Sonrisas Spanish Blog

preschool spanishGenerally speaking, learning a new language is much easier the earlier you start. Most studies suggest before the age of 10 is ideal, but starting kids as early as five is becoming more and more popular. In the latest example of just how much importance is being placed on learning a foreign language early, a New York City preschool has announced they will begin offering preschool Spanish lessons.

According to the neighborhood news site DNAinfo.com, toddlers attending the new enrichment center the New York Kids Club is opening on East 94th Street next fall will have the opportunity to take preschool Spanish lessons. In addition to preschool Spanish lessons, children will also be able to take gymnastics, cooking, art, and music on top of traditional subject areas.

“Every semester is different for us,” said Pam Wolf, who founded the preschool in 2001. “We follow trends in learning. It used to be yoga and cooking that were very popular. Now it’s chess and science. We follow that and we’re always offering what seems to be the most beneficial in educating young people.”

According to Wolf, the school updates the classes they offer each year and they decided adding a preschool Spanish curriculum would be a great and fun way to get kids started early. Not a bad idea considering studies show bilingual employees earn 20% more per hour than monolingual employees, on average.

Overall, more than two-thirds of the world’s children are bilingual. However, in America only 17% of the total population speaks a second language in addition to English, according to the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Even though it’s a Spanish curriculum for kids, Wolf and school officials are hoping that the young children they serve will be able to get help from home too. There is of course a price to pay for these service and they don’t come cheap. The total cost for 2-year-olds attending five days a week, three hours a day is $19,670, according to the school’s website.

Starting a preschool Spanish curriculum is an excellent opportunity. If you don’t live in the Big Apple, or have an extra $20,000 to spend on it, check out the innovative homeschool options we have available today.

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 the depth of learning that these activities provided. We also didn’t want to encourage any part of Spanish class to contain “busy work” that didn’t necessarily contribute to the rich learning experience that our curriculum provided.

As we continued to teach and develop our Spanish curriculum, we gradually began to refine our assessment piece. Previously, the assessment rubrics in our curriculum relied on a teacher’s memory of students’ performance from class. This could be very challenging for a teacher with many students. We came up with a solution of combining “workbook-like” activities, communication objectives, and language outcomes to create a comprehensive portfolio which includes formative and summative assessments. In doing so, we knew that we had created something much more than a workbook. The Student Portfolio is not only a useful assessment tool for teachers, but also an ongoing record of student learning. The Student Portfolio contains portfolio activities, student assessment pages, and home reports.

The portfolio activities were designed so that, if completed independently and effectively by students, they provide performance indicators for the language concepts taught in each lesson. They also provide a tool to help the teacher ask questions that guide the evaluation of student progress. For example, in the portfolio activity for Lesson 11 in Sonrisas Level I, La ropa, students are asked to label articles of clothing in a picture of a girl dressed in winter clothes. If the student does this independently, it demonstrates the language outcome of being able to identify clothing vocabulary. The teacher can record this on the student assessment page. However, the deeper concept in the Communication Objective for the lesson involves students providing information about the clothing they and others are wearing by answering the question, “¿Qué lleva la niña?” with a complete sentence, “La niña lleva ___.” A teacher has two possibilities here. She can use the portfolio to jog her memory to the activity in class that involved asking and answering the question and remember if the student was able to do this effectively, or she can use the image in the portfolio to assess the student right there. The activity provides an opportunity to ask the question. If the student can answer it correctly, the teacher has evidence that the concept has been taught effectively, and she can record this on the student assessment page. If the student struggles, the teacher has a formative assessment tool at her disposal—she can revisit activities that allow the student to master the communication objective.

If used in this way, the Student Portfolio provides so much more than a workbook. It provides an opportunity for evaluation and reflection that informs effective instruction, and it provides a record of student progress. This allows teachers to teach effectively and to communicate effectively with parents about how their student is doing. Ultimately, the Student Portfolio is a useful assessment tool and a comprehensive look at the progress of each student.

spanish story booksStarting a homeschool Spanish curriculum for kids is one of the best advantages you can give a young child. At a practical level, it’s been proven that bilingual employees earn, on average, 20% more per hour than monolingual employees. Aside from that, Spanish is the official language of 21 countries worldwide, so if you think there’s a chance they’re ever going to want to travel the world knowing some Spanish will be in their best interest.

