the most difficult for some people. That’s where we come in. There are plenty of different ways to go about learning a language like Spanish, but our elementary school Spanish curriculum, Spanish story books, and homeschool Spanish curriculum are some of the best tools on the market to do just that. It’s also one of the reasons more and more parents are starting their children with preschool Spanish lessons to get an even earlier jump.

Preschool Spanish lessons from Sonrisas are the perfect way to get your child interested and excited about learning a new language. Our programs are designed specifically to engage and build a fundamental understanding of the language, compared to many “curricula” that rely almost exclusively on things like raw memorization and flashcards.

There are plenty of different reasons to get your child started on preschool Spanish lessons from Sonrisas, but here is a couple of the most important.

  1. Culture and Diversity: The world is becoming smaller and smaller every day through technology and things like social media. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important for children to grow up in an environment where cultural diversity and learning about foreign places is encouraged. In fact, more than two-thirds of the world’s children are bilingual, according to the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Now consider that in the U.S., only about 17% of the population can speak another language besides English. We have a lot of catching up to do if we want to stay at the forefront of global communication, trade, business, and overall interaction. It’s up to the next generation to spearhead this effort and what better way to start than with preschool Spanish lessons for your child.
  2. Easier to Learn: As most people are well-aware by now, learning a foreign language only gets more difficult the older you get. Most experts suggest starting a child before the age of 10, but if you can start them even earlier — say around five — you’re only increasing their odds of success. There’s more than just anecdotal evidence to back this up, too. Children actually lose the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds like they did when they were younger between the ages of eight and 12. This makes learning a new language after this not impossible, but certainly much harder.
  3. Increase Intelligence Overall: Not only has it been proven that learning a second language makes it easier to learn a third, but there have been studies to suggest learning a new language can boost your intelligence overall. Preschool Spanish lessons can help give your child the jumpstart they need to succeed with ease in various other aspects of education and learning.

The U.S. has been slow to catch up with other countries when it comes to bilingual education, but that doesn’t have to be the case with your son or daughter. Even if you don’t have the time to homeschool them, our preschool Spanish lessons are perfect for spending 30 minutes or a couple of hours after school. Not only are our preschool Spanish lessons a great learning tool, they’re also an excellent way to get some quality bonding time with your child.

Sun  Meet Sonja Whisman

Sonja began teaching in southern California in the early 90´s where she taught primary classes in grades K-3 (one being a K-2 combo for native speakers in Spanish). In the mid 90’s she moved to Texas and then Iowa where she home-schooled her children for seven years. Sonja worked as a substitute in Iowa, and as the local school districts learned that she could speak Spanish, she was called frequently for long-term Spanish substitute teaching jobs. She found that she really enjoyed it, and she discovered that the Midwest has vibrant foreign language programs. She enjoyed teaching Spanish so much that she went back to college to earn her Spanish language teaching credential for Iowa. Sonja’s first position was at Goodrell International Baccalaureate middle school in Des Moines, Iowa. Three years ago she moved to Arizona and was hired last year to teach Spanish at Mountain View Preparatory International Baccalaureate school in Cottonwood. IB schools require a foreign language to be taught at all levels. Sonja currently teaches Spanish for grades K-8 using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum. She teaches the primary grades twice per week for 30 minutes and the upper grades twice per week for 40 minutes.

Book  How Sonrisas Spanish is Effective for Sonja

Sonja appreciates the organization and natural approach of the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum. She enjoys the songs, games, books to read, and art projects. She really loves the time that the independent projects give her to check each student’s understanding, one-on-one. She uses the curriculum suggestions for how to teach the different segments of the lessons, such as Circle Time, and she appreciates the focus on teaching to the multiple intelligences. Sonja uses Sonrisas Spanish in all grades and supplements the curriculum with additional vocabulary and grammatical concepts for her upper grades. Being a musician herself, her favorite part of the curriculum is the music, which she uses with all her classes—accompanying the class on her ukulele. She enjoys repeating the songs through the grade levels and believes that this repetition is helpful for her students. Sonja says, “Families who have siblings at our school have enjoyed the fact that their older and younger children can sing together at home and report that they frequently do (as well as reenact different lessons and activities)!” For Sonja, the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum has been fun to implement, easy to apply and easy to adapt. Her principal and the entire staff at Mountain View Preparatory have been very pleased with the results, and they are happy to have happy students of all ages enjoying Spanish.

lightbulb4  Teaching Tips from Sonja

Being a former English language Spalding-style reading teacher, Sonja feels that consistent practice in physically making the sound-symbol connection in any language is important. She includes in each day a short practice of sounding, writing, counting out (each student with a whiteboard and dry erase marker), and pronouncing current vocabulary words or sentences syllable by syllable. During the “sílabas” portion of class, students eagerly learn how to use the Spanish articles, other grammatical concepts, and new vocabulary. The entire school (460+ students) has responded very favorably to this, saying that this practice helps them very much with learning new words, understanding how Spanish words are written, and knowing what is expected from them on their independent work.