Even if you don’t homeschool your child, helping them learn the language after school is a great idea considering most school districts in the United States don’t provide the opportunity for an elementary Spanish curriculum. One of the best ways to get children started is through Spanish story books. As is the case with any language it’s often better to teach through this more interactive way than simply giving them flash cards to memorize.

The earlier you introduce your child to a foreign language the better; it seems that before the age of 10 is ideal, or even before the age of five, if possible. Reading them Spanish story books is the perfect way to begin their bilingual journey. Here are three great options to get you started.

  1. Amigos: Amigos is a playful Spanish story book that helps kids learn about shapes, colors, sizes, and even to appreciate diversity in others. That’s something everyone in the family can benefit from in today’s day and age.
  2. Cali y Mona: Inspired by a true story that the author, Pepe Valle, once read about in a newspaper, Cali y Mona follows a heartwarming story about a blind girl and her guiding pony. The book is written in Spanish and Braille, providing you the added bonus of teaching your child about one of the world’s most common physical disabilities.
  3. Juegos Tradicionales: Not all Spanish story books have to be about morals and such. Juegos Tradicionales is not so much a story, but rather a collection of 34 of the most popular games played by children in Latin America. Learning about a society’s culture is one of the best ways to truly understand it and the games they play can be something every child can relate to and will probably be interested in.

What books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments.

elementary school Spanish curriculumLearning a second language is one best things you can do for yourself or a child. Not only has there been numerous studies and research proving the effects it can have on other intellectual capabilities, but in the increasingly global world of today it’s becoming more and more crucial to be able to speak something other than English. Here are just three of the many important reasons school districts across the nation should be implementing an elementary school Spanish curriculum.

    1.) Overall Prevalence: While one can obtain many of the benefits of language by learning virtually any foreign language, an elementary Spanish curriculum for kids is especially important because of the already prevalent and growing nature of the language. Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world. With 387 million native speakers, more people on earth speak Spanish than English, according to census reports. America’s proximity to Mexico and other Latin/South American countries has contributed to the massive influx in immigrants from these Spanish-speaking countries, meaning more and more people in this country speak Spanish as their primary language.

    2.) Makes It Easier: Starting children with elementary school Spanish curriculum’s will put children at an advantage when it comes to grasping the language. Similar to most things, the earlier you learn it the easier it will come to you. Research suggests that before the age of 10 is ideal, or even before the age of 5, if possible. Between ages 8 and 12, a child will lose the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds as they did when they were younger, making foreign language acquisition not impossible, but more difficult.

    3.) Future Opportunities: A Spanish curriculum for elementary school is not just about learning the language to use when they’re young, but something that will be invaluable going forward. It’s been proven that bilingual employees earn, on average, 20% more per hour than monolingual employees. In addition to that, being fluent in Spanish at a time when the population of speakers has never been higher in the U.S. will make a person more marketable overall.

Most schools wait until middle or high school years to start teaching foreign languages, but incorporating an elementary school Spanish curriculum is more logical when it comes down to it. Aside from the educational, intellectual, and monetary benefits, Spanish is the official language of 21 countries worldwide. Keep in mind, those countries are home to many exquisite and fun travel destinations.

spanish curriculumThe benefits of learning a second language are numerous and substantial. Whether it’s a Spanish curriculum or really any foreign language, it’s been proven that bilingual employees earn, on average, 20% more per hour than monolingual employees. With statistics like this in mind, more and more school districts across the country have started implementing, or are considering, “dual-language programs,” according to NationalJournal.com.

The specifics of these programs vary across the board. Some emphasize the programs early with things like preschool Spanish lessons or an entire elementary school Spanish curriculum and then transition to English-only after a few years. Others continue the programs indefinitely, but the overall goal is to build literacy and proficiency in more than one language.

While many of these types of programs were primarily started to help children of minorities who speak only a foreign language at home, the effects have helped English-speaking kids as well. One Michigan State study in 2013 found that there was a “substantial spillover effect” for children who enrolled in schools with bilingual education programs from English-only homes.

Theoretically a new language can be learned at any age, but early involvement with foreign language, like an elementary Spanish curriculum, is profoundly better. Many countries mandate the introduction of foreign language in schools by age eight. Students in the United States, however, may wait until junior or senior high school for their first exposure to a foreign language curriculum, thus only having four years of study versus 10 or 12 years when introduced earlier.

One school in particular that has taken this approach with much success is Los Angeles’ Cam­ino Nuevo Charter Academy. Since they are a charter school they are allowed to begin teaching dual-language Spanish curriculum for kids as early as kindergarten. They also emphasize culturally relevant literature in the programs.

Whether it be for children learning English as a second language or native English speakers, the evidence is that learning a new language can help in many more ways than just being fluent in a foreign tongue. Of course it’s also been proven that children who learn a second language can learn a third faster as well.

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 objects is simply that humans possess the gift of language. We are able to communicate in thousands of languages, and in doing so, express our worldviews, cultures, and values. By centering our thematic units around diverse topics related to the human experience, we give our students an awareness of the power of language to interpret the world around us with our uniquely human perspective. As humans, we have a history of using cultural and linguistic differences as barriers. If we can help our students see that our differences are expressions of our shared humanity, then we are teaching them tolerance and compassion in addition to language skills. If this seems like a lofty goal for the language classroom, we would argue that the foreign language classroom is perfectly suited for this purpose. By learning Spanish, our students have the unique opportunity to remove one barrier between themselves and the Spanish-speaking world.

By organizing the units thematically, we also provide an opportunity to engage our students in more complex and sophisticated thinking and language use. Because no skills are taught in isolation, the focus stays on developing skills for effective communication. The questions in the graphic below are the essential questions that guide each thematic unit:

The essential question in each thematic unit connects the content of each lesson to the theme. At the beginning of each thematic unit, you will find a thematic unit overview page with a graphic map (similar to the one above) that illustrates the connection between the lessons and the essential question. The essential question also allows you to differentiate instruction based on your unique knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and your understanding of your students. You can bring each lesson to life by making a personal connection between the content and your students. The thematic unit overview page also provides guiding questions that help you do this, such as:

  • What matters about this theme to my students?
  • What will be engaging about this theme for my students?
  • How can I ensure that they see the connection between this theme and their own lives?
  • How can I use my own experience with Spanish-speaking cultures to give my students a unique perspective of the target culture in relationship to this theme?

Planning your lessons with the thematic overview in mind will allow you to maintain a focus on the theme of the unit as you teach. This will make all of the activities in your lessons more effective.

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 it’s been a while and I decided to give myself a refresher lesson. I found no less than dozens of well-documented studies—all pointing to tangible benefits of FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) programs. I write this as a plea to public school administrators to make early second language programs a priority.

Reason #1 Research says elementary students learn a second language better than older students.

Experts say young children are especially wired to learn foreign languages in the most natural ways, through play and exploration. Research indicates that the brain is at its optimum to learn foreign sounds in children under 10. Students who learn a language early improve their chances for native-like pronunciation and a high level of proficiency later on (www.aatg.org).

On the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) website, multiple studies (reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics) are referenced in support of more effective language learning in younger students. One study shows 11th grade French students with just 80 minutes of instruction per week starting in third grade outperformed another group that started French in 7th grade. The FLES French students’ performance was better in every area. In another study, classes of third-grade children in New York City and suburban New York schools were taught conversational French for 15 minutes daily. After 1 year they were evaluated for French skills. Children were judged to have pronunciation and fluency in French superior to that of high school students with the same amount of instruction. Another study shows FLES students outperforming non-FLES students on AP foreign language exams (www.actfl.org).

How many of us who start studying a foreign language in high school actually become fluent in that language? I don’t know the answer, but I know it’s a slim figure. If we want to produce bilingual citizens, we need to start teaching language earlier.

Reason #2 Research says people who learn another language are smarter.