Sonja also has interpreted and incorporated many concepts and practices of Chris Biffle’s Whole Brain Teaching into her Spanish lessons, which has added another level of fun and motivation. (She says, “As if the Sonrisas Curriculum needed any more!”) These class management methods and techniques for good teaching incorporate a lot of physical movement and verbal response, keeping “teacher talk” down to around 50%.

heart4  What Inspires Sonja

Sonja loves to see children using their creative juices as they learn a foreign language because she feels that it gives them a feeling of freedom—that it is ok to try things, that it is ok to make mistakes, and that it is ok to have fun—all at the same time. She believes that barriers to learning come down as children express themselves in music, art, dramatizing the lyrics to a song, or performing skits. This seems to her to be the most natural and painless way to learn a language. She feels that learning a new language should be something like going on an interesting journey.

If you would like to connect with Sonja, you can do so by finding her on Facebook or by visiting the Mountain View Preparatory website at .


Sonrisas Feature Teacher honors exceptional teachers who are using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum by telling their stories. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Sonrisas Feature Teacher, email us at

spanish curriculumThere are virtually an infinite number of reasons for someone to want to learn a foreign language. Anything from upcoming travel plans to general enjoyment and everything in between. Learning a new language is one of the most fulfilling and potentially beneficial things you can do for your personal, intellectual, and professional development. In fact, children who learn a second language can typically learn a third even easier and on average, bilingual employees earn about 20% more than their monolingual counterparts.

At Sonrisas, we specialize in Spanish curriculum for kids and younger children. This is the time when it’s easiest and most effective to learn. Some people suggest you start children at the age of five on a preschool Spanish curriculum, but at least before the age of 10 is ideal.

However, as experts in the foreign language learning business, we love to hear about people of all ages learning new languages and the subsequent cultures behind them. That’s why when the foreign language app for mobile phones and devices called Duolingo came out, we were cautiously optimistic. Learning a new language as an older or young adult can be extremely difficult, but it seems that this mobile app, which lends itself to the Millennial generation, has become popular and successful at helping people do just that.

According to a piece from Quartz based on numbers provided by Duolingo, Spanish curriculum’s are still one of the most popular options for new learners everywhere. The company analyzed some of their data and found that of the 120 million users they currently boast, Spanish was the third most popular option behind only English and French. Among users only in the United States, Spanish was the number one choice.

This indicates that not only is learning Spanish a valuable commodity on a global scale, it’s crucial for U.S. residents. This only begs the question, why wait until your child gets older and past the time frame when it is much easier for them to learn a new language? Invest in a homeschool Spanish curriculum today and get your child started off early. If this data is any indication, they’re going to wind up trying to learn it on their own at some point down the line anyway.

Make it easier and more enjoyable for them in the long run by investing in a Spanish curriculum from Sonrisas today.

Fehl photo2Sun  Meet Debra Fehl

Debra has been teaching elementary Spanish at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, NJ for six years. She started her career teaching literature, reading, and writing in grades 7-12. She then worked as an assistant in Pre-K at Rutgers Preparatory School where she learned all about early childhood development from the lead teacher. When the school needed a Spanish teacher, Debra stepped in to fill the position. Debra appreciates the cultural diversity at Rutgers Preparatory School and the fact that the school offers Spanish at the elementary level and five different world languages at the secondary level. Rutgers Preparatory School is the oldest independent school in New Jersey—celebrating their 250th anniversary this year! Debra teaches Spanish in grades K thru 5th with a schedule that goes from teaching twice per week for 30 minutes in the early grades to teaching three to five times per week for 45 minutes in the upper grades.

Book  How Sonrisas Spanish is Effective for Debra

Debra appreciates the organization of the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum. She likes how each lessons spells out which songs to sing, which books to read, and which projects to do. She finds it helpful that the curriculum explains how to teach the different segments of the lessons, such as Circle Time, and she likes how the curriculum connects to methodologies such as teaching to the multiple intelligences. Debra uses Sonrisas Spanish 100% for her early grades and implements different parts of the curriculum for her upper grades. Her favorite part of the curriculum is the music and the books which she uses with all her classes—she enjoys repeating the songs through all the grades and believes that this repetition is helpful for her students. For Debra, the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum has been easy to apply and easy to adapt.

lightbulb4  Teaching Tips from Debra

Debra uses puppets or stuffed animals to engage her students in conversation. For example: she will have her young students greet a puppet and introduce themselves to it using the phrase, “Hola Señor Plátano, me llamo ___.” She repeats this activity for up to six months until her students have mastered this very practical language usage. Debra also uses a mystery box to practice vocabulary with her students. They get to pull an object out of the mystery box, and then they say, “Yo tengo ___.” Debra emphasizes that she tries to keep her classes as fun as possible. She believes that speaking a new language can be intimidating for students, so she tries to make it as enjoyable and comfortable for them as she can.

heart4  What Inspires Debra

Debra is inspired by getting to watch children of all ages learn a new language through play and music. She says, “I get to set the tone for them, for years to come, that learning a new language and culture is fun and exciting, and it opens new doors for them.” Debra truly gets a lot of pleasure out of watching how much children can enjoy learning—and that inspires us.

If you would like to connect with Debra, you can do so by clicking on her social media links or by visiting the Rutgers Preparatory School websitefb  twitter  insta


Sonrisas Feature Teacher honors exceptional teachers who are using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum by telling their stories. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Sonrisas Feature Teacher, email us at