Multiple studies show that early-start language learning improves cognitive skills and academic performance. Foreign language study contributes to brain development and overall learning. People who learn a second language score higher on reading, verbal fluency, and general intelligence assessments. In fact, the more languages people learn, the higher their scores, with speakers of over four languages scoring consistently higher than any other group. Furthermore, learning a second language improves fluid intelligence and ‘executive functioning,’ because you have to control the two languages you know. While you communicate in one language, you’ve got to manage and control the other language (Kathryn Doyle, Washington Post, June 9, 2014).

The ACTFL website cites multiple studies (again, reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics) that support this claim. A study in Cincinnati demonstrated that students involved in a foreign language magnet program (from a broad demographic cross-section) scored well above national norms in reading and mathematics. Another study supported the claim that bilingualism fosters better verbal and spatial abilities. Another study showed improved reading achievement after participation in a voluntary before and after-school FLES program. Another study of 4th graders receiving 20 minutes of Spanish instruction per day showed greater reading, vocabulary, and comprehension on the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), while another study showed improved ITBS scores after just 30 minutes of FLES instruction per week. Other studies showed FLES students outperforming non FLES students in divergent thinking ability, IQ tests, SAT math and verbal tests, reading skills, expressive oral productivity, verbal and nonverbal intelligence, math skills, listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills, mental flexibility, and creativity (www.actfl.org).

Why and how does this happen? Children gain a deeper understanding of English as they learn the structure and vocabulary of other languages. This understanding translates into more confidence in English and a greater command of the language. Furthermore, learning a second language fosters a flexibility of thinking that translates into math, creativity, and problem solving. Because students have enjoyed the benefits of early foreign language study, they are less likely to treat language as a meaningless academic requirement later on—instead seeing language as a tool to be used for a wide range of educational applications, career choices, and personal enjoyment. The research is prolific and undeniably in support of the claim that learning a second language in elementary school makes us smarter.

Reason #3 Demographics are changing in our country, and we are now living in multilingual, multi-cultural communities.

Even in rural communities such as mine, this is true. Speaking other languages continues to be an important asset that gains more value with each passing year. Our world is an increasingly interdependent world. We are no longer an isolated country in which there are no tangible benefits to speaking other languages.

When we make second language learning a priority in our elementary schools, we develop a greater openness to other cultures at a younger age. As students learn a foreign language, they learn about the people and countries where the language is spoken—including the history, traditions, customs, and geography of those countries. Learning a second language broadens students’ global awareness and sets the stage for global competency. Students acquire a more global perspective and gain insight into their own language and culture. Studying a second language in elementary school develops an early understanding of the relationship between cultures and languages.

Many developed countries require instruction in one or two foreign languages in elementary school. Slowly, states are starting to recognize the value in this. In 2002 Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all had state mandates for elementary second language study. Indiana, California, and Kansas state governments had policy language that highly encouraged elementary school study of second languages (http://www.ecs.org/html/Document.asp?chouseid=3983 ). In 2008, Utah became the first state to legislate funding for large-scale implementation of dual-language and immersion programs. Delaware has a plan to bring programs to more schools (Michael Alison Chandler, The Washington Post, October 31, 2014). New Jersey provides foreign language instruction in 90% of all public schools, including elementary schools (http://www.state.nj.us/education/aps/cccs/wl/stateofwl.pdf). Despite being a local control state with no state mandates, by 2011 over 215 school districts in Pennsylvania offered FLES programs (http://www.ncssfl.org/). I find this last statistic the most intriguing— a state implementing wide-spread foreign language study at the elementary level not because of a state mandate, but because they recognize that it’s best practice in education. Perhaps it’s most intriguing to me because I too live in a local control state—one that hasn’t been as proactive on a local level as Pennsylvania. Perhaps Pennsylvania can serve as a model for Colorado to use local control to implement best practice in our public elementary schools.

After teaching Spanish to children for most of my adult life, I decided to write this blog to remind myself why I do this. Early language learning contributes to learning languages better, higher performance in all academic areas, and most important, a lifelong ability to communicate effectively. Parents want this for their children. Perhaps the question I started with needs to be reworded: Remind me why every elementary school in our country doesn’t teach foreign languages?

Blue Lindner, Sonrisas Spanish

Sonrisas Spanish creates, publishes, and sells preschool and elementary Spanish curriculum. The Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum consists of fun, effective, standards-based Spanish lessons for children.

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 each lesson are listed in both the Communication Objective and the Language Outcomes. Keeping these in mind while you teach can help you assess the progress your students are making in achieving these goals, both through observation and by looking at their written work.

Through the songs, games, lesson activities, shared reading, and conversations during Story Time, Art Time, and Partner Time, you can get a very clear picture of how well each student is communicating. This type of formative assessment will guide which activities need review and practice in subsequent lessons. Of course, every student is different: Some perform much better in a group environment—while they are engaged in interpersonal communication—than they do during independent activities. Observational assessments can provide you with this insight.

You can also use students’ written work in Partner Time, Art Time, and Portfolio activities as formative assessments to see how well they have retained and integrated the Language Outcomes for each lesson. This will help guide which activities need more repetition and reinforcement. If you find that students are unable to demonstrate correct usage of the Language Outcomes, you can adjust your instruction to address their needs. Language concepts that need more work can be reviewed by doing lesson activities from previous lessons during Circle Time. You can continue this review until you feel that students are proficient with the language concepts. If need be, you can also repeat Partner Time and Portfolio activities.

Summative assessments evaluate student learning using specific metrics. The Student Assessment page in the Student Portfolio is a summative assessment that covers each lesson. It contains the Communication Objective for each lesson along with “I can” statements and a check box for each Language Outcome in the lesson. The Communication Objective and the Language Outcomes provide the metrics by which you can evaluate student learning. In order to achieve the Communication Objective, students need to demonstrate correct usage of the Language Outcomes. There are three different ways to fill out the Student Assessment page: You can do it, the student can do it, or you and the student can do it together.

If you are filling out the Student Assessment page without the student, use the art projects, Partner Time activities, Portfolio activities, and your observations to complete the assessment. Depending on the age and skill level of your students, they can fill out their own assessments by reflecting on the art project, Partner Time activity, and reviewing their Portfolio Activity as evidence for the assessment. (It’s worth noting that it can be very empowering for students to realize how much Spanish they have mastered.) Choosing to fill out the assessments with your students will give you the most accurate, complete summative assessment possible. If you are able to engage your student in Spanish during this assessment and observe their proficiency of the Language Outcomes, you will have the most accurate picture of their skills.

Keep in mind that each level of the Sonrisas curriculum is designed to be repeated for a second year. Chances are, your students will not fully achieve the Communication Objective the first time, which is completely acceptable. Ideally, through the repetition of the lessons in the curriculum and the ongoing review of lesson activities, students will master the Language Outcomes that support the Communication Objectives. We recommend keeping a copy of each student’s Student Assessment, so the second time you teach the lesson, you are able to note progress between the initial summative assessment and the second summative assessment.

Along with your own observations, the Student Portfolio is your most valuable assessment tool. Here are some tips that will help students keep their portfolios organized and tidy:

  • Keep several three-hole punchers on hand so that students can add work to their portfolios as soon as it is complete.
  • Give a mini-lesson on how to use the hole punchers accurately, including paying careful
    attention to placing the holes on the left side of the page.
  • Consider a place other than students’ desks to store portfolios. This will keep them in better shape throughout the school year.
  • For younger students, consider putting work in their portfolios for them.

Another option is to purchase an individual spiral-bound hard copy of the Student Portfolio for each student. You can buy these in bulk on the Sonrisas website.

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 activities, and reading instructions for portfolio activities.

In Interpersonal Communication students engage in two-way oral or written communication with active negotiation of meaning to share information, feelings, and opinions. This is the meat of the Sonrisas lessons. In every segment—Circle Time, Story Time, Art Time, and Partner Time—students have the opportunity to engage in interpersonal communication with the teacher and their classmates. Students engage in this mode by singing songs, playing games, doing lesson activities, engaging in shared reading, conversing about art projects, and completing Partner Time activities.

In Presentational Communication students present spoken or written information that is prepared for an audience. In the Sonrisas lessons students present completed art projects, they share information from Partner Time activities, and they present written work from portfolio activities.

Obviously, beginner students are not going to be able to read long texts, engage in complex conversations, or present large amounts of information. The activities in the Sonrisas lessons are designed so that students are taught language concepts that enable them to interact in the three modes at an age-appropriate level. Through routine, repetition, and spiraling of content, students develop their Spanish so that they are able to communicate effectively in order to function in a variety of age-appropriate situations and for multiple purposes.

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 will write about the difference between a workbook and a portfolio in future blogs). Each level now includes the Student Portfolio in both a hard copy and a digital version, and the portfolio is fully reproducible. The Level I Student Portfolio contains portfolio activities, student assessment pages, and home reports. The portfolio activities correspond to each lesson in the curriculum and give students practice with the language concepts for the lesson. The portfolio activities also help to develop independent reading and writing skills in Spanish. The student assessment pages give teachers a tool to evaluate student learning, and the home reports let parents know what their child is learning in Spanish.

The Level II Student Portfolio contains portfolio activities, Partner Time activities, student assessment pages, and home reports. Partner Time activities correspond to each lesson and give students the opportunity to engage in conversation with their peers as they use their Spanish to complete a task. During Partner Time, students use all three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. Partner Time has greatly enhanced the learning experience for students in the Level II lessons.

Level I and Level II also now include a resource CD. The resource CD contains visual aids for the lessons as well as a digital version of the Student Portfolio. Many of the activities in the Sonrisas lessons require teachers to show students images to introduce a concept. These images are now included on the resource CD. Likewise, many of the art projects require teachers to show the students a model of a finished project. Now, a teacher can print out a model of a finished art project instead of having to create it herself.

How has Level II been revised?

The first thing to note about the new Level II is that it has more than doubled in content. We added 17 new lessons, for a total of 37. With Partner Time and the portfolio activities, each lesson can now be implemented for up to four class sessions (up from two in the old curriculum). The Student Portfolio alone has added 74 Partner Time and portfolio activities that give students more practice with the language concepts for each lesson.

Another positive change is that Level II is now organized around seven thematic units: Seasons; My School; Numbers; My Family and Friends; Food, Water, and Shelter; A Global Perspective; and Celebrating Diversity. Each unit comes with an unit overview that guides teachers on how to make the unit a comprehensive, connected, and effective experience for students. Many of the unit lessons connect to the core subjects of mathematics, social studies, geography, science, and reading and writing. The lessons also begin to lay the foundation for more explicit grammar instruction with students developing skills related to use of adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, interrogative words, and verb conjugation. The correlation to grammatical concepts can be seen in a revised Level II scope and sequence.

We tweaked the lesson format and some of the terminology to make lessons more clear and easier to use for teachers. On the Lesson Overview page, we changed the name of the Performance Guidelines to Language Outcomes. The Language Outcomes are the language skills that students learn in the lesson in order to achieve the Communication Objective. Also on the overview page, the Circle Time box now highlights the Lesson Activity which introduces the language concepts for the lesson. On the Lesson Procedure page, the required resource CD images for the lesson are listed, and the Standard Correlations are now listed at the end of each procedure as opposed to throughout the lesson. Each lesson now also has a Partner Time page which guides teachers through the partner time activity, step-by-step. Click here to see a sample of one of the new Level II lessons. These formatting changes have been made to the Level I lessons as well.

Finally, both Levels I and II have been greatly improved by making it easier for teachers to assess students’ learning. The new student portfolios give teachers the opportunity to use both formative and summative assessments (more on these in future blogs) to monitor and evaluate student learning. This allows teachers to be able to adjust their teaching if need be, and to judge the outcome of their classes. The retooling of the assessment portion of the Sonrisas lessons has made them more effective than ever.

All of these changes build on the strengths of the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum and reinforce our goal of creating life-long language learners by providing students with a positive foreign language experience in which they acquire and develop language naturally and easily